For the Taylor women’s soccer team, the 2020 season was a mixed bag. COVID-19 restrictions on and off the field made this season truly unique.
In years past, Taylor athletic teams have been able to return to campus with ample amounts of time to prepare for the coming season. On top of that, they are able to schedule several non-conference matchups to fine tune their skills before jumping into their crucial Crossroads games.
That natural flow was interrupted this year, as the pandemic threatened to cancel the season altogether.
“We had no preseason and we only got one nonconference game this year.” Coach Scott Stan said of the unique circumstances.
“Just having the season has been a blessing for us,” said senior Morgan Orme.
In order to have a season, the team had to adapt to new rules and regulations. In addition to several large changes —like having the national tournament in the spring rather than the fall — there were also some day-to-day adjustments, including daily screening and social distancing.
“We’re six games short of a normal 18-game season, but I have gotten pretty good at using a digital thermometer,” said Coach Stan.
Despite the cancellation of preseason and the new structure of their schedule, the Trojans won their first three games against IU Kokomo, Huntington and Mount Vernon. They outscored their opponents 12–3 over this span, proving that their offense was more than capable of scoring goals.
Four games into the season, Taylor came up against their biggest challenge yet: second-ranked Marian. They fell by a score of 4–0, despite 15 saves from freshman goalkeeper Hannah Brackenbury.
The Trojans’ schedule didn’t get any easier after the Marian game. The next four games included three away matches against ranked opponents. Taylor lost to Indiana Wesleyan, Grace College and Spring Arbor, picking up a win against Saint Francis between losses.
Following this tough stretch of road games, Coach Stan shifted his team into a 4–3–3 formation. This broke away from the 3–5–2 they had been using most of the season.
“With five in the midfield, there was too much confusion. I thought it would make defending easier, but it just caused confusion as to who needs to cover what areas of the pitch,” Coach Stan said of the change. “With less going on in the midfield, everyone knows what they need to do.”
After changing formation, the Trojans did not lose another regular season game and conceded just one more regular season goal.
A victory against Huntington, two against Bethel and a tie with seventh-ranked Indiana Wesleyan brought Taylor’s regular season to a close. They managed to get through the whole season despite the pandemic, cancelling just one game against Goshen on account of the virus.
With the conclusion of the regular season, the Crossroads tournament was the last obstacle that the Trojans would face this fall. A conference record of 4–4 secured the fifth seed in the tournament, pitting Taylor against Mount Vernon for the second time this season.
After an action-packed game that saw 16 shots on goal, the Trojans fell by a score of 1–2.
Taylor ended the season with a record of 7–5–1. The top goal scorers on the team this season were Morgan Orme and Junior Linli Tu, who tied on seven goals each on the year. Orme also led the team in assists, tallying eight in total.
For all Taylor students, this year has been filled with COVID-19 regulations and restrictions. However, soccer provided a much-needed break from all of the pandemic noise.
“Soccer has kind of normalized everything,” said senior Reyna Williams. “It gives us an escape from all of the regulations.”
This break from restrictions has been refreshing for the coaching staff as well.
“I’ve never enjoyed practice more than I have this season,” Coach Stan said. “It’s one time of day that feels normal and it lets us blow off some steam and have fun. We all probably need to do some of that during a time like this.”