Western New England women’s soccer team heading to NCAA tournament
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The Western New England University women’s soccer team hit the road to play in the NCAA Division III tournament.
The Golden Bears are hyped up for one reason: it is tournament time for the university’s women’s soccer team. Western Mass News was there on Friday morning as the players and coaches received well-wishes from friends and fellow athletes outside before boarding the buses for Dallas, PA.
“It’s something that we work towards every single year. To finally have it come true and see all the hard work pay off, it’s been an unbelievable experience the whole year with this group of girls,” said head coach Kristin Hensinger.
The team finished the regular season with a 13-5-2 record, winning eight of their last 10 games and took the Commonwealth Coast Conference crown. Now, the Golden Bears are playing in their first NCAA tournament since 2007, which was also Hensinger’s senior season.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to experience with your teammates and your family. It’s just been hard to put into words how much it means to me to see them have that opportunity to go to NCAAs,” Hensinger explained.
Throughout the morning, the players loaded their gear onto the bus with energy running down their veins. Senior and CCC defensive player of the year Summer Hathaway is already ecstatic about this next chapter to an unforgettable season.
“I’m really proud of the whole team. We kind of came together this year. Our team culture has been amazing and everybody has been working so hard for this. Our coaches have been pushing us. Our teammates push us every day and I’m really proud to be here,” Hathaway noted.
When it was time to hit the road, the team walked with their conference trophy through a tunnel of fellow athletes. The support and cheers put smiles on the players’ faces, including senior defender Alison Vanvolkenburg.
“It’s awesome. They’ve been there the whole season. Every single home game, our stands were packed and it was all thanks to the other student athletes. We’ll do the same for them,” Vanvolkenburg said.
Western New England University President Robert E. Johnson even joined in on the celebration.
“It’s Golden Bears spirit baby…I’m so proud of the entire coaching team. I’m so proud of our entire women’s soccer team. This is an exciting time for Western New England,” Johnson said.
As the team hunts for its first-ever NCAA tournament win, Hensinger said she is happy with her team regardless of the final result.
“They show up to play the way that they can, then we have a really good chance…They are a special part of my heart and I’m looking forward to continuing the journey with them,” Hensinger said.
The Golden Bears will take on the Spartans of Pennsylvania’s York College at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, with the winner taking on either Misericordia or Marywood Sunday evening.
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