IUPUI Women’s Soccer Looks to Their Young Core as They Graduate Seven Seniors

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The IUPUI women’s soccer program finished their season earlier this month at third in the Horizon League Conference semifinals, losing to Milwaukee on the road 0-3. This was their second consecutive trip to the tournament and also marks the third time the Jaguars have reached it since it was formed in 2017.

While the loss in Milwaukee was a hard pill to swallow, the team had a great season, finishing 5-2-2, the highest win percentage since they won the Horizon League tournament and made the NCAA tournament in 2017. Even though this was the Jaguars shortest season, made even shorter because of two game cancellations due to COVID-19, it highlighted one of the team’s best qualities, resiliency.

“I can’t say enough about the players and how well they handled all of their ups and downs of the season,” said head coach Chris Johnson.  “We came out and win our first game, then we had to sit two games because of COVID, after being off 10 days we had two practices and then had to play Detroit and we tied… then we beat Milwaukee, which was the first time anyone’s beat them in a long time.”

Johnson also mentioned how much fun it was for the team to be back out on the pitch after last season being cancelled because of the pandemic, and he wasn’t the only one. 

When asked about her favorite moment of the season, senior forward Valentine Pursey discussed how much not only herself, but the team missed gamedays.

“Coming back after not playing a whole year, being able to go out there as a team after all the work we put in and all the ups and downs that we went on, just being able to be together and go out there, lace up again, and have some fun,” she said.

Pursey was the Jaguars leading scorer this season and has 26 total goals in her career at IUPUI. While she does graduate this semester, Pursey will be pursuing her master’s degree at a university in North Carolina and will be playing for their soccer program, however, she did not wish to disclose the exact school just yet.

Pursey makes the fifth starter and the seventh senior the team is graduating this off season as the Jaguars will be looking to their young core to potentially lead them to a third consecutive Horizon League Tournament. With this many players graduating, coach Johnson believes that the team’s next challenge will be finding the team’s next generation of leaders.

“There’s a lot of leadership in there [the senior class] that we have to find a way to fill, we had a practice the other day, you know [with] the returning players, and it was very quiet out there,” said Johnson. “The senior group, in addition to being a very strong group on the field, was a very strong group of personalities, and they really guided the team in the direction we wanted to go.”

Of some of the young players, Johnson had praise for first-year forward Carlie Werner. Werner produced stellar performances when the two keepers tested positive for COVID-19. Werner was the teams replacement and had seven saves in total over her two game stint as the keeper  

“We had a freshman forward step up and play in the goal for two games against Youngstown State and NKU,” said Johnson. “She gave up one goal in 200 minutes of action and that was pretty fantastic resiliency and grit on the part of our players to kind of roll with the punches and keep stepping up and doing what we could do.”

Even though the team has big shoes to fill, coach Johnson has full confidence in his players to rise to the occasion.

“We got to find some new voices and some new players that are going to step up, and I think they will, I don’t have any doubt that they are going to do that.” Johnson said. “It’ll be interesting to see how that develops in the next four months so when we come back in the fall we are ready and able to get going forward.”

Coach Johnson isn’t the only one who believes the team will be able to find their leaders this offseason, Pursey also weighed in on the future of the lady Jags and stated how this season’s experiences will help the team going forward.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of people step up and just enjoy playing, I think the main thing is all of us just love being around the sport and just having fun,” said Pursey. “Obviously my class is a big class and has a lot of personalities both on the field and off the field, but I know they will work through it, especially having worked through so much together this past year.”

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