The timing looked good for Westmont College to kick off a women’s soccer season that had been delayed five months by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mother Nature had other ideas.
The Warriors were set to open at home Thursday against Fresno Pacific, though officials announced Tuesday that the game had been called off due to the heavy rain in the forecast today and Thursday. The two teams hope to reschedule the game for next week.
With the postponement, Westmont’s next scheduled game as of Tuesday is on Feb. 2 against Point Loma. No spectators are permitted due to the pandemic.
“I’ve seen huge growth,” said coach Jenny Jaggard prior to the postponement. “I feel like we’re starting to click and understand roles.
“It’s very realistic to say that we should be competitive, whatever that ends up looking like.”
The Warriors return the bulk of a roster that went 16-4-1 last year while advancing to the NAIA quarterfinals. They include a pair of seniors, forward Bri Johnson and midfielder Isabelle Berthoud, who finished as Westmont’s top-two scorers.
Johnson was voted Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Second Team NAIA All-American after netting a team-high 15 goals.
“She just has a knack in front of the goal and is super-strong on the ball,” Jaggard said. “She has a shot like a cannon.
“She has a lot of motivation, this being her last year. I can’t wait to see her show up and just go crazy in front of the goal.”
Berthoud, who is coming off a 10-goal season, is expected to line up at either wing position or as a center attacking midfielder.
“She’s got a knack for finishing,” Jaggard said. “In situations where it really matters, in high-pressure moments, she finds a way to score goals.”
Junior Katie Stella scored six goals and added three assists last year despite being limited to 13 games due to injury. She returned to score the game-winner in Westmont’s 2-0 victory over Marymount in last year’s first round of the NAIA Tournament.
“She’s extremely athletic and is crafty on the ball,” Jaggard said. “She has a way of scoring goals.”
Reese Davidson, who also scored against Marymount while finishing her freshman season with four goals, has shown improved finishing skills during Westmont’s three weeks of preseason workouts.
“She’s definitely finishing more efficiently than I’ve ever seen her,” Jaggard said. “She’s learning how to press and defend in the final third, which is a key thing for me with forwards.”
Winger Grace Duckens, who had two goals and two assists in her freshman year, has also “looked very dangerous” during training camp.
“She is crazy good one-on-one in the flank space and is another one that’s got a knack for finding the goal or sending in crosses for someone else to finish,” Jaggard said.
The Warriors’ second-year coach is also high on winger Sophia Hanreiter.
“She has upped her game and is so physically strong,” Jaggard said. “She’s very good at crossing and also has a really good shot. When we’re able to get her high up the field, she’s very effective.”
Returning midfielders include two other All-GSAC players: Savannah Scott and Teagan Matye.
Scott, who had two goals and two assists last year, is also “one of the best defenders I’ve ever seen,” Jaggard said.
“There is no one who is going to get past her,” she said.
Jaggard also noted that Matye, who recorded two goals and four assists, “covers more ground than anyone I’ve ever coached.”
She describes sophomore Grace Hotaling, a starter at center-attacking mid, as “currently one of our best players. She defends like crazy, wins the ball and does amazing things.”
Senior Gabi Haw, last year’s GSAC Co-Player of the Year, is back at goalkeeper after winning NAIA All-America honorable mention. She ranks third in program history with a career goals-against average of 0.76.
“Our captain Gabi is very solid back there and makes some really amazing saves,” Jaggard said. “She’s a great leader and relationally is the glue of the team.”
Taylie Scott and Sadie Hill started as freshmen at the two center-back spots, while fellow sophomore Madison Griggs is also emerging on the back line.
“We have some good chemistry back there,” Jaggard said.
Junior Karly Kingsley, who joined the team last spring, should help fill a void at left back.
“She loves to get up and down the flank and is very dangerous serving balls into the box,” Jaggard said. “She can put a cross on a dime where she wants it.”
A pair of freshmen — right back Brynn Howard and midfielder Daisy Alvarez — are also expected to contribute.
The Warriors will play in a GSAC pod with Vanguard, Hope International and San Diego Christian. The champions of the league’s two pods will play for the conference title on April 10, with the winner earning a berth to the NAIA National Tournament.
“COVID has caused all of us to rethink what our season might actually look like,” Jaggard said, “but I’m really hopeful we’re going to be able to play the 10 games we have scheduled.”