App State soccer season in review


Alec Stacey

Freshman midfielder Lela Stark runs down the line as her name is called at the start of App State’s game against Georgia St. Stark had one shot in the Mountaineers’ 1-0 loss Oct. 6, 2022.

Sarah Kruger, Reporter

Post-season play concluded for App State soccer after a 2-1 defeat to Marshall Oct. 31 in Foley, Alabama. With the season over, the Mountaineers’ season can be analyzed in review. 

App State soccer was outlasted by Marshall in overtime, losing 2-1 in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament. Freshman defender Shannon Studer was the first to put the ball in the back of the net, scoring just before halftime. 

The play began at the midfield line with a cross from sophomore defender Skyler Walk. Walk’s shot connected with senior forward Emma McGibany just outside of the six-yard box. McGibany then played the ball forward to the feet of junior defender Mumu Guisasola.

 From Guisasola, a quick touch played the ball up to Studer, who dexterously clipped the ball above the gloves of Thundering Herd keeper Alexis Wolgemuth, putting the Mountaineers up 1-0. 

Marshall went on to level the score early in the second half with a shot in the 58th minute. From there, Marshall scored again in the 91st minute, with Kat Gonzalez netting the final goal. The match ended 2-1 to the Thundering Herd. 

The match was gritty and fast paced. Despite the Mountaineers outshooting Marshall 15-14 and matching Marshall play for play, App State failed to score again before 110 minutes had expired. 

Thus, the Black and Gold’s time in the Sun Belt Tournament ended. With postseason play complete, let’s discuss the Mountaineers season in review. 

It would be remiss not to mention the youth of this App State side. Head coach Aimee Haywood was hired in December 2021, making this her first season coaching the Black and Gold. Additionally, both assistant coaches, Mikayla Krzeczowski and Mark Catterall, joined the coaching staff early in 2022. 

While Haywood, Krezeczowski and Catterall are not new to coaching, the first season with a new coaching staff is often tough. Not only do players have to adjust to each other at the beginning of each season, both on and off the pitch, they must also adjust to their coaches. 

Uniformity of vision on team philosophy and style of play between the coaching staff and the players makes a successful team. This can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome during a team’s first season. Part of App State’s success this season can be attributed to the mutual respect observed between the players and Haywood in specific. 

Additionally, more than half of the App State women’s soccer team is composed of underclassmen. It is a testament not only to the coaching staff but senior players that App State soccer performed as well as it did this season. 

This kind of ‘youth’ seen in teams often shows the most in bigger tournament games. Teams that perform well in tournament matches tend to be composed of more seasoned players, of teams who have had time to adjust to each other. It being the first season of this new team, App State has not had this.

As such, it is not surprising that the Mountaineer’s were knocked out in the first round of the tournament, despite a three-game winning streak toward the end of the season as well as a 110 minute tooth-and-nail fight against Marshall. It would seem the Black and Gold’s momentum was broken after a defeat at Texas State just days before their first tournament match. 

However, Haywood and the coaching staff have instilled in these young players the right mentality –– the “Mountaineer mentality.” With time, practice and grit, this team can achieve great things. 

In terms of goals scored this season, App State soccer’s bright spots are almost assuredly junior forward Izzi Wood and Studer. Wood was the top scorer this season with six goals, followed by Studer’s three goals.

Additionally, in terms of minutes played, both athletes played a majority of the matches this season. Studer played the third most amount of minutes in the squad, totaling 1,575 minutes this season. Wood played the seventh most minutes, coming in at 1,197 minutes. 

The impact of these two women on the success of App State soccer this season can not be discounted.

 It is worth noting that these important contributions can only happen with the support and balance provided by the rest of the team. While App State didn’t have a perfect season by any stretch of the imagination, the collaboration among players can not be excluded as a factor of their success. 

While App State soccer proved their mettle this season, they still have a long way to go. With just six wins out of an 18-game season, if the Mountaineers want to compete for a tournament win in the Sun Belt Conference, this number will have to increase. 

Over the 18-game regular season, the Black and Gold ended four matches with a draw and recorded eight losses, not including pre and post season matches. To compete, those draws are going to have to be converted into wins. 

One way to do this would be for the Mountaineers to be quicker and more aggressive on the counter attack, something Haywood has said is a priority in training. This team is really adept at long-ball play and is good at winning aerial battles. The problem comes when they get bogged down with shorter passing in the midfield. That is where possession, and points, get lost. 

If the Black and Gold can be better about retaining possession and quickly regaining possession once it is lost, many of these stray goals from opponents that challenge the Mountaineers’ ability to win matches will no longer be an issue. 

App State was really strong defensively in addition to having a lot of pace on the wings. This is why the 4-3-3 formation worked so well for them when they were in possession. When in possession, they have the pace on the wings to get the ball down the field and the talent in the midfield to make those strikes and score goals. 

If the Mountaineers retain more possession, press higher when they are out of possession, strike more and don’t get bogged down in the midfield, they would become more formidable.

Luckily for them, the groundwork is there. App State soccer has talented, young players. Their players are driven and not afraid of adversity. They are excited to work with and for each other, and represent the community. 

However, this team lacks consistency and sophistication. When they play well, and all the variables that make good soccer align, it is exhilarating. But mastering and perfecting the movement of the team as a unit takes time. When that finesse is not there, the ball falls out of possession, chances are missed and goals are given away. 

This first season was exactly that ––  a good start. It was a team finding their footing. Figuring out how they fit together, what makes them play effectively and what doesn’t. It was the players learning from each other and their new slate of coaches. It was promising. Exciting. Where the Black and Gold go from here, only time will tell.