As snow covers the turf at Caniglia Field, it might be tough to tell, but the 2021 Summit League spring soccer season is right around the corner. It’s also a sign of what’s to come, as weather, finding space to practice, and a schedule that depends on COVID-19 and other outside factors will play a role in the months ahead.
“We have to be flexible and be ready to show up and play whenever,” said Omaha women’s soccer head coach Tim Walters. “I’m sure there will be some challenges this season, but everyone is going through it. Everybody is up against it and I think it will make for a really fun and interesting spring in our conference.”
The Mavericks will get a test right away with defending Summit League Champion South Dakota State coming to Omaha on Feb. 12. However, it’s been a long process to get to this point.
Most of the team reported in mid-July and prepared to play a season in the fall. The Summit League announced in August that the season would be shifted to the spring of 2021.
“I would say the last month since we got back has probably been the easiest stretch we’ve had,” Walters said. “The previous eight or so months were very difficult for everyone and we didn’t know if or when we were going to play. We got everyone here in the summer and started to train, but when they announced we weren’t going to play until the spring we essentially had to restart everything.
“Now we’ve been together, we’ve been training, and we played an exhibition, so we really can’t complain too much. We’re really excited to get going this spring.”
Omaha has 16 Summit League games on the schedule for 2021. Before a Jan. 29 exhibition contest at Missouri Western, which Omaha won 4-0, the Mavericks hadn’t played a game since Oct. 31, 2019.
Since then there’s been roster turnover and a fresh group of faces, as the Omaha roster now features 15 freshmen and four sophomores. There are only two seniors on the roster as well. Walters said it’s made it tough at times to know what to expect coming into this season.
At the same time, the head coach is optimistic about what he has to work with. Several of those freshmen are from Omaha, so there is some familiarity too. It’d be easy to look towards the future with such a young group, but that’s not the case.
“It’s always exciting to have young talent, but I want to win right now,” Walters said. “I think we have a group of talented players that are ready to come in and play right away, and we’re going to be competitive and win a lot of games.”
In addition to the influx of freshmen, the extended layoff has also been a blessing as the Mavericks get two key players back from injury in Regan Zimmers and Grace Thede. Walters said the two might not have been 100 percent had the season started in the fall.
Junior Margaret Lavigne along with freshmen Grace Ostergaard and Sophia Green will also look to have a significant role this season. Emilie Erland, who is from Norway and one of two international players on the Omaha roster, will be a name to watch as well.
“We’re going to compete and be the hardest-working team on the field every game,” Walters said. “Even though we’re young, we’re going to compete and bring our best effort, and I believe that leads to results.”