Pack women’s soccer heating up at just the right time | Sports

Pack women’s soccer heating up at just the right time | Sports

This season was always going to be an uphill battle for the NC State women’s soccer team. With a young roster and an incredibly tough schedule, the Wolfpack has had to grind this season, and that grind is finally paying off at just the right time.

After a solid, but unspectacular, run through its nonconference schedule, the Pack hit a bad patch heading into conference play, losing five one-goal games in a row to teams that were either ranked or receiving votes. Four of those were against ACC opponents.

But having taken its lumps, the young Wolfpack is starting to hand out some bloody lips of its own, knocking off two top-five teams on either side of a road win against a historically tough Louisville team and catapulting itself to the No. 24 spot in the RPI rankings.

Not to mention both of those top-five teams are cross-town rivals, one of which (UNC-Chapel Hill), head coach Tim Santoro described as, “the most successful athletic program, any sport, any gender, in college sports.” 

With a chance to go for the complete Tobacco Road sweep on Thursday, Oct. 21, the Pack has taken those narrow losses, learned from them and proven to be an opponent no one wants to face down the stretch.

That turnaround shouldn’t be a surprise either, as Santoro has turned the Wolfpack into a nationally recognized program over his tenure.

When he took over in 2013, the Wolfpack hadn’t been to an NCAA Tournament since 1996, but between 2016 and 2019, NC State was one of just 12 programs in the country to make three Sweet 16 appearances during that span, making the tournament’s second round in all four of those seasons.

After opting out last fall due to roster limitations, the Wolfpack reloaded this offseason, with 15 freshmen currently on the roster. 

Freshmen goalkeeper Maria Echezarreta, defenders Fernanda Soto, Brianna Weber and Nina Zimmer, and midfielders Emika Kawagishi and Annika Wohner have already cemented themselves as regular starters, while others have made decent impacts off the bench.

Add in a couple of great veteran leaders and some very exciting sophomores, the Wolfpack has a recipe for success and are a team no one wants to face in a win-or-go-home game.

While it took the group some time to really get its feet under it in the college game, the Pack has turned the corner and now should have its sights set on another run in the NCAA tournament. 

With three regular season conference games left to play, the Wolfpack’s trajectory is far from decided. But, the team is certainly trending upward at exactly the right time.

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