PASADENA (Aug. 30, 2018) –Fresh off the first season of existence that yielded two home victories, the Caltech women's soccer team is eager to make a historic year-two leap, thanks to some quality new additions to the starting 11, depth and a year of experience under the belt of all its returners in addition to Head Coach Taylor Houck.
Voted ninth in the SCIAC preseason poll, the Beavers are currently flying under the radar, but might not be for long if the new look team is able to impose its will on the competition sooner rather than later.
"I think every coach wants to fly under the radar," Houck said. "However, I want our players to get the respect they deserve and for those up for weekly and conference voting to get recognized. To that end, I wouldn't mind flying a little higher if it means we're getting noticed because these players deserve it.
We caught a couple teams by surprise last year, scoring goals and forcing them to sub starters back in, but we've been doing our research and will be ready to battle."
The opportunity for improvement, and even the program's first NCAA and SCIAC wins will start with a talented freshman class that will undoubtedly change the way to Beavers play soccer in 2018. Schuyler Dick (Hudson, Ohio / Walsh Jesuit) is an all-around center midfielder who will add tremendously to the Beavers' in the center of the field while having the ability to also act as a defensive stopper. Zoe Rock (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley) is a playmaker towards the top of the team's formation who will be looked at to finish the opportunities her teammates create for her. Zoe Beatty (Columbus, Ohio / The Wellington School) and Jocelyn Kho (Temple City, Calif. / Temple City) are two outside backs who are just as comfortable pressing on the attack as they are dropping back to shut down the opposition on the wings.
The outside back play will be particularly crucial, especially since the Beavers will be returning plenty of key goal scorers from last year's team such as sophomores Netra Ravishankar (Fremont, Calif. / American) and Krystin Brown (Lake Forest, Calif. / Trabuco Hills) and junior Noelle Davis (Fort Worth, Texas / Texas Acad. of Math & Science). The plethora of options figure to make the Beavers better just solely by way of numbers, but the two-way ability of Beatty and Kho may draw the attention of defenders, giving the team's proven finishers a chance to shine like never before.
"The traveling outside back is one that is hard to defend and hard to script from an attacking standpoint," Houck said. "I had an opportunity to watch four of our new freshmen very closely throughout their high school careers and it's easy to find players with the innate desire to get forward, but more importantly our backs also have the fitness to get back. They all have a good enough first touch to where they can do a lot of things with the soccer ball. It allows us to be more dynamic and put more pressure on the defending team. With more threats, it's going to leave somebody open every time."
Kho and Beatty will join a Caltech defense that also includes key returners such as sophomores Nayla Abney (Sewell, N.J. / Deptford Township), Rachel Sun (Tustin, Calif. / Beckman) and Maquelle Tiffany (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos). While the Beavers should be more top-heavy with the ability to field a talented starting 11, the strength of this team might just be the depth. In all, the Beavers will feature 10 new players in the form of seven freshmen and three walk-on additions. Caltech managed to play the entire active roster in a 5-1 exhibition win over Providence Christian College earlier in the week, and if that can become the norm, it could mean higher quality minutes for the team's top players and key situational minutes for role players off the bench.
"This year we'll be relying on all 21 members of our squad," Houck said. "Whether they're being a positive voice on the bench or they're ready to give us a full 90 or a sub for 5 or 10 minutes here or there, it allows us to get a player who maybe isn't at the fitness we need them to be at a much-needed break which we didn't have the luxury of doing as much last year. It's going to be a different kind of Caltech team this year simply being able to give players the breaks they need."
The Caltech goalkeeping unit will also be looked at to take a step forward under new coaching. Sophomore Kali Drango (Lake Oswego, Ore. / Lake Oswego) and junior Mackenzie Wooten (Las Vegas, Nev. / Northwest Career and Technical Academy) have already made strides under new goalkeeping coach Brittany Lydon and will look to continue to do so as they gain valuable game experience. If the Beavers are to compete and put themselves in a position to win SCIAC games this year, similarly to the meetings with Whittier College and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges last year, it will help to have a strong last line of defense.
"The greatest part of Caltech is that we have the perpetual learner on our team," Houck said. "We don't have anyone here who isn't good at learning and our goalkeepers are great learners. When you get a very good teacher in, you're going to see results. Brittany gets it with our goalkeepers and they are so excited to learn from her, being introduced to new ways to stay safe and make stops."
Ultimately, the success of the women's soccer team will depend on how quickly the new players are able to gel with the returning players, as well as the quality of minutes the team will see from its bench pieces. If everything comes together, the Caltech women's soccer team might just take the unique opportunity it was given in the prior year and take it to a whole new level faster than anyone could have ever hoped.
"It's entirely on the team to decide how they gel together," Houck said. "We're really lucky that not only are our current players really good at soccer, they're also great people. We're very lucky that everybody gets along and we're all in this for the bigger picture, which is something that we're fortunate to have for Caltech women's soccer. At the end of the day, we've been given the gift of playing for Caltech and we're all happy to get out there and represent our school."