Coming off a 5-5-1 season in 2020, the University of Cincinnati women’s soccer team has kicked off their season with a record of 1-1-1 and hopes to further progress in 2021.
Despite a shortened offseason due to their Fall 2020 season delayed into the Spring of 2021, the Bearcats have a rebound year in place as returning veterans pave the way.
“I think we got a lot done, and I think that we became much closer as a team both through pushing ourselves with fitness and pushing ourselves with classroom things,” sophomore Lauren Bastian said on the offseason.
From Centerville, Ohio, Bastian wears the number 10 jersey for the Bearcats in the middle of the pitch. Bastian earned herself a place on the 2020 American Athletic Conference (AAC) All-Rookie team, including AAC Rookie of the Week once.
According to Bastian, getting to know the team better was one of the offseason highlights, especially since there weren’t too many seniors graduating and having to depart.
“Spending all this time with the same group has helped us with our chemistry,” she said.
Returning players include Ashley Barron, a junior coming off a campaign that saw her earn co-Defensive Player of the Year in the AAC and a first-team All-AAC selection. Cincinnati also brings back All-AAC second-team selections Kendall Battle and Alli Pestaina.
Motivation in the offseason from a 2020 season that left the Bearcats hungry has given them much to play for coming into 2021.
“Everyone coming off of how the season ended last year just has an extra edge on our conference, and we want to make up for that and do what we can do to win,” Bastian said. “But also, our schedule this year is very competitive and challenging.”
This year, Cincinnati’s schedule includes large Division I schools such as Virginia Tech and Michigan. It does not get any easier in the conference as schools in the AAC, such as the University of Southern Florida and Memphis, both ranked over the course of last season.
An aspect that the Cincinnati athletes and many other athletes will have to get used to again is having fans back in stadiums. There is no question fans play a role in a game’s momentum and pace, something the soccer team looks forward to.
“This is who we’re playing for,” Bastian said on having people back on campus and coming to games. “All these people go [to UC], and we are able to play for that, it’s so amazing.”
With the support of the university’s students and the community all around, the Cincinnati family grew stronger than ever over through the offseason, with the tragic loss of Ally Sidloski over the summer. Not only the women’s soccer program but programs all around the university wear a patch on their jerseys in tribute to Sidloski. Senior forward Vanessa DiNardo has changed her jersey number to three in honor of Sidloski as well.
“Going through all of these things together with this group has brought us so close and is so important,” Bastian said.
The Bearcats have recorded a victory over Northern Kentucky University, tied the University of Toledo, and lost to Xavier University so far this season. Five more out-of-conference games take place before AAC play kicks off on Sept. 16.