Young and daring to dream, Kutztown is rising to new heights in DII women's soccer
Kutztown is coming off memorable season in 2016. The Golden Bears eclipsed program records for most regular season wins, most Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference wins, most shutouts and most consecutive wins. A program with just one previous playoff victory in program history found themselves in the NCAA DII women's soccer semifinals, where they would lose to the eventual national champion Western Washington.
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Now the Golden Bears are on pace to crush every one of those numbers this season.
"Heading into this season, we are treating it like any other year," sophomore forward Emily Zwiercan said. "Our goal is to make it to the conference tournament and host the games on our home field. Going to the [semifinals] last year was an added bonus to our season which was an amazing experience, but this year we want to win the PSAC."
They have certainly taken the right steps in acheiving those goals. Zwiercan and her Golden Bears already surpassed their 2016 record for most consecutive wins, starting the season off a perfect 12-0. Last week, they reached No. 1 for the first time in program history.
"We knew this year we would be good, but starting the season out like this is surprising," Zwiercan said. "Every player on this team has worked tremendously hard to execute what our coaches want from us and this is why we are 12-0. We come ready for every game and when we follow the plan, we are dangerous all over the field."
This season, Zwiercan, like her fellow Golden Bears, has improved tremendously. As a freshman last year, she appeared in 25 games but only started four. Now a full-time starter, she is a driving force on the front line, leading the PSAC in goals (10) and points (26).
"One big difference from freshman year to this year is that I worked during the off-season this past summer to really get after my fitness and taking it to a higher level."
Zwiercan is part of the youth rebellion on the Kutztown campus. Its top four scorers (Zwiercan, Maddie Mohr, Randi Smith and Kate Martin) are all sophomores or freshmen. Jenna Bracken, who leads the team with four shutouts in net, is only a sophomore as well. The Golden Bears are continually improving and trending in the right direction.
The scary part for the PSAC? This is only the beginning.
"I’m super excited to see what the next two years have in store for this team," Zwiercan said. "We have an immense amount of talent on the team and knowing that we are a young team, there is so much for us to accomplish in the next few years."
Kutztown has six games left to make regular season history before it embarks another postseason run. Behind a balanced attack that features a top 20 scoring offense and defense, there's seemingly no stopping the Golden Bears' surge.
Let's leave the pitch and find out what makes Zwiercan kick.
Favorite sports movie: Dare to Dream: The Story of the US Women’s Soccer Team. Last year before we went to the [semifinals], we sat in a lecture hall as a team and watched this movie. It made us realize that we are a family, and that everything we do on and off the field is for each other.
Favorite soccer team: My favorite soccer team is the U.S. Women's National Team. I also watch NFL games with my dad, especially the Philadelphia Eagles.
Favorite athlete: Mallory Pugh because she is a young player on the Women's National Team and she is so influential in their attack and an all-around amazing forward that I look up to.
What’s in your headphones pregame? Before every game, my teammates and I jam out to songs like London Bridge, Lipgloss, Dreams and Nightmares and Wannabe in our locker room.
Pregame meal/ snack you have to have: Before every game I eat pretzels.
Superstitions: Every game, I wear the same sports bra and spandex.
Favorite cartoon growing up: Jimmy Neutron because I would watch it every day after school.
Who would play you in a movie about the KU soccer team? This is difficult to answer but maybe Victoria Justice. I think I sort of look like her.
Hat trick or bicycle kick, which is more fun? Hat trick because I love scoring and I would probably break my back doing a bicycle kick.