Women’s soccer prepares for weekend road trip double-header

Bradley Piros, Sports Editor

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MACOMB, Ill. — The Western Illinois women’s soccer team kicks off a two-game road trip tonight when the take on the Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis Jaguars and on Sunday afternoon against the University of Missouri – Kansas City Kangaroos.

Western is currently riding a three-game win streak heading into the weekend after beating the Missouri State University Bears in comeback fashion 2-1, one week ago. The Leathernecks have had an entire week off to practice and prepare for this upcoming test, and what a test it will be.

All three teams started off their respective seasons in the win column. IUPUI beat Toledo 1-0 in overtime to kick off their year but fell to Butler 4-1 last Sunday. UMKC is currently 2-0 after back-to-back shutouts against Indiana State (1-0) and Illinois State (2-0). They play the Eastern Illinois University Panthers tonight at 7 p.m.

So, with IUPUI coming off a pretty bad loss, Western will be looking to capitalize and carry their own momentum into the matchup. Specific players to look out for will be sophomore forward Amy Andrews, who opened her account with a goal against the Bears, and junior midfielder Bridget Schuler who scored the game winning goal in that same contest.

Not making the scoresheet but still holding the down the fort on defense is sophomore Zoe Clarke who recorded four shots against the Bears which led the team in chances. And as always, the last line of defense remains senior goalkeeper Ines Palmiero Herrera who came away with back-to-back shutout wins in pre-season and helped her side to their first regular season win.

Western hasn’t played IUPUI in past years, so they are rather unfamiliar with each other. This game could go either way, but if the Leathernecks defense can stay as strong as it has so far, it should be a win.

On the other hand, is UMKC. Western did play them last season at home and were shutout 4-0 but that was a much different Western Illinois team then. The Leathernecks know what they’re up against and have once again been preparing all week for the task ahead.

Head coach Eric Johnson has a younger team this year with a good mixture of freshman, sophomores and juniors, relying less on his fourth-year players as the season goes on. There are a couple exceptions to that rule though, mainly in the defense.

With Palmiero Herrera in her last season of eligibility, she will be leaving a big gap in the upcoming seasons. Right in front of her though is a defense made up of four seniors: Natalie Sielaff, Maddie Wilsey, Kayla McCormick and Madison Bulin. All four of them were regular starters last season but only Sielaff and Wilsey made the start against MSU in the season opener. Johnson only put out three defenders with Clarke being the third in a 3-4-3 formation.

The fourth and last senior on the team is forward Emily Bollman. She’s had a long history with the team including a Summit League Player of the Week honor her freshman year in which she played in 17 games and scored two goals. Her sophomore year she played in all 17 matches making nine starts. That year she recorded three goals and an assist. That brings us to last year where she started 11 games and scored a season best four goals and two assists for 10 points. Last year though she played the least number of minutes since she’s been here at Western.

All five of these ladies are difference makers. It’s good to know that Johnson has options coming off the bench in defense as well as some depth, something the team hasn’t had in a while.

The Leathernecks will look to use that depth to their advantage for this busy weekend while away. After this weekend Western will return home on Sept. 5 when they take on the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Hopefully the Leathernecks can pick up a couple of wins this weekend. The game against IUPUI is at 6 p.m. tonight and the contest starts at 1 p.m. Sunday against UMKC.

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