“Striving for excellence”

By Jac Rhine

"Striving for excellence" has been the team's motto of the year, instilled by head coach Chris Tillett.  Setting an example of excellent character, the team hosted the local Huntington North girl's soccer team to watch their game and then munch on snacks while the HU squad talked about the NAIA pillars of character and the importance of a college education. (Photo by Jac Rhine)

“Striving for excellence” has been the team’s motto of the year, instilled by head coach Chris Tillett. Setting an example of excellent character, the team hosted the local Huntington North girl’s soccer team to watch their game and then munch on snacks while the HU squad talked about the NAIA pillars of character and the importance of a college education. (Photo by Jac Rhine)

Despite their 5-12 record for the regular season, the women reached the semifinals of

the Crossroad League tournament, losing in the last ten seconds to Spring Arbor, the nation’s 7th ranked team in the nation.

Sophomore starter Rachel TerMarsch believes the team has the ability to compete at a high level, attributing close games to the misleading record.

“I think we did surprise and shock a lot of people,” TerMarsch said. “If you look at our record, it’s like, oh, it’s not such a great program.  But if you look at the statistics, we didn’t get blown out of the water.  There were multiple games that we lost by one goal that were simple breakdowns.  It wasn’t that the teams were leaps and bounds ahead of us.”

The team did shock many as they beat Taylor University on their home pitch and then again as they claimed a victory of Indiana Wesleyan at home.

Also, in order to get to the semifinals, the team scrapped its way to a 2-1 double OT win against Mount Vernon as well, which was a big accomplishment for the team.

Seniors and four-year starters Sam Cubic and Jessica Krause were bestowed All-Conference honors as well.

Head coach Chris Tillett is nothing but happy with the outcome of the season.

“I would have loved to have won a national championship but it’s something to build towards,” Tillett said.  “We’re working towards establishing a culture, and our seniors came in and did a great job of buying in what servant leadership looks like.  It’s a great encouraging environment.”

What many often forget is that this is actually Tillett’s first year with the HU women’s soccer program.  However, it is evident from the way his players talk of him that bonds have quickly formed.

“We all were very pleasantly surprised with how well he (Tillett) transitioned in,” TerMarsch said. “(The team) all got to sit in on the interview process and after his interview, we thought ‘Yeah, we can see this being our coach.’  He was upbeat and positive.  He told us right off the bat, I expect you to work hard and strive for excellence.”

Striving for excellence has been the team’s theme this year, according to TerMarsch, as the team focus just as much on skills as it does character.

Feelings are mutual as Tillet admits he is still getting over the end of the season.

“I’m still getting through the mourning stage of not going and being with the team for hours,” he said. “I miss the relationships and being with the girls.”

An example of the character the team shows was when the team hosted the Huntington North high school’s women’s soccer team.  The Vikings watched the match then the HU squad spoke on the NAIA pillars of character and the importance of a college education.

As the team refocuses its sights on next season, Tillett is looking for his juniors to take the roll of the departing seniors in leading the team.  He also stated that the team will look to hone in on its shooting form, first touches, speed, and accuracy.

Technically, Becca Grimes believes the team has built a strong foundation to be a potential threat next year.

“I’m looking forward to building on what we have,” Grimes said.  “It’s exciting thinking about what we’re going to be able to do next year. On the field, I think we played together a lot better this year, moving for each other and connecting passes, which was good to see.  It was fun to play when that was happening.”

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