Rachel TerMarsch is one of seven women's soccer players leading the Foresters this season. Photo Provided
Rachel TerMarsch is one of seven women’s soccer players leading the Foresters this season. (Photo Provided)

Despite having nearly as many freshmen as returners, the HU women’s soccer team shutout four of their six opponents in the first three weeks of non-conference play.

The Foresters are guided by nine seniors who have two seasons of experience in head coach Chris Tillett’s program. Tillet said he challenged his players this season to come every day with a servant’s heart, putting everyone on the team above themselves and to — above all else — grow as women in Christ.

“We cannot be considered successful if our girls do not grow spiritually,” Tillett said. “[Our] seniors do a wonderful job of intentionally leading for growth in this area. They lead by example, provide daily devotions and plan team-building activities.”

Many players said this focus and time together off-the-court equates to strong team cohesiveness, which shows through during their in-game performances.

Senior Becca Grimes said her teammates quickly learned each other’s playing styles — no small task with 18 freshmen on the roster — which was made easier by knowing they have “the same goal both on and off the field.”

“The freshmen are on board with what is happening,” senior Bethany Quinn said. “We are great at keeping each other accountable, and the seniors aren’t afraid to make sure we are all giving 100 percent.”

The team, who lost a heart-breaker in the first round of the conference tournament to Grace College last season, is working toward returning to the Crossroads League tournament to seek a nationals bid.

“It’s always our goal to get to Nationals,” Grimes said, “no matter how unrealistic it may seem each season.”

Tillett said Grimes, who is adjusting to playing the position of forward, has a great ability to distribute the ball to her teammates and facilitate offense for the Foresters. In the university’s first four games, Grimes has tallied a team-high 4 assists. Junior Olivia Knispel has converted five of her team’s 15 goals.

Defensively, Tillet explained seniors Rachel TerMarsch and Bethany Quinn “keep us organized and the intensity up.” Sophomore keeper Toby Carman has also energized the defense, gathering all 26 of the team’s saves.

At the end of the season, Grimes said it will all come down to “doing the little things every day” to get the team where they want to be.

“The first few games have given us a glimpse of what we can be,” said Tillett. “The ladies are demonstrating they will play with intensity and heart each time out. We’ll see where that puts us at the end.”