UW-L soccer finds itself in the hunt for a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship this season, thanks in large part to the impact made by its 12 freshmen.
It starts in net, where freshman goalkeeper Kennedy Brault has started all 14 games to date, shutting opponents out on five occasions. She leads the WIAC in save percentage and shutouts this season.
Brault admits there were plenty of nerves at the beginning of the season, but credits her teammates for helping her gain confidence and composure. Now, it's hard to get anything past her, as she's recorded a shutout in the team's last three games.
"You really want to do your best for the team because I know they work their butt off on the field and you just want to make sure you do your job on the back," Brault said.
"If there's 15 minutes left on the clock, and we're up by one goal, we are not going to lose that lead," senior midfielder Kara Bednarek said. "We have a lot of new kids this year but I think we've done a really good job of building our team chemistry and trusting each other."
The 11 players on the field at any given time for second-year head coach Jason Murphy are clicking, as indicated by the Eagles' school-record seven-game win streak. UW-L is out-scoring opponents 13-3 in the first half, then using their lock-down defense to close them out.
"We started a little slow, we took a couple lumps early that we probably would like back," Murphy said. "We're moving the ball well, we're playing some pretty good soccer so it's been a pretty exciting two weeks for us."
Brault isn't the only freshman making an impact. Of the 12 newcomers this season, eight have started at least one game, and all have played in a game. The top-three goal-scorers are freshmen, led by Margaret Harings' six.
"Yeah, we were all talking about that," Brault said. "We're just like, 'OK we're on the team, we have to do our jobs, we have to get things done.'"
UW-L travels to UW-Whitewater (13-2, 4-0 WIAC) on Saturday.