It has been a hot start for the No. 22 nationally ranked University of Indianapolis Women’s Soccer team starting out the season with a 4-1 record. Kicking off their season in early Sept., they started with momentum, scoring four goals against Cedarville University, three of which amounted to a hat trick from senior midfielder Kiki Sauceda. Her performance helped her achieve GLVC Offensive Player of the Week in the week of Sept. 6., according to UIndy Athletics. That would not be her lone Offensive Player of the Week award, with her winning it again two weeks later after scoring two goals in a match against No. 15 McKendree University, helping the Hounds to a 3-2 win. According to Sauceda, the early success is attributed to the extra chemistry the team has been able to establish.
“And I remember on the last goal [of the hat trick] I was talking to one of my teammates, Liz [Elisabeth Kessler] and right before the free kick happened, we figured out who’s going to go front post and who’s going to go back post,” Sauceda said. “Thankfully, figuring that out really helped me be able to get in and score that goal. I’ve been working hard in the summer and working hard with the team. I was definitely really excited to see those goals go in.”
According to Head Coach Holly Cox, Sauceda had come into the season confident in her own play and that has shown on the field. She said that for attack there is not a right or a wrong way to do it and that it’s about the mentality of the players to stay aggressive.
“She [Sauceda] had a great preseason, she had a great season last year coming off of the spring season that we had,” Cox said. “She came in and just was confident. And you could see that in her play. You only gain confidence by training hard and playing well during practice. And that’s what we’ve seen in Kiki and other players.”
So far this season the Greyhound offense has been firing on all cylinders, averaging two goals per game, according to UIndy Athletics, but the defense, despite only giving up five goals in their five matches played, has been good, according to Cox’s standards. She said that of the goals the team has given up, it has mainly been due to organizational issues.
“We always pride ourselves, me and my staff and hopefully the team on being tough to break down,” Cox said. “We want to be a team that makes teams work extremely hard to put the ball in the back of the net against us. And I feel like in the past couple of games, we’ve conceded some poor goals from a lack of organization, maybe not as good and clear and concise communication.”
On Friday Sept. 17., the team saw a full return of two of its bigger players before their matchup against University of Southern Indiana with junior goalkeeper Sophia Saucerman and former 2019 GLVC Offensive Player of the Year senior attack Taylor Peck returning to the Greyhounds according to UIndy Athletics. Both of them made their returns known with Peck netting the game-winning goal and Saucerman being locked in on the defensive side with six saves in her return.
Before Saucerman’s return, freshman goalkeeper Jenna Taghikhani had been manning the net for the Greyhounds and, according to Cox, she did a great job in the early part of the season. She said that similar to the defense as a whole, communication is an area of improvement moving forward for Taghikhani.
“Going back to the communication piece, I think as a freshman, sometimes it takes a little bit more time to find your voice, but in that position in particular, it needs to be right now,” Cox said. “Just because you see the whole game back there, you’re basically a coach on the field organizing your back line and everyone else in front of you. She’s done a great job though. She’s kept some clean sheets for us, the big one being the Ohio Dominican game. She stepped up.”
According to Cox, the main focus going into the rest of the season is securing that communication and organization on the defensive side of the ball. Cox said she hopes to see a stronger connection to the game plan for the Greyhounds moving forward and to stay consistent with that plan throughout the entire game.
“I think in the UMSL game, we were high in moments and we were really low in moments,” Cox said. “So it’s finding that consistency within the game and it starts in practice. Being consistent in practice is then going to lead over into game play.”