Coming off its first NEWMAC playoff appearance in program history last season, Emerson’s women’s soccer team is looking to build upon its latest success by switching up its style of play this year.
For the past five years, the Lions have operated in a 4-3-3 formation. This year, head coach David Suvak believes that a 3-4-3 formation is the best fit for the squad.
“We’re playing a 3-4-3 right now, [modeled] after Chelsea [of the English Premier League], and we’re trying to figure it out,” Suvak said. “They’re still adjusting to [the 3-4-3] and the demands of it, but we haven’t worked out all the bugs yet.”
Although there were some early struggles, senior co-captains Alex Levin and Laura McGuire said they are optimistic about the potential of the new formation when conference games begin.
“The 3-4-3 is challenging because it really tries to focus on control in the midfield, and from the defense’s perspective it’s challenging because it only leaves three people in the back,” McGuire said. “It’s tricky when you’re trying to mark the other players, forwards and strikers. It’s new, we haven’t really worked at it yet, so I think hopefully with more time and practice at it, we’ll be able to execute it better.”
Despite the loss of several key contributors to graduation, including goalkeeper Melanie Escobar and center back Natalie Benjamin, an incoming freshmen class of 10 players has given Suvak hope heading into his fifth year at the helm.
“It’s going to take a lot of commitment and work from all the players in practice, but we’ve had non-conference games where we can test the waters,” McGuire said.
This year the team held its preseason and first two contests in California, instead of staying in Boston. It was a new experience for the team, and Suvak said it was a useful one.
“I think it… built a closeness and the family that I’m trying to build much quicker than it would happen here in Boston,” Suvak said. “Living in a house as a team also helped bond an entire group of people.”
The Lions lost both games to Whittier College and Chapman University. Chapman reached the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship last year.
“We have a lot of girls that are from California, so it was kind of cool to go to their neck of the woods and play teams that were very talented,” Levin said. “I think we learned a lot from those games and being together for that week and a half definitely made us closer.”
Suvak said the staff intentionally chose to play harder competition to prepare for the NEWMAC.
“And when we say, ‘prepare for the NEWMAC,’ we mean we’re preparing for the top end of the NEWMAC,” Suvak said.
The last time Emerson encountered a top tier NEWMAC team, it resulted in a 1-0 loss to Springfield College in the first round of the NEWMAC playoffs on a controversial penalty kick. The high level nonconference opponents scheduled this year reflects the team’s desire to prepare for the top end of the NEWMAC.
“It was definitely new to us playing teams of that caliber right at the beginning of the season,” Levin said.
The realistic goal for this year has changed from getting into the NEWMAC playoffs to going even further into the playoffs, McGuire said.
“I think this year, we really have the players and the talent where it’s tangible and very achievable,” McGuire said. “We’re excited to get into the NEWMAC conference games and see what this team has.”
Emerson hosts its first home game as well as its first conference game of the season Saturday, Sept. 16 against Mount Holyoke at 1 p.m.