Palmer Set to Build on Coaching Success
Women’s soccer Head Coach Dan Palmer relies on three central tenets to push his team to reach its potential: hard work, relentless competitiveness and camaraderie. This mantra has turned the program around 180 degrees in Palmer’s first three years with the Athletics department. In just three seasons with the Yeowomen, Palmer and his squad have tallied 21 wins — in the five seasons before, the team struggled to win just 18 games. This year’s squad, which is upperclassmen-heavy, will look to continue building this momentum in the 2016 season.
The team consists of a balanced group of nine seniors and three 2015 All-NCAC selections — sophomores Maddi Kimball and Jordyn Morris and junior Gwennie Gardiner.
Kimball, one of the team’s key defenders and the “most versatile player in the program,” according to Palmer, enters her second season as an anchor for the Yeowomen. Last year, as a midfielder, Kimball had 13 shots, five of which were on goal.
Morris, one of the top goalkeepers in the NCAC, started in 16 games and made 71 stops during her rookie season. Her strong performance lifted her to second in the conference for saves per game with an average of 4.44.
Rounding out the trio of conference selects, Gardiner will be a major attacking threat for the Yeowomen this season. In the 2015 season, Gardiner led the team with six goals and four assists for 16 points.
“[Gardiner] is the most dynamic attacking player on the team,” Palmer said about the junior speedster.
Other pivotal returners include junior Hannah Cook, who led the team with five assists last fall. Cook will play outside-mid adjacent to senior center midfielder Taylor French, who found the back of the net six times last year. Senior and Review Editor-in-Chief Tyler Sloan, who had four goals and an assist in 2015, is expected to hold down center midfield with French.
The Yeowomen also welcome five talented rookies to their squad this season. Palmer said that he expects the first-years to compete for spots and to push returners in the process. Gardiner also offered praise for the group of newcomers, which includes goalkeeper Katie Lucey, defender Sammy Clanton, central midfielders Izzy Rosenstein and Jackie Brant and forward Cat Bent.
“I think this freshman class is exactly what our team needed,” Gardiner said. “Each brings a bit of personality and their own playing style that helps round out the team.” Gardiner added that she believes the first-years will step up and help the squad in tough games right away.
French said that the team’s significant number of upperclassmen, as well as a strong first-year class, makes for a unique combination of experience and new energy.
“There’s definitely a lot more competition within the team for different roles,” said French. “That has a lot to do with the age that we have. We have a lot of upperclassmen this year for the first time in a really long time. So that’s been really different, but we do have a lot of really good younger players coming in that I think will definitely make a big difference as well.”
With preseason concluding last Sunday, the team kicked o its regular season with a home opener against Case Western Reserve University on Thursday at Fred Shults Field. The Yeowomen fell to the Spartans 1–0, the same result as the 2015 match. The Spartans ended the 2015 season ranked 45th in the NCAA Division III.
Prior to the match, Palmer said that regardless of the results, he hopes that the team will be competitive in every game and help one another improve each time they play.
“When you have players who are wiling to work hard and be good teammates to each other, good things can happen,” said Palmer.
Last year, the Yeowomen held a 2–4–2 record in conference play, but Palmer called each team in the NCAC “beatable” and said that “anything can happen.” Conference play begins Saturday, Sept. 24 when Oberlin will take on DePauw University at home during Homecoming Weekend.
Of the team’s conference matches, Palmer said that his squad anticipates its match against Kenyon College — a longtime rival — the most. Last year’s competition ended in a tie, so this year the Yeowomen are looking to come out on top.
“I think it’s fair to say that we collectively look forward to the Kenyon game and the Hiram [College] game,” Gardiner said. Former Assistant Coach Michael Cracas stepped down from his post at Oberlin in 2015 for a position as head coach at Hiram, and the friendly competition serves as motivation for both sides.
“Rivalries make for good games,” Gardiner said.” I feel like we’ve risen our level of play both times I’ve been around to play Kenyon.”
Senior captain Caroline Oehlerich said that during preseason, the team set two goals as main on-field priorities — qualifying for the NCAC tournament and having a winning record.
“We have a goals inventory that we send to [Coach Palmer] at the beginning of every season, and my goal was just to get above .500 [winning percentage]. I think that’s a really realistic goal, and we’ve gotten it the past two seasons under Dan,” said Oehlerich. “And then beyond that, making NCACs, because for soccer, it’s the top four teams, and we’ve been in that position — in fifth — the past two seasons, as well. So I think making NCACs and getting above .500 would be a really realistic team goal.”
The Yeowomen will play Muskingum University Sunday at 2 p.m. on Fred Shults Field. The Yeowomen will look to duplicate the offensive success they had in last season’s 4–2 road victory over the Fighting Muskies.