By Emma DeMonaco
After experiencing some tough years when first entering the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference, Rochester University women’s soccer team finished the 2022 season with a .500 record and its first-ever appearance in the WHAC playoffs
In her third season as head coach, Jenna Shelton was determined to build her program after a winless previous season. Shelton said last year her focus was on changing the team culture. “We didn’t have much time to recruit for 2021, so we are very pleased with our 2021 class in the sense they truly laid down our foundation."
Young players enhance team
Entering 2022, Shelton's focus was on recruiting. She signed 14 freshmen and one transfer student to add to the 13 returning players. She finally had a full squad to coach.
“I honestly wasn’t too sure how the season would go because we had so many freshmen come in this season,” she said. “I was definitely very worried we would struggle with young mistakes, but everyone rose to the occasion and has so much heart. They want to be here and want to win."
Love for game and for team
Madison Pelczarski, a senior nursing major, shares the hardships the team has faced over the years. “Playing soccer at RU in previous years is very different than it is now. Teams used to go into games thinking of us as an easy win and honestly, most of the time we went in thinking: 'Here comes another loss.' It was really tough to compete against teams that had 30-40 girls when we were struggling to find 11 to field," she said.
Lyndsey Price, a junior business major, said when she was previously competing on teams, that would be undefeated or win most of their games. "Once I came onto this team, my first two years here, the girls and I really struggled to win against teams. What held us together was our love for the beautiful game and each other. Although we weren’t winning games, we kept each other accountable and we trusted our coaches that this whole program would turn around and start winning games,” Price said.
Olivia Howes, freshman health sciences major, said she knew before joining the team that it had struggled in previous years, but said she knew many players were recruited to join the team and that they could grow together as competitors.
"We have all discovered how hard-working everyone is and how competitive this team really is. I am very excited to see where this season takes us and this whole program in general goes. I believe this team is a start to something huge and I think this program is going to change all together after our team,” Howes said.
Team builds momentum with hot start
The team started strong winning most of its games during the preseason, and after many hard-fought matches during the regular season, the women made it to the WHAC playoffs as the seventh seed.
The team faced second seed Madonna University on Nov. 2, and immediately encountered injuries and setbacks. During warm-ups, starter goalkeeper Price broke her wrist, Samantha Springer, freshman health science major and a starting forward, couldn't play because of yellow card infractions, and Samantha Johns, freshman management major and the team's only defensive mid-player, was battling illness.
Shelton told the women to not let these setbacks hold them back and to play their hearts out. “We made it this far and regardless of the outcome we are not giving up now,” Shelton said.
The Warriors lost 0-6 to Madonna, but the playoff game sets the bar for the team to continue growing and accomplish more success in future years.
Developing team and culture
Hussein Murray, assistant athletic director, said, "Coach Shelton has done a tremendous job since she's been hired here, and the effects of her desire to change the culture were shown. RU is incredibly excited for the future of this program, and we look forward to seeing what this current class of players can continue to do.”
Shelton said she is excited about the future. "We are a young team, and we want to develop this team strategically, systemically, along with building our culture, and building the program overall."