Not only did the Jets finish third in the Heartland Conference and earn a place in the conference tournament, the team won the conference’s Silver Sportsmanship Award and several players won individual honors.
While they may not have won the championship, the women’s team still shaped the history for Newman University soccer with 12 wins, three ties and four losses.
“The preparation for this year really started last spring with all of our returning girls,” Head Women’s Soccer Coach Aaron Avila said.
In a preseason interview, several players shared that their goal for the year was to win the conference championship.
“All we wanted to do was be better than we were the previous season and to make it as far as we could,” sophomore Jadyn Eddy said. “Our coach helped prepare us for games — every practice, lift, recovery session, film session, meeting — he wanted to make sure we were ready. But, as he’s told us before, he isn’t the one out there on the field. Our success also came from the girls putting in work — in and out of season, on and off the field.”
Avila said an important aspect of training is getting the players to understand how difficult the games can be. Prior to leaving for a tournament in Austin, Texas, Avila described both previous games against Dallas Baptist University as being “very physical and very close.”
Avila added, “We’ve played this team twice already, and we’ve had a tie and a very close win. Now the stakes go up. It’s a conference tournament, so if you win, you continue to play. If you lose, your season is done. You have two very good teams, neither of which wants to lose — so I think looking back on the experience they had in their first game, they now understand how close this game is going to be.”
While they may not have won the championship, the women’s team still shaped the history for Newman University soccer with 12 wins, three ties and four losses this season in addition to raking up special recognition and honors along the way.
“I had high expectations going into this year based on the group of returners as well as the talent I saw in preseason,” Senior Quincy Plank said. “I knew this group could do something special, and in the end we did something to make history. Though we didn’t end as well as we wanted to, nothing can take away from that.”
Soccer skills and travel time were not the only takeaways throughout the team’s tournaments in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. A trait of this year’s team that distinguishes it from past teams is the chemistry between players, Plank said.
The relationships between seniors and freshmen on the team are particularly noteworthy, Avila said.
“(The seniors) taught them how to compete while balancing being a new college student. They also helped them learn how to keep the right frame of mind through a very tough, long season.”
Avila added, “It’s a very tight group, and they’ve all really enjoyed the experience. They progress throughout the year, but it’s definitely fun to see a group come together and accomplish so much. That has definitely been a very fun part for me as a coach to get to watch and be a part of.”
“It’s really important to go in with the confidence to beat the teams that are at the top, and being a part of what we’re building off of from last year was a really exciting experience for me,” Freshman Makenna Schmal said.
Linton attributes the team’s success to several aspects.
“I think it was the fact that we came together and enjoyed playing soccer rather than letting it feel like a job,” she said. “We’re just having a lot of fun doing what we love to do. We came to college to play soccer, so we’re just taking advantage of the opportunity that we have and running with it.”
This year’s college team was home to several talented seniors, so next year’s team will look very different, Avila said.
“We’ll be going into a new league so there are a lot of unknowns, but we are very excited to see what we can continue to accomplish,” he said.
A handful of highlights
The Jets placed one individual on the first team and three individuals on the second team Division II Conference Commissioners Association All-South Central Regional Teams (D2CCA). The D2CCA team is voted on by media relations directors within the South Central Region.
Senior Grace Linton earned a first-team honor, allowing her to remain on the ballot for possible All-America honors. Linton was also named the Heartland Conference Offensive Player of the Year and collected her fourth Career Player of the Week Honor, making her final college soccer season a memorable one.
Colleen Howland, Vanessa Ortiz and Kyra Butler picked up second-team honors by the D2CCA after claiming All-Heartland Conference First Team Honor two weeks prior.
Newman had five first-team All-Heartland selections, Linton, Vanessa Ortiz, Colleen Howland, Lexi Clark and Kyra Butler. The women’s team also had two second-team All-Heartland selections, Quincy Plank and Dayna Johnson.