La Crosse, Wisc. (WXOW)- The UW-La Crosse soccer team is two time defending regular season and conference tournament champions. This season, they are once again predicted to finish first in the WIAC.
However, the majority of the team hasn’t experienced that success as the Eagles have 15 new players, and 14 of those players are freshman. Sixth-year Head Coach Jason Murphy led the Eagles to the post season three of the last four years, and told his team the journey is not easy.
“It’s more than just being good,” Murphy said. “You have to be good, you have to play good, you have to get lucky at the right times. Just how hard it is to make it to that, you know, we take it for granted here, not only at UW-L, but within our program about winning games in November, winning tournament games and stuff like that. It’s really hard to do, and there are a lot of programs that really aspire just to win one, and we’ve had the opportunity to win a couple over the last couple years.”
There are a few returning starters including Senior Goalkeeper Lily Brock who knows what’s important come tournament time.
“We want to be peaking towards the end of the season where we are playing our best soccer right before that start so that we can just kind of ride that out, and it’s also the excitement,” Brock said. “You’re playing against some of the best teams in the nation. You are one of the best teams in the nation at that point.”
Brock is coming off a season where she recorded eight shutouts, tying the WIAC for the lead.
“I would say, some of the shutouts that I got last year, I didn’t actually put in a whole ton of work,” Brock said. “I foster these relationships with these defenders and allow kind of everybody to do a little bit less work because we are anticipating and helping pick things off before they become dangerous.”
“Everyone just believes in her, everyone trusts her,” Murphy said. “Not only on the field, but off the field. If I’m being honest about it, I feel like it’s more off the field, and it just replicates on the field. She does exactly what we ask her to do on the field. She doesn’t try to be too big, she doesn’t try to be special in moments. She just tries to do her part, and fill her role, and she has really embraced that and done a good job there.”
The Eagles also return Junior Kaitlin Villars who started all 24 games and set a single-school record for assists in one season at 13.
UW-La Crosse opens up their season at the College of St. Scholastica on Friday August 30th.