Women’s soccer in top form
Behind goal-crazy Summer Mason, Lady Toreros are off to best conference start since 2012
Kristen Gengenbacher | Contributor | The USD Vista
It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and the USD Women’s Soccer Team is well on its way toward a strong finish.
Despite entering league play with a 2-8 record, one of the lowest in the West Coast Conference, the Toreros are now on a four-game win streak, with the latter of those wins making for a perfect 3-0 start in conference. The Toreros defeated BYU, St. Mary’s, and Pacific to reach their best conference start since 2012.
While this newfound confidence is due in large part to head coach Louise Lieberman and her staff, Lieberman credits these wins to the resiliency and dedication of her players.
“Against Cal State Northridge [the game before conference started], things really started to click and gel,” Lieberman said. “The girls felt more confident in that game. Winning boosted their confidence and established a belief in themselves that maybe wasn’t there initially. I’m so proud of how they’ve dug themselves out and dusted themselves off.”
This resilience has given the Toreros the motivation they need to approach each game with confidence and composure, knowing that they have a fighting chance.
Lieberman’s style of coaching demands the most, both physically and mentally, out of her players. She said that perfecting and trusting the process will allow results to follow. Since arriving on campus prior to this season, her coaching mantra has been one of consistency.
A key figure in finding this consistency has been junior midfielder Summer Mason. Mason scored a hat trick in last week’s game against Pacific, and this performance led to her being named West Coast Conference Player of the Week.
Mason approached this game as any other, but early in the game took advantage of missed assignments by Pacific’s defense. In the twenty-fourth minute, Mason scored the first goal of the game on a left-footed shot about 20 yards out. Again in the sixty-eighth minute, Mason shook her defender and scored an easy goal on the right side of the net. Three minutes later, Pacific scored their only goal of the game, but the momentum was quickly silenced. Mason answered with another goal less than two minutes later, giving the Toreros the edge they needed to finish the game with a 3-1 win.
In regard to the hat trick, Mason pointed out that her main goal was to give her team a boost.
“It felt amazing,” Mason said. “I was just really happy to get the goals and be there for my team so we could get the win.”
Lieberman spoke highly of Mason and the significant impact she has made on the team’s offense and defense.
“Summer makes incredible runs and finds ways to get open, get in dangerous opportunities, and capitalize on them,” Lieberman said. “What’s better is that she is able to do that at a high level. I think she could’ve had three or four more goals against Pacific.”
As WCC Player of the Week, Mason acknowledged the affirmation this accomplishment created not only for her, but for the team as well.
“It meant a lot,” Mason said. “It’s nice to be recognized for doing what I do. I feel like it gives confidence to me and the team that we’re doing something right. We’re 3-0 in conference. We had a rough preseason, but now we’re 3-0. It shows that we’re coming together and we can do it.”
And coming together they are. Both Mason and Lieberman mentioned how all of their wins have been a result of a collective effort and a focus on team chemistry.
“Everybody has stepped up at different times throughout the season,” Lieberman said.
“Centerback Tara Meier has really held down the fort in the back, and Ally Ocon in midfield has been glue in keeping us moving the ball.”
Mason acknowledged that these collective efforts have allowed the team to rebound from a 1-8 start to the season.
“From the beginning we showed a lot of potential,” Mason said. “I just don’t think we were quite tapping into everything everyone had to offer or completely working together as a team. Now, it’s starting to come together. We’ve started to believe again that we can win. Everyone seems like they’re on board. Whether or not they’re playing or on the bench, everyone is in it and everyone is working for each other.”
While things are looking up for the Toreros, both Lieberman and Mason acknowledged that there is a lot of season left, and they need to maintain their focus if they want to stay on top of conference. The Toreros were supposed to play Santa Clara on Saturday, but the game was postponed because of poor air quality from the Northern California wildfires.
As the Toreros get in their groove, they also hope to see the support of their student body, a group that has shown reluctance to attend games this season. Lieberman encouraged students to come watch, and to see for themselves the consistency, focus, and resiliency the Toreros continue to show.
“Come watch a hard-working, talented group of individuals who are looking for their place in this conference and to make an impact in a big transition year for them,” Lieberman said. “These student-athletes decided to come to USD, wear the jersey, and go across the country representing all students on this campus. These incredible women should be recognized for upholding the USD philosophy and USD way. I would hope that the student body would be connected to that.”
The Toreros have yet to face some of the WCC’s top competition, which includes the likes of Pepperdine, the only other undefeated team in conference. As these tests grow near, the Toreros continue to expand and refine their team chemistry, working toward their ultimate goal of a conference championship.
This week, the Toreros return to San Diego where they will face LMU on Thursday at 7 p.m.