Azusa Pacific’s women’s soccer graduated a small senior class last season; however, three of the graduates were defensive starters.
“That was the misfortune we experienced this year,” senior Logan Chan said. “It was finding personnel and people that were experienced enough in the back and also smart enough to fill those spots. It took us the entire preseason to figure out how we were going to do that.”
With the new season, multiple players made the transition to the back line to fill the gap. The team, now 2-5, began conference play last Saturday in a 1-0 loss to Point Loma.
“It’s been a growing year,” sophomore goalie Sarah Klinkenberg said. “But we’ve come together in a really awesome way.”
Klinkenberg, a sophomore education major, was named Defender of the Week by the PacWest Conference on Sept. 22. She earned this after the team’s first shutout against Cal State Dominguez Hills on Sept. 17.
“It’s a cool honor, but to me, it’s not really personal,” Klinkenberg said. “It’s about my whole back line.”
Klinkenberg has started all six games this season and earned 18 saves with a 1.14 goals-against average. She said her favorite part about being a goalie is the fact that she’s the last person the ball has to go through.
“It’s the biggest responsibility, but it’s also the coolest part of the game,” she said.
Sophomore Lindsey Ryals transitioned from offense to defense this season. She was previously a forward, and said that her experience in that position helped her transition to defense.
“As a forward, you go up against defenders, so you have to switch and think, ‘What would a forward hate right now?'” Ryals said. “You know what you don’t like when you’re playing up against a defender.”
Ryals said the dynamic is different in the back, and that she thinks she’s adjusted well to the new position.
“I’m still learning, obviously, but I know a basic understanding of it,” Ryals said.
One of the biggest sources of pride for a defense is getting shutouts. The team has only had one shutout this season, against Cal State Dominguez Hills, but the defense is hoping for more.
“We do take a lot of pride in shutouts because that’s our job,” Klinkenberg said. “If we don’t let goals in, they can’t win. If we have to settle for a tie, we have to settle for a tie.”
Ryals agreed. “I really respect the back line now that I’m playing with them,” she said. “Shutouts are hard.”
Communication is also essential among the defenders, said Klinkenberg.
“It’s crucial to everything,” Klinkenberg said. “It has to come from me and the center backs and outside backs and work its way up the field. We’ve got to direct each other.”
Chan, who has been playing with the team since freshman year, sees it as “a real privilege” to watch the team transition from NAIA to NCAA.
Moving forward, the team is looking to earn a PacWest championship as well as continue to better themselves as a team.
“Every game we’ve progressed,” Chan said. “I don’t think we’ve taken a regression backwards. We started at ground level and we’ve slowly made our way up.”
The team will now travel to Honolulu, Hawaii to play against Hawaii Pacific on Oct. 3. Last year, the Cougars were able to beat HPU with a 7-0 win.