WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Earn it.
That is what Michelyne Pinard has her 2015 Williams women's soccer squad focused on. Earn everything, every minute of each day.
It's an appropriate approach in an attempt to drive any sense of entitlement out of her squad after the Ephs advanced to the national championship game last year, "losing" a 0-0 tie in penalty kicks, 4-3, to Lynchburg College.
"I think our players know how much potential they have," Pinard said, "and I think they're excited to invest energy both physically and emotionally in the process of reaching that potential."
Williams finished 22-2-1 in 2014, setting a school record for wins in a single-season and advancing to the national championship game for the first time ever. But Pinard watched as nine seniors graduated in June, leaving many roles left to be determined prior to the Ephs' kicking off the season at home against Hamilton on September 8.
"It's such a different group then we had last year," Pinard said. "This is going to be a year when a lot of younger players get a chance to see what they are made of — this will be an opportunity for them to blossom."
Pinard lost national Defender of the Year Lily Wellenbach and standout goalkeeper Hannah Van Wetter along with versatile key players such as Alison Magruder, Hana Tomozawa and Louisa Costa, but does has all three of her All-New England players returning, including Mitsuyama in the midfield.
That leaves the offense, which produced a single-season record of 59 goals in 24 games in 2014, slightly ahead of the defending positions as preseason opens. Junior forwards Kristi Kirshe and Audrey Thomas are both back after rewriting the Eph record books with 18 and 17 goals, respectively, in a single season.
Sophomore Nathasha Albaneze, who scored four goals in only nine games, is recovering from a season-ending injury and is expected to contribute once again. Junior Maddie Swarr, a midfielder, netted three goals in 2014, and sophomore Hanna Kaeser netted four. Junior Katie Wardlaw and sophomore Danielle Sim also proved they had goal-scoring ability, but expect Pinard to shift one or more of the latter to the backfield prior to the season opener.
Matsuyama, Swarr and sophomore Evan Gancedo will mann the midfield. Matsuyama and Swarr tied for the team lead in assists last season with six. Sophomore Gabby Suarez is also a candidate for the midfield along with the aforementioned Vadergrift.
"We have a lot of experience with our attacking players and to some degree our midfielders," Pinard said. "They will lead us while we sort things out in the defensive third."
In the back, Trutner and sophomore Gabz Amos-Grosser are the two players with the most experience. While finding them some more help is a key focus early in the season, Pinard will also be keeping an eye on the goalkeepeing situation.
Van Wetter played over 2,000 minutes in 2014, while Tressa Palcheck, a junior, played only 190. Palcheck will be competing against a first-year in preseason, but certainly holds the upper hand going in.
Pinard has an incoming first-year class of nine and expects some of those to emerge as immediate impact players. But, as with most first-year classes, who and how many is still to be determined.
"We're certainly not focused on November and December right now," Pinard said. "We're focused on getting better. We're focused on creating a team experience that will create memories that last a lifetime while at the same time creating a competitive environment."