Courtesy of Yale Athletics

Despite the cancellation of its fall season, the Yale women’s soccer team is continuing training under the new leadership of head coach Sarah Martinez and senior captain and defender Kristen Enriquez ’21. 

The Bulldogs have returned to a regular training schedule under Phase I guidelines and will begin Phase II training this week with more weekly hours and the start of small group training, Martinez said. Coach Martinez and Enriquez emphasized that this time provides a unique opportunity for growth and development without competition this fall. Martinez said the group’s approach has been to prepare for the fall 2021 season, viewing “any other opportunities we get” as an added bonus. 

This fall, six new first-years began their Yale women’s soccer careers. 

“As a first-year, I’ve been able to get more settled with the academic side of college without having a season this fall,” forward Meredith Phillips ’24 said. “I am very thankful to just be on campus, meeting people and starting to explore everything Yale has to offer, while also getting the chance to start training with the team.”

In Phase I, Martinez said the team trained on campus with strict guidelines, limiting sessions of either strength or conditioning to a maximum of one hour a day. These sessions consisted of team lifts three times a week and speed and agility training twice a week. In Phase II, the team will have extended training times of up to 12 hours a week. Martinez said that the staff will likely maintain their morning, outdoor practice times even as they head into the winter months. 

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For remote students, training is self-directed and varies widely. Students are able to request lifting workouts from the team’s strength and conditioning coach, but are not otherwise incorporated into the team’s training routine. Martinez said many are practicing with their old club teams or with other college soccer players who are not able to return to their own campuses. 

The coaching staff, headed by Martinez, is also working hard to integrate first years onto the team, despite not being able to see each other every day or have the typical bonding experiences of bus rides to away games or team meals. Though she knows in-person contact cannot be replicated, Martinez is enthusiastic about the unique opportunity that a fall without games can provide for newcomers. 

“It’s something we’ve always wondered: what would the experience be like for first years if they could get settled into school, train, and not have the pressure of games?” Martinez said. “For us, it’s something we’re really excited about. And I’m excited about the leaders on campus to guide them.”

Enriquez will spearhead the on-campus leadership. She was elected captain by her teammates this past April after one of the Bulldogs’ most successful seasons in years. The squad racked up 11 total wins for just the second time in the last decade, tallying 31 total goals and surpassing their 2008 record of 30 goals in a year. The Elis finished the season third in the Ivy League, tying with their highest finish since the 2009 season. 

Enriquez also saw great personal success on the field in 2019, as she started all 16 games and played every minute of the Ivy League competition. For the first time in her college career, she was an honorable mention All-Ivy selection for her superb performance on Yale’s defense, which posted six shutouts and allowed only 14 opponent goals last year.

 “Over the years, I was practicing and working hard to earn playing time,” Enriquez said. “And this past year, it meant so much to me to have been elected captain by my teammates. It was such an honor and I am so grateful that they trust me to be in a position to lead right now.” 

Enriquez displayed tremendous growth as a player over her first three years. She started her first year as a walk-on, appearing in one match and receiving the Captain’s Cup award. In her sophomore year, she appeared in 12 games and started in four. A successful junior year preceded the final stage of her rise from walk-on to Yale captain — last year, she played 1,449 minutes on Yale’s defense.

As she begins this unconventional season as captain, Enriquez said she is focused on enhancing team culture and cohesion. She is eager to build a strong foundation for next year through strength, conditioning and team bonding. 

“She’s unbelievable in every aspect of her life,” Martinez said of Enriquez. “She finds her voice and leads each individual in the way she knows she can get the most out of them. You just can’t say a bad thing about her, from her work on the field, to her vocal leadership, to her empathy and her ability to connect with people. She’s certainly the right leader at the right time for us.”

Martinez was appointed head coach in December 2019 after head coach Brendan Faherty left the University amid allegations of sexual misconduct

Alessa Kim-Panero |