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Strong opening for women’s soccer

By Alex Bernstein

Section: Sports

September 9, 2011

Brandeis women’s soccer was victorious in the season opener on Thursday night, beating Clark University 2-0 under the lights of Gordon Field. On Saturday, Brandeis followed up with an encore, beating MIT 2-0. The hero of the two games was midfielder Mary Shimko ’14, who scored the go-ahead goal in both contests.

Looking to build on the success they had last year, the team came into the preseason with big goals for this much-anticipated season. Having made the NCAA Division III Tournament last year, the team hopes to do the same this year. “This year, we want to win the UAA championship, be number one in New England and make NCAAs again,” said forward Hilary Andrews ’14, an integral player in Brandeis’ skilled offense.

After several key seniors on the team graduated this year, the team worked hard and bonded during a long and rigorous preseason. Captain Alanna Torre ’12 understands what it takes to lead the team and win, noting that “last year’s seniors led the team in the right direction.” Torre, a midfielder, believes now that it is her job to “motivate everyone and make sure everyone’s on the same page and striving for the same goals.”

For two weeks leading up to the season opener, the team held two-a-day practices, which helped form cohesion and fill in some of the gaps created by the graduated seniors. “Losing seniors was definitely hard, but [the] preseason really gave us the opportunity to build as a team and get used to playing well together,” added Shimko. “We definitely were able to come together and form a bond.”

Finally getting the opportunity to showcase their hard work, the team started off strong in the early minutes of the opener, although they didn’t score in the first half. Outshooting the Cougars 5-3, Brandeis was able to control the ball early on. “We felt that we were doing a good job controlling the ball and we got a few shots on goal,” said Andrews. Toward the end of the first half, the Judges realized that most of the field was open and made important adjustments at halftime. The highlight of the first half was a beautiful save by goalie Francine Kofinas ’13 in the 21st minute.

Barely two minutes into the second half, the Judges’ adjustments paid off with a goal. Tangled up in a challenge for the ball with the Clark goalie, Torre managed to pass to Shimko who had an open look at the net and drilled it in. “I was trying to get there in case the goalie made a mistake and support Alanna. I was just in the right place at the right time.” The Judges got some insurance when first-year midfielder Sapir Edalati scored a goal in the 74th minute, assisted by Andrews.

The team seemed very encouraged by the victory. “We set the tone for the rest of the season,” said Torre. “We don’t lose at home and we had a tough game against [Clark] last year. We’re very excited at how well we played.”

According to Shimko, a central theme in the team’s game plans throughout this season will be setting the tone early in games. “We want to score early and really set the tempo by keeping possession, getting in a rhythm and hopefully putting one in the back of the net. Defensively, we can’t give up early goals.” Although the Judges didn’t score in the first half of the season opener, they were able to maintain quality possessions and get some looks at the goal.

Encouraged by their victory, the Judges were ready to compete against MIT on Saturday, and this time they struck early. In the 20th minute, midfielder Mimi Theodore ’12 was able to head the ball to Shimko, who scored for the second straight game. The header was made possible by a free kick taken by fullback Kelly Peterson ’14 from about 25 yards out, just to the right of the box. Theodore added her own goal in the 72nd minute, number 19 of her career.

With the victory, Brandeis improved to 2-0 on the season while MIT fell to 1-1. Andrews was pleased with the team’s performance, commenting, “We were able to keep high energy, play our game and make a combination of passes.” The team will travel to Springfield for a 2:30 p.m. game Saturday.

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