Necks head home to face UMKC


File Photo

Bridget Schuler shuffles back on defense for the Leathernecks.

Bradley Piros, Assistant Sports Editor

MACOMB, Ill. — This weekend the Western Illinois women’s soccer team will kick-off a four-game home stand over the course of the next three weeks. Their home opener is this Sunday against the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos at 1 p.m.

The last time these two teams met was back on Aug. 13, 2016 when the Roos defeated the Leathernecks 3-0 in Kansas City. The loss did not go on Western’s record because it was only a pre-season exhibition match.

Since then, the Leathernecks have lost some key players, including defender Mary Street who graduated last year, and forward Brianna Hughes who graduated the year before. Those two ladies had a huge role in the team, as well as some others, that are no longer with Western.

Either way, the Leathernecks learned how to move on without them and rebuild entirely. Coach Dr. Eric Johnson has recently been depending on his underclassman to get the job done for his side.

He started six underclassmen, three of them being their first year as a Leatherneck. Freshman Zoe Clarke and Amy Andrews were brought in all the way from Birmingham, England to continue the rebuilding process for the team.

Clarke will keep things steady in defense while Andrews will look to put some shots in the back of the net at forward alongside junior Bianca Romay, who is coming off a record year last season.

The other starting freshman was Cassidy Grunewald in midfield. She will try to be the last piece to the puzzle in Western’s midfield, solidifying it for years to come. She’ll play alongside two more underclassman, sophomores Natalie Nagle and Lauryn Peters to round out the midfield. If not in midfield, you will find Grunewald in the back four as well in defense.

Last but certainly not least, is sophomore Bridget Schuler out of Peoria.

The somewhat local addition from last year made 12 starts in 14 games for the Leathernecks while recording 10 shots, half of them on goal.

It isn’t just the underclassmen getting things done. Already mentioned, Romay was the main outlet in the attack last year, and she’ll look to convert more this time around.

Also keeping things steady in the back is senior Lily Butler and juniors Kayla McCormick and Natalie Sielaff. Butler usually playing in a defensive midfielder role often finds herself coming back to help out on defense.

Alongside freshman Clarke, will be McCormick. She appeared in all 17 games and started 15 of them, totaling over 1400 minutes over the course of last season. Rounding out the defense will be Sielaff; who started all 17 games last season, and hardly ever left the field.

The only person not mentioned out of the starting XI is undoubtedly the backbone of the team. That being junior goalkeeper Ines Palmiero from Viladecavalls, Spain. Recruited two years ago, she started five games her freshman year still as a backup. Last year she made her main stay and had 13 starts, missing out on the other four only to a slight injury. She’ll be one of the leading factors to Western’s success this season.

All these talented players seem to be the start of something special in the women’s soccer program. They are young, and they are more importantly versatile. A lot of these women can be switched back and forth between all kinds of different positions to give coach Johnson an endless variety in formations and game plans.

As long as this team can clique together and get along, they will be a force to be reckoned with this season. They’ve showed promising signs already this season, now it’s time to see if they can fire on all cylinders. They’ll be in action this Sunday at home at John Mackenzie field at 1 p.m.

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