Lab rats

Peter Piekarski, Associate Sports Editor

Despite the season being canceled, the Quinnipiac women’s club soccer team is doing everything it can to make sure the team is ready for a potential spring season.

Just one year removed from its inaugural season as a university-recognized club sport, club President Sophia Marshall faces a difficult challenge. Marshall and her board must build a squad, create team chemistry and hold tryouts and practices all while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the university and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

Tasked with reaching out to the student body to generate interest in trying out for the team, Marshall took advantage of social media platforms to get the team’s message out.

Quinnipiac women’s club soccer hopes to start their season in the spring. (Chronicle Archives)

“We posted some memos about the season in each of the class Facebook groups that were kind of our initial push,” Marshall said. “We sent an email out. We also had a chart for our email list we had from tryouts last year. We had one of the largest groups of girls come out to our info session, which is really nice and successful. We do our trials next week. So, that’s gonna be really exciting, too.”

Since women’s club soccer is one of the first club teams to hold tryouts at Quinnipiac this year, the team’s main focus is to maintain all of the guidelines to ensure its trials are safe. All of the forms and return-to-play sheets that it creates for tryouts have to abide by CDC guidelines.

Essentially, the women’s soccer team is the university’s “lab rat.” Success with tryouts and practices will largely impact the precautions and parameters that Quinnipiac instills going forward.

“We have to wear masks constantly, we have to be socially distant constantly,” said Meaghan Kelly, vice president of the club. “We’re going to be split up into pods for trying out so we can have a max of 12 girls trying out at once. And then for practice, we’re gonna have to split the team up into two groups or three groups for practices as well. So it’s definitely been an adjustment, but I think we’re doing the best we can with what we can do.”

The typical range of women trying out for the team is roughly between 60 to 80 per year. This year there was a bit of a dive, most likely due to COVID-19 circumstances. Nonetheless, there are north of 50 women trying out this year, so Marshall and her board view that as a success.

With no fall season, the returning players fully intend to take advantage of the amount of time they have by practicing more often and getting to know all the women on the team more fondly.

“We ended up finishing nine out of 104 in the region last year, so we’re excited for the season,” said Erin Schuler, club soccer treasurer. “We’re still in that mindset that we’re going to be very elite this year, hopefully in the spring. But we’re looking to get that team solidified as early as possible so that we can form those bonds, and we can get that team chemistry and chemistry on the field and even just make sure that we have a bunch of set plays set up.”

Last year’s impressive finish was no fluke. Ending the season with an 8-2 record, gathering five shutouts along the way and nearly beating a powerhouse in No. 1 ranked UConn in the first game of the season, which occurred less than a week after tryouts happened.

The team’s success last year highlighted the importance of its affiliation with Quinnipiac, which allowed it access to university equipment, facilities, information for regional tournaments, a part of the budget and advertising the team campus-wide.

Access to the on-campus fields makes the pool for first-year students to join much larger. In a completely new environment, it may be awkward to ask random people for a ride to tryouts, so being able to use the intramural fields benefits the team.

“I tried out for the first time last year. So last season was my first season, and I could say I didn’t even know about the team for like two years beforehand because there was nothing really that I ever heard about it,” said Caitlin Palm, club soccer secretary. “Then when it became affiliated, I finally heard about it. That’s what prompted me to try out. So I was like, we have a team now even though we always did, I just never knew.”

Within the coming weeks, once the roster is set, the next big thing the board will focus on is the team’s philanthropy. Since students were sent home before the university could host its annual 10-hour dance marathon, Q-Thon, for Connecticut’s Children, most club sports missed out on the opportunity to fulfill its fundraising quest.

“Just because everything is still up in the air about exactly what philanthropy events can go on and how exactly they will go on, we haven’t particularly discussed it yet,” Schuler said. “But it will definitely be in our plan to figure something out once we get our team set and everything starts to settle down, and we get a little bit more information about what’s going on.”

Nevertheless, the Quinnipiac women’s club soccer team faces one of its most important semesters for development, and the players are excited to take on any challenge that intersects their path.

“I think our rationale was building those relationships with our girls now and then being ready to go for the season in the spring because we have this actually really unique opportunity for us,” Marshall said. “it’s about just doing the things that we don’t have didn’t have time to do before. It all starts here.”