By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Featured photo: The SU women’s soccer team poses for a picture with a professional club, 1 FC Cologne, that they faced during their trip. Salisbury Women’s Soccer Facebook page.
A pot of boiling water sits on the stove at 212° F. It may not seem like much to the average person, but to the Salisbury University women’s soccer team, it is a rallying cry for success this season.
For SU women’s soccer head coach Kwame Lloyd and his squad, the water in the pot becomes steam, which creates power and new energy. The number “212” is an emphasis in the new campaign for a Sea Gull squad that reached the CAC semifinals last season.
Despite losing a very talented senior class, Lloyd believes that the experience allowed his current squad to know exactly what to expect in the coming CAC schedule and how to prepare themselves.
“I think we’re fit. We’re fast and we’re technical,” Lloyd said. “You have a large group of players who are now juniors who have been playing together for three years and most of them have been impactful in their three years here.”
The process of preparing for the new season began early in spring for the Sea Gulls. Instead of hot boiling water, SU contrasted their team ideology with cold temperatures across Europe over spring break.
Last spring, members of the program went on a trip across Europe with many stops including Amsterdam and Munich. Alongside facing local teams along the way, the Salisbury players and coaching staff spent time together sightseeing, biking and hiking, among other things.
Lloyd and his players agree that the trip was a big stepping stone toward their development and chemistry ahead of the 2018 campaign. The SU head coach says that the trip brought the team even closer together as a family.
“It not only gave us an extra opportunity to play together, but it also allowed them to see each other more as friends and humans rather than just teammates,” Lloyd said. “When you’re shivering in snow and hiking through Amsterdam or biking through Munich, you just see different things. You see each other in different lights.”
“You’re around each other for 24 hours a day. You learn things about each other that you didn’t know before. I think that brought us all closer together.”
Junior midfielder Lydia Narum and sophomore defender Kayla Homeyer remember those cold days both fondly and sadly. Narum also remembers the team’s various biking adventures and everyone’s difficulties staying on track.
“Europe was an experience in itself because no one was ready for the cold. It was so cold. It was freezing every day,” Narum said while laughing.
Away from the cold adventures, Homeyer noticed an immediate change upon their return for the rest of the spring season.
“The whole experience and bonding was incredible when you think about the whole trip,” Homeyer said. “It was so much fun. I think it really helped us going into the spring season. I definitely think that we hit the ground running.”
Just like the leadership qualities he saw come out, Lloyd saw personal qualities and skills come out on the field with a few players. One player in their minds was sophomore goalkeeper Emma Hill, who stood out in a match that the team played in Europe.
Both Narum and Homeyer remember Hill making saves against a semi-pro team on their journey. The players were impressed by the various shooting abilities of their opponents, but they also noticed the skill of their keeper.
Despite giving up a few goals in the match, Hill did not quit going after the opponents’ shots. After seeing her performance, Homeyer says that it was something that brought the team together in a new confidence that they could support one another.
The cold and in-game situations were among a few obstacles that the Sea Gulls looked to conquer together during their trip. Narum says that going through those events together aided the team in having confidence in each other during the road ahead.
“We went through struggles together and were able to laugh and overcome them,” Narum said. “When you know how to read your teammates’ movements and how to pass and connect with them, when you have that good relationship, it definitely transfers over to the field.”
“You’re definitely not just thinking about you since soccer is such a team sport.”
Upon their return, Lloyd was impressed by how the players wanted to embrace that experience and use it to grow with those that were not present on the trip. The team learned the intangibles that he hoped they would take home from Europe.
While the conference season still awaits just over the horizon, Salisbury is in the midst of non-conference play at the moment. After a season-opening victory to start the season, SU has not been able to find the winning stride in their last four matches.
With about a week off until their match on Saturday, Sept. 15, the team will seek to find the next pathway on a journey that has already taken them from Europe. As they face one of their toughest obstacles in 2018 in the form of a losing streak, the trip across the Atlantic Ocean might provide some guidance.
The 2017 squad found a similar lull toward the beginning of the season, starting 1-6 before breaking through in conference play near the top of the CAC with a 7-2 record. Whether it is steam from a pot of boiling water or the cold winds of Northern Europe, the Sea Gulls will need to find that familiar chemistry again as they roll into conference play.