A Look Into SIU’s First Women’s Soccer Team

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Reporter

This fall will mark the inaugural season for the SIU Women’s Soccer Program. 

 Excitement and curiosity surrounds this team, leaving Saluki Nation wondering what they can expect from Southern Athletics’ newest addition.

The team held its first practice on Aug. 7, which was the first opportunity to see what the team looked like.

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“I was finally excited to get the balls out,” Coach Williams said. “It seems like all we’ve been doing this past year is talking about it. The ‘pinch me’ moment for me was to actually be there with the kids, drop the balls and get them all together. Just having all of the players in one place and being on the field together was really a special thing this morning.”

During the first practice, the team was tested on their fitness abilities as they were given several sprinting exercises to complete. Many of the girls said they had been preparing for the test since February. 

“My first college practice was hard, but I feel that it was everything I expected it to be,” freshman forward/midfielder Marissa Basi said. “The fitness test is something we’ve all been thinking about since we found out about it in February.”

Basi is a local from Marion and talked about the pride she has playing in an SIU jersey.

“I was very proud to put on the jersey,” Basi said. “Especially being local, I know all of the Carbondale youth kids and they’re all wanting to come to the games. I’m definitely excited and a little nervous, but the pride I had overtook everything.” 

Other local players on the team said they were excited for the first practice of the inaugural season and being able to play so close to their hometowns.

“I woke up this morning before my alarm because I was just excited to get out there and finally do what we’ve been dreaming of since last August,” freshman forward and Marion native Blake Clark said. “Just the nerves and excitement with representing my hometown is super exciting and I couldn’t wait to get out there this morning.”

Clark said she immediately called Williams after the announcement of the new soccer team.

“It meant so much to me because this is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl,” Clark said.  “Ever since I decided that I wanted to play college soccer, I prayed that SIU would get women’s soccer. It just happened at the exact right time.” 

Freshman Devin Butler of Harrisburg said she was excited to have the opportunity to see the whole team together.

“It was exciting to get to practice today and see what everyone has,” freshman forward/midfield Butler said. 

For Butler, being a part of SIU’s first soccer program is an exciting honor. 

“I think it’s very thrilling to start up a new program and be here at SIU,” Butler said. “Since I’m a local person, I’ll be able to have the people I know come and watch me.”

Senior goalkeeper and Carbondale native Ashley Moore said playing close to home and being on the inaugural team was an opportunity for her to be a role model for young girls in the city.

It’s a little bit emotional and exciting,” Moore said. “I played for Carbondale Youth Soccer and for Carbondale High School and with this team, we’re definitely role models for the younger kids who are going to come out and think, “Oh my gosh, someone from Carbondale could play for SIU so maybe I can too”. To be a good role model for those younger kids is really exciting to me.” 

 Many of the soccer players are underclassmen, and spoke about the major differences between high school and college soccer.

“I would have to say that the difference is definitely the speed and there are more physical, older girls,” Butler said. “We’re a young team, but I think we can hang with the older girls.”

Basi echoed Butler’s claim and said the speed of college soccer was much faster than what she had been used to.

Williams looks forward to his first year as head coach and will look to his players to develop over the season.

I think that the challenge for me is going to be to not over-coach,” Williams said. “We will get better each and every day and each and every game. You just have to be patient enough to let that process play out.”

As far as team strengths, many of the players believe that their speed will give them an edge on competitors. 

“I feel like we’re going to attack the heck out of other teams,” Basi said. “I know we have a lot of fast girls on the team and already you can see who the scorers are. I feel that we’re a strong team all around, especially with our forwards.”

Clark agreed with Basi and said this year’s team is very intense and well rounded.

“I really believe that we are a well rounded team, from defense to offense, to keepers, everyone can play every position on the field,” Clark said. “I’ve never played at such a high level before. I love the intensity because everyone on this team wants to be here and is ready to put in the work.”

With the team’s first match just four days from their first practice, a few of the girls were left with some nerves, but Moore saw the upcoming match as an opportunity to see their progress as a team. 

“The game is a way for everyone to see how well we work together as a team in a pressured situation,” Moore said. “I’m excited to see how well the team handles pressure and how well we work together.”

Coach Williams thought that the quick start would help his players to understand and become accustomed to the high level of collegiate soccer.

Until we play somebody else in a different uniform, we’re really not going to know what this level is about,” Williams said. “Until you step across the line and play somebody, you just won’t know. I just wanted to give them an idea of what you’re getting yourself into so that we can prepare in the best possible way.”

Basi expressed the confidence the team has in Williams’ ability to prepare them for the matchup.

“It’s kind of scary to be honest,” Basi said. “I can’t imagine that we’re going to be playing on Sunday, but I think it’s all going to come together because Grant’s got a great vision and he’s going to make it work.”

As far as Williams’s strategy goes, he plans to have his players attack the opposing defense from the top of the formation, giving his defense and goal keeper a rest.

Clark described her coach as very motivated, pushing the team right from the start.

“He is definitely very motivated,” Clark said. “We got after it and there wasn’t any easing into it. Right at the beginning we had our fitness testing. We’re putting both feet in and really going for it.”

Moore further explained Williams’s vision as getting everyone on the team to have a defensive mindset.

“He wants ten people wanting to defend when the ball is in the other team’s possession,” Moore said. “Everyone from offense to midfield to defense will be in a defensive role or state of mind because everyone should want to get the ball back. He still wants the offense to be able to turn and get back into their scoring roles as well.”

Williams said he sees mentality as the key to getting his girls to perform well.

There’s just a willingness to do the work and that comes from everybody that’s on the field,” Willams said. “When we have the ball, everybody should see themselves as having value in helping us build our attack. When we lose the ball, we’ll need all ten field players to flip the switch and be relentless in our pursuit to get pressure on the ball.”

The Dawgs won their first exhibition game against Tennessee Tech and lost their exhibition against the University of Illinois Chicago and lost their final exhibition to SEMO 2-1

Southern will face off in their season opener on Friday against UIS. Kickoff will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Lew Hartzog Track and Field Complex.

Sports reporter Tamar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

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