Perfect season continues for women’s soccer

Washburn spearheads Spartan’s dominant offense in 7-0, 7-1 victories to earn 8-0 overall record

The CWRU womens soccer team embraces as they kick off the fall season with two wins.

The CWRU women’s soccer team embraces as they kick off the fall season with two wins.

Puneet Bansal, Sports Editor

Behind stellar performances across the roster, the Case Western Reserve University women’s soccer team crushed John Carroll University and Muskingum University 7-0 and 7-1, respectively. Fourth-year midfielder Anika Washburn has been named the UAA Offensive Athlete of the Week and the Spartan Club Athlete of the Week for leading the Spartans with her team-best 12 points on 5 goals and 2 assists.

In the match against John Carroll this past Thursday, the first half was incredibly intense as CWRU held a 21-1 advantage in shots attempted. The Spartans were obviously revved up on the offensive end but, oddly enough, both teams remained scoreless going into halftime.

Everything finally clicked in the second half. CWRU opened with a quick goal at the 48:12 mark to take the lead 1-0. Fourth-year midfielder Greta Lazzara netted her first score of the season from the top of the box off an assist from first-year midfielder Sydney Schenk.

Washburn exploded for two straight goals over the next five minutes to put the Spartans ahead 3-0. At 49:34 into the match, Washburn dribbled the ball up the middle of the field and shot it from the top of the box into the lower left of the goal for her fifth goal of the season. Less than four minutes later, Washburn retrieved the ball following a blocked shot from third-year forward Helina VanBibber. Washburn then wrapped up the play with a shot to the lower left of the goal once again; VanBibber was awarded the assist.

Following 4 shot attempts and one corner kick from the Spartans, they managed to score their fourth goal of the game in the 69th minute. Third-year forward Aniya Hartzler sent a cross to the first-year midfielder Sophia Stellabotte, who found the back of the net and notched the first goal of her collegiate career.

Eight minutes later, fourth-year forward Christina Hickson took over the game. At the 76:26 mark, Washburn passed to Hickson, who dribbled up the right side of the field and lasered the ball into the lower right of the net. Hickson got the ball once again from third-year defender Laura Gorjanc in the 88th minute of the game and sent it flying into the net from the top left of the box to put CWRU up 6-0.

Washburn iced the game with a quick shot from the top right of the box in the final minute of the game off an assist from second-year defender Grace Bratter. With Washburn’s third goal of the game, the Spartans took the blowout win 7-0.

CWRU had a chokehold advantage in shots attempted, taking 43 tries while only allowing 2 from John Carroll. Similarly, the Spartans had 16 corner kicks compared to only one from the Blue Streaks. Second-year goalie Maggie Storti started and played more than 61 minutes for the Spartans and improved to 7-0-0 on the season. Second-year goalie Sydney Stone finished the game and made one save.

“I was actually really excited with our John Carroll performance,” remarked Head Coach Jen Simonetti in an interview with the CWRU Athletics Department. “I thought our ball movement was excellent, our transition to defense was phenomenal … [and] our work rate, in general, was really, really good. And everyone who stepped on the field competed really well for us.”

When talking about the amazing start to the season, Washburn pointed out the team’s “ability to possess the ball” as well as the “depth of [the] team.”

“Every member on our team is capable of building out of the back, switching the ball frequently in the attack and creating dangerous opportunities with positional rotation,” Washburn reflected. “We [also] have extremely talented players that can come off the bench and positively impact the game. … We have been very eager to compete given we lost a season to COVID-19, so that has brought a lot of energy and excitement from our team.” 

The Saturday match against Muskingum University had a different flow and was marked with multiple mental mistakes. Muskingum’s Morgan Meisel intercepted a pass from the starting CWRU goalie Storti and kicked it in to put them up 1-0 over the Spartans about 12 minutes into the game. This was only the third goal allowed by the Spartans this season and broke a 480 minute and 10 second stretch without a score allowed by the CWRU defense.

This shock seemed to recalibrate the Spartans and they immediately retaliated with back-to-back goals. At 12:34, Washburn’s shot attempt was deflected right to Stellabotte, who netted the ball to put the Spartans on the board and tie the match 1-1. The scoring event marked Stellabotte’s second goal and Washburn’s fourth assist of the season.

Barely 90 seconds later, fourth-year midfielder Molly Whelan received an assist from VanBibber and found the back of the net from 25 yards away in the middle of the field for her first career goal.

“The experience was extremely emotional for me,” said Whelan of this momentous occasion. “I had been injured for my freshman and sophomore seasons [and] COVID-19 canceled my junior season, so this is my first [true] season and it felt really good to score feeling I really have defeated the issues of the past.”

For the women’s soccer team, however, this game had much more meaning than just another seasonal competition on their schedule. The team was raising money for three causes: the VanBibber Service Legacy, Gigi’s Gifts and Go4theGoal. The VanBibber Service Legacy, created by Helina VanBibber’s family to honor Helina’s father after he lost his life to glioblastoma, raised money to help provide service dogs to those suffering from cancer, further glioblastoma research and assist caregivers. Gigi’s Gifts is a non-profit that gifts special wig caps to children who have lost their hair while battling cancer. Go4theGoal provides financial support, develops and implements unique hospital programs, funds innovative research, and grants personal wishes to young cancer patients.

These fantastic causes were on the minds of the players and coaches, giving the game a stronger emotional sentiment.

“We lost our Team Impact teammate, Gigi [of Gigi’s Gifts], this past spring to neuroblastoma so I don’t think it was a coincidence I scored my first goal,” reflected Whelan on her motivation and drive for the match.

In the second half, Washburn netted her first goal of the game off an assist from fourth-year forward Ella Copich to give the Spartans 3-1 lead. At 66:18, second-year forward Kati Davis scored her first career goal after receiving an assist from Hartzler. Twelve minutes later, Hickson joined the scoring party with a strong goal off an assist from VanBibber, putting the Spartans up 5-1. Stellabotte and Washburn finished off the Muskies with one goal each in the final nine minutes to win the game 7-1.

The Spartans finished the match with 43 shots, which was the third-straight game with at least 40 shots attempted. Storti played all 90 minutes this time and improved to 8-0-0 on the season with 0.42 goals against average.

After this game, CWRU has won 22-straight non-conference regular-season matches. Washburn, who leads the team with 22 points (9 goals and 4 assists), has tied former Spartan Sarah Rogers (class of ‘02) for the second-most goals in the program’s history. Furthermore, Washburn has amassed 59 points for her career and matched Michelle Sabick (class of ‘91) for the fourth-most points ever.

“My successful performance so far has been [mainly] due to the teammates that surround me,” Washburn said on her extraordinary play this season. “By having 10 other players on the field who have the ability to score and create opportunities, our opponents cannot focus on defending just one player. The movement of my teammates off the ball has allowed me to find them for assists [and for my teammates] to set me up with goals.”

Washburn will have the opportunity to completely shatter several individual, team and program history records over the next year as she plans to stay an extra semester next fall.

The women’s soccer team will conclude their homestand against New York University this Saturday, Oct. 2. The match, which will commence at 11 a.m. at DiSanto Field, marks the first of seven UAA conference competitions this season.

 “The UAA teams are some of the best in the country,” said Washburn about the upcoming schedule. “Each game will be a new challenge for us to tackle.”

Though the stakes are higher, the Spartans have confidence and are prepared for the conference intensity, especially with their momentum from the last few weeks.