The place where Linfield ended its 2014 season spoke more for the Wildcats’ resilience and togetherness than where it all began.
Though the record shows Linfield notched three wins against 13 defeats, the program did indeed take a step forward under second-year coach Sammy Smith.
Riding the scoring stick of Shelby Duarte and the playmaking finesse of Halee Helgerson, Linfield cast aside the ghosts of a string of early season losses with a resounding 18-5 win over Loras in the season’s final match.
“Shelby was just a clutch player who understood the game very well, said Smith. “She and Halee played well off one another very well. Halee played a very pivotal role as our primary distributor of the ball.”
Duarte piled up 50 goals and four assists while Helgerson tallied 22 goals and a team-best 16 assists.
Despite Duarte and Helgerson’s offensive ability, more often than not Linfield found itself overwhelmed the by the depth opposing teams. There were times when the Wildcats had the minimum 12 players dressed to play.
“The teams we played often had much deeper benches than ours,” Smith said. “Some of our girls never left the field. They would get tired in the middle of games and that made it hard to be competitive.”
Regardless of the final statistics that saw Linfield outscored by a 253-107 margin, Smith said the Wildcats improved their fundamentals and teamwork.
“We definitely getting better at passing and catching the ball. And the players are playing more cohesively.”
Freshmen Molly Goldberg and Madilyn Bechtel assumed difficult roles as freshmen. Junior Rebecca Kropp shared her perennial positive approach with teammates throughout the season.
Linfield found its groove on a trip to Illinois during spring break. It was there that the ‘Cats beat Aurora 16-6 and surprised Benedictine 15-14 on a last-minute goal by Duarte.
“I was happy to be able to schedule more teams the same caliber as ours,” said Smith. “Getting some wins was really beneficial to morale.
“I’m excited for next year. Each year, the program is getting better and better. We made a lot of good strides this year.”