Defender Peyton Robertson kicks the ball upfield during a game against Carnegie Mellon University (Penn.) on Oct. 17, 2021. (Lin Yu/Staff)

Usually when a team earns a postseason berth in the NCAA Tournament and graduates ten seniors, questions arise as to whether the remaining roster will have enough experience to replicate their success the following season. This is not the case for this year’s Emory women’s soccer team: the nine seniors, four juniors and three graduate transfers at the helm are prepared to captain their teammates to the program’s fourth consecutive NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship appearance. 

Senior forward and the team’s reigning assist leader Kylie Hall explained that, as a newly minted captain, she is responsible for nurturing the team atmosphere and helping the newcomers thrive as they transition into becoming Eagles. 

“I’m really just trying to make sure that all the freshmen and the transfers who come in just feel like they’re really a part of the team,” Hall said. “They are all so talented, and I want them to know that they can play at this competitive level, and they’re fully ready and capable. I just want them to be filled with confidence.”

Adapting to an unfamiliar team culture and college is understandably challenging for freshmen, but the move can be equally demanding for transfer players accustomed to the habits of their old programs. Senior goalie Emma Miller, who transferred from the University of Colorado Boulder last year, is especially equipped to help this year’s graduate students feel as welcomed and supported as she did. 

“I truly couldn’t have asked for a better transition,” Miller said. “I’m very thankful for Emory women’s soccer and for the relationships I’ve made, because without that family I don’t know that my transition would have been as seamless and smooth as it was.”

Miller split time between the goalposts with former Eagle Emma Platt (22B) last fall and finished with a 3-2-2 record in net.

Although last year’s team compiled a 12-5-3 regular season record, their conference play in the University Athletic Association (UAA) was disappointing. They won just two UAA games outright and settled into sixth place in the conference standings. After earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, they suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss to Centre College (Ky.) in the second round. 

According to Hall, avenging last year’s loss begins with defensive stinginess. The team has been focusing on fine-tuning their fitness and tightening up their defense during the preseason in preparation for their season opener against Berry College (Ga.) on Sept. 1. 

“Our team is really big on defending and locking it down in the back before going forward,” Hall said. “We all came in really fit. We came ready to work . . . it’s been really fun and the environment’s been really good.”

With two scrimmage wins against Division II teams under their belt already, the Eagles seem poised to live up to their No. 22 national Division III preseason ranking. It’s an honor that might inspire more confidence if it weren’t for the fact that five other UAA teams – University of Chicago (Ill.) (8), Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.) (11), Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) (12), Carnegie Mellon University (Penn.) (15) and Brandeis University (Mass.) (21) – boast higher spots. 

While Miller acknowledged that conference games have heightened importance, she emphasized that the team will approach every match with the same intensity and competitive spirit for the same desired outcome: a win.

“I think that our mindset going into any game is going to be the same, and that’s going to be to work collectively as a team and to get the job done,” Miller said. “The mindset and the intensity and the level of play should always be with the intention of winning and with the intention of working together as a team to be the best that we can be.”

Hall doesn’t put much stock in the preseason rankings, saying she knows what matters is how the team performs when they step out on the field. Hall is confident she and her teammates are ready to tackle what lies ahead of them. 

“I know our team doesn’t think about it,” Hall said. “I don’t want to look or read into those too much, just because I know the numbers aren’t everything. I know that we can surprise a lot of people, and that’s what I’m hoping we’ll do.”