After executing an almost flawless season, the women’s soccer team was knocked out of the American Southwest Conference championships after suffering a 3-0 loss to McMurry in the quarterfinal tournament on Oct. 31.
The team drew against McMurry on Oct. 28, securing their spot in the championship. Outside of their quarterfinal loss, the women’s soccer team was almost undefeated this season, with only two losses. The Comets also tied with Mary Hardin-Baylor for second fewest losses in a season and broke the record with seven ties. Assistant coach Rachel Holden said this was the Comets’ best season in recent years.
“[Our] expectations were very high of the girls,” Holden said. “We wanted the best season and to go out with a bang, which we did. It was better than the last year and the year before, so they definitely met our expectations.”
Starting this season, the Comets were led by new head coach Stephen Shirley, who has a long history in the sport. Shirley was a collegiate player and gained his first coaching experience at Montrose as their director of soccer academy and reserve team assistant coach. He also was a volunteer coach for the Comets from 2016-17. Shirley led practices with a different dynamic that proved effective with the team’s advancement to the championship.
“I think this season’s coaching staff was not fearful of taking risks or making frequent changes to make us more successful,” senior midfielder Sierra Foster said. “We switched through several formations throughout the season, [which] forced all the players to be more knowledgeable about everyone’s role on the field. When you know the duties of your teammates, it is easier to be an effective communicator and leader.”
Women’s soccer has a history of a fighting spirit, with a record of scoring last-minute goals and catching up to win or tie against the opposing team. In their game against Centenary, the Comets made a goal in the nick of time, with five minutes left to spare.
“The overall fight of the team was very good,” Holden said. “The girls kept pushing throughout practices, and they have that mindset where [even if] it is not your best day, you still try to get the job done.”
Three of the team’s 11 seniors had injuries last year, which stopped them from playing. The seniors — Foster, Ashlynn Thomas and Kate Crowe — were able to play the entirety of the season this year and have been the top goal scorers on the team.
“Being out for the majority of last season made me realize how much I missed playing soccer,” Foster said. “Once I got cleared by the doctors, I knew I wanted to make the most of the time I had left on the field. The seasons are short, and you only have so many opportunities to make your mark.”
Freshman defender Jenna Wilkinson said that while the team’s individual skills are a strength, the relationship between the teammates is one of the best parts of being on the Comets. The comradery is visible during the game as they celebrate each win and exchange encouragement for each loss.
“Everyone knows how to lift each other up, and we are always there for one another,” Wilkinson said. “There’s actual friendship not just because we are on the same team. I hope that as [the team moves] forward everyone can continue to be a family.”
Having broken the record for most undefeated games in a row in a season, the team expected to make it further than the quarterfinals. However, the Comets were still successful, breaking team records and winning against teams like Trinity, who they historically have lost to.
“I am extremely proud of how the team played throughout the season,” Foster said. “Unfortunately, our season ended in the quarterfinal, but I am hopeful that Coach Shirley will continue to grow the team and take them further in the following years.”