Belles soccer optimistic after gaining experience during challenging year
Matthew Crow | Friday, May 19, 2023
The 2022 season was a challenging one for Saint Mary’s soccer. With a new coaching staff, an inexperienced roster and a difficult slate of opponents, there was a nearly perfect storm of obstacles standing in their way.
After saying goodbye to a senior class that led the Belles to eight wins the previous season, first-year head coach Farkhod Kurbonov had to quickly assemble a new roster and get his new players ready for the fall.
“It was a transitional season because we had a lot of girls who just [started playing in] college, transferred or walked onto the team,” Kurbonov said. “So more than half the girls were either freshman or new to the program.”
That combination of youth and unfamiliarity with the Saint Mary’s program made it difficult for the Belles to compete with their MIAA opponents. They finished the year with an 0-13-3 record.
Despite the struggles on the scoreboard, Kurbonov did not have any difficulty motivating the team. The Belles’ young players were driven by a desire to improve as individuals and as a unit. And that mentality has stayed with them in the offseason.
“I did not have to bring big speeches or motivational things to them,” Kurbonov said. “They all took it very well and were just motivated for the upcoming fall.”
The Belles gained the crucial experience that comes from playing a full year at the college level. That is the primary reason why Kurbonov is optimistic about the team’s prospects for next season.
“Now that we have that experience, now that we’ve been there before, I would say that’s going to be the biggest help coming up in the fall,” he said. “We just finished our spring season, and I already can see the differences, the changes and improvements that happened.”
Kurbonov points to the Belles’ three rising seniors — midfielder Lindsey Adent, defender Holly Skrip and forward Kaitlyn Day — as players he has seen pushing the team to make those improvements every day.
“They were such a massive help this spring with organizing things, keeping everyone accountable and leading by example,” he said about that trio. “[They’re] upperclassmen who really care about the program, who want to see the program succeed.”
They will look to guide the Belles’ huge group of freshmen and incoming recruits. Even the younger members of the Belles team will have the chance to play key roles in the fall.
“They’re a very talented group, it’s just a matter of putting them together right,” Kurbonov said about the underclassmen. “I’m very excited to see what our freshman are going to do, same thing with our incoming freshman class.”
Following a strong spring season, the Belles will head into the fall with some positive energy on their side. They’re hungry to return to the winning column. They’re ready to put in the work needed to get there.
“Results-wise, it [didn’t meet] the standards that we want to set,” Kurbonov said about last season. “And that’s what we’re working on.”