The UChicago women’s soccer team has wrapped up a strong regular season with an overall 12-2-4 record, though the team struggled in conference play with a weaker 2-2-3 showing.
According to third-year defender Ruthie Mitchell, “This season has been a mix of successes and disappointments.” However, she has “been impressed with [the] team’s resilience and ability to keep pushing and keep trying even if [they’ve] missed some of the goals we set in the beginning of it.”
Luckily, the UChicago women’s soccer team’s season is not over yet, as the team secured an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament after tying Washington University in St. Louis over the weekend. The Maroons will host four teams for the first and second round of the NCAA tournament over the weekend. UChicago will face Rhodes College at 11 a.m. on Friday at Stagg Field, while UW-Oshkosh will play Wheaton College at 1:30 p.m. The winner of both matchups will play at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.
The team competes in the University Athletic Association (UAA), an ultra-competitive Division III conference which is made up of some of the best research universities in the country, such as Emory and NYU. These schools have the academic prestige to draw in serious talent, and the teams are full of sharp, well-trained, and passionate athletes.
The UChicago women’s soccer team endures grueling fitness tests and tough practices to prepare themselves to compete in such a conference. According to Mitchell, the fitness tests this year included a jump rope circuit followed by a leg circuit, and then concluded with a series of timed 300-meter sprints on the turf field. “Many people did not pass the first time, and quite a few threw up,” she said. Everyone, however, was able to pass the test by the end of the session.
It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to prepare for fitness tests like these. Fourth-year defender Christina Pirrotta likes to play pick up soccer to get herself ready for the pre-season grind. Even though she spent the summer in California for an internship, she also managed to “join like five different adult leagues and four different pick up groups,” which meant that she was able to “play soccer any day of the week.”
Mitchell added, “Getting everyone to pass the fitness tests is an example of our team camaraderie because we all cheer so hard for everyone to make it.” It is this type of camaraderie and resilience that many of the other members of the women’s soccer team attribute as major factors as to why their season has been successful.
Fourth-year forward Nicole Kaspi said that the team loves “spending time together on and off the field and would do anything for each other.” She also added that this team is “probably the most fun team I have ever been on.” Kaspi added that during pre-season, the team made the effort to fit in dance parties, lip-sync battles, and fashion shows in addition to their on-the-field work. She added that she “wouldn't trade those memories for the world.”
Mitchell agreed that the team’s success stems from the team culture and “the fact that we are like a family to one another.” Even though the team hasn’t had the conference record they had hoped for, Mitchell said the team was still successful because she thinks the “the real measure of our success is that we have come to love each other as teammates, friends, and people, and I think we have already succeeded in that so no matter how our season ends I think we have had a successful season.”
The team looks back fondly on their Senior Day game versus New York University. All the seniors got to start and they scored the first goal of the game, which led their team to victory. Pirrotta added that “sprinting over to hug [her] fellow seniors was such a joyful feeling.”
Even though she is a third-year, Mitchell also loved Senior Day. She said, “A senior who has been out this whole year with a concussion started for a few minutes, which was a really nice gesture,” and that “it was just so hype cheering for the seniors and just seeing how well they play together.”
The women’s soccer team has not just bettered its members on the field, but also played an instrumental role in forming these women as individuals. Kaspi, now one of three captains on the team, credits soccer with how much she has grown as a leader during her four years of college. She said, “[I have] gained loads of confidence and comfort in who I am and what I believe, which I know will benefit me for the rest of my life.”
Fourth-year goalkeeper Miranda Malone said, “The unwavering support I have felt from my teammates and coaches has made me feel ready to go on to my future career plans after undergrad and soar.”
Malone added, “Playing here has changed me into a more confident and more capable individual than I ever thought I could be… [I have met] some of my closest friends through playing here and found happiness beyond anything I had imagined for my undergraduate experience.”
No matter how far the team advances in the postseason—although the goal of a Final Four berth still remains—it is clear that the team has garnered success in a way that a banner won’t show.