Women’s football opens the season with tough drives at Butler and Notre Dame
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The Western Michigan women’s soccer team begins a new era on Thursday, when the Broncos travel to Butler to face the Bulldogs at 7 p.m.
The game will be the first of the regular season under the new head coach lewis robinson, who was appointed to the position on June 30. WMU also travel to Notre Dame on Sunday to take on the Fighting Irish at noon. Sunday’s game can be watched live on ACC Network Extra, while Thursday’s game at Butler will not be shown.
The Broncos are coming off a pair of exhibition games, going 1-0-1 against Purdue Fort Wayne and Wright State. WMU opened with the home draw against the Beacons, with the junior striker Jenna Blackburn scoring both goals for the team in the 2-2 final. In the road win over the Raiders, with was Reagan Wisser, Madi Canada and Madison Salzenstein score goals in the 3-0 decision.
Robinson had less than two months to get to know and assess the team.
“He learned a lot of strengths, a lot of areas for improvement, the characteristics of the team and individual players and their motivations,” Robinson said of his assessment of his time with the team so far. “It’s been a really good first week trying to lay the groundwork for how we’d like to play, how we want to play and what’s really important to us.”
RETURN OF FIREPOWER
Blackburn are the team’s leading return goalscorer. The native of Grand Blanc, Michigan had a standout season in 2021 with a career-high six goals. She was an effective scorer for the team, tallying her six on just 27 total shots. Classmate Case Flanagan is the second-leading returning scorer after finishing with a career-high 10 points on four goals and two assists last season.
HAPPY TO SEE YOU AGAIN
Midfielder Claudia Schilling and rear left Kai Sugiyama return for their fifth year with the Broncos. Schilling played in all 18 games last season and started in 17. She had a career-high seven points with two goals and an assist while recording 1,002 minutes. No one has played more than Sugiyama, who played a team record 1,550 minutes. She contributed two assists while helping contribute to five shutouts.
Is also back a graduate student Hannah Sargent. Sargent last played for the Broncos in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season that took place in the spring of 2021. She went 6-0-0 with just three goals allowed in 463:53 of total time between the sticks. Her best season came in 2018, when she tied program records for single-season wins with 14, while recording seven shutouts.
OH CAPTAINS, MY CAPTAINS
The Broncos will be led this season by Schilling, Sugiyama and the junior center back Lexi Nickolebut Robinson sees a team of leaders.
“We have a lot of leadership in the team. There is great team chemistry, with good internal leadership from our captains Kia, Lex and Claudia. They are good people and strong leaders. ‘they want, they’ve been through a lot here and I think it’s created some strong leadership qualities in them.’
“We also have other great leaders in this team. Lauren Boafa is a leader, he is a natural personality. We have Hannah Sargent back, who is a leader and a sixth-year student. Mira Pierre Webster is one of the best leaders you will see as a football player. She is simply natural and will always be a leader in the way she walks, talks and behaves. It’s really good to have leaders all over the pitch and I think that will be a strength of the team this year.”
The Broncos have a busy schedule in the first weeks of the season with trips to Butler, Notre Dame, Arkansas and Marquette. The Broncos will also travel to Detroit Mercy, while hosting Cincinnati on Thursday, September 8 and Oakland on Sunday, September 11.