Mansi Chauhan
Mercury Staff

Coach attributes wins to team patience, sets sights on national championship

The women’s soccer team has only let one opposing shot get past its defense, making its current cumulative score 34-1 over the past nine games of the season.

The team, led by head coach Kanute Drugan since 2014, has reached the semifinals of the regional American Southwest Conference for four consecutive years.

“I think the key is recruiting girls that understand the culture and philosophies I wanted to have within the team,” Drugan said. “They were open to coaching and learning what was needed on the field tactically and strategically.”

During one of their most recent games against Austin College on Sept. 18, the Comets ended with a score of 8-0. Austin College was out-shot by the Comets 30-3, and 8 out of the 17 shots on-goal were able to surpass the Austin College Kangaroos keeper. The three keepers for the Comets only tallied one save. Drugan said he attributes the shutout to the mental resilience of the team.

“The girls showed a very high level of execution that night. Typically, there is a tendency to get frantic and hysterical in the effort to try and get more goals, but they were very patient,” Drugan said. “They remained very composed even when the game got a bit frustrating.”

One of the players who led the team in scoring during the game was senior forward Melissa Fulfer. Since joining the team as a freshman in 2015 from Martin High School, she started every game except for one. In the match against the Kangaroos, Fulfer scored her first goal just two minutes and 55 seconds into the game and scored the next two just nine minutes apart.

“During the first half of the game, we were possessing really well but weren’t getting a lot of good looks at the goal,” Fulfer said. “During the second half we really started breaking down the defense and finding the back of the net. It was a whole team effort. “

Healthcare studies major Jacquie Kaufman is also one of seven seniors on the team this year. Kaufman made four shots on goal against Belhaven University on Sept. 22. The upperclassmen members, including Kaufman, started their collegiate soccer careers as freshmen and sophomores, which Drugan said is a key reason the team is enjoying success this season.

“The high number of seniors I think is the main ingredient. They play a lot of games when they are young, which makes them receptive to new ideas,” Drugan said. “The younger players watch them and see what sacrifice and commitment looks like and that propels their own development.”

Freshmen have been on the field in every game as well. Midfielder Sofia Munoz scored the 44th hat trick in program history during a game against Louisiana College, while goalkeeper Morgan Sherman saved an on-goal shot made by the Belhaven Blazers on Sept. 22.

“The young players are very involved. They are committed to learning our system and how we play, and they fit right in,” Kaufman said. “We have all really bought into the program, which helps us succeed.”

The women’s soccer team has not lost a game thus far, but both Drugan and Kaufman said they are aware of their competitors and weaknesses.

“Our biggest competitor right now is Hardin-Simmons. The coach there has similar levels of experience as me — (he) and I are the 29th and 30th people to have won 300 games, respectively,” Drugan said. “He knows how to develop a team and so do I.”

The Comets have eight ASC conference games remaining before the final games of the regional tournament begin. If they win the finals, they will be able to compete at the national level in Division III of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.

“I think we need to work on staying focused on the game and how we’re playing regardless of who our opponent is,” Kaufman said. “My hopes for this season are to win the ASC in both the regular season and the conference tournament and then to go on to the NCAA tournament and hopefully win a national championship.”