EMPORIA (KSNT) – It’s hard to improve on a 19-3-1 season, but Hornet soccer is working to do just that.

“Our chemistry on the field was really strong,” All-American forward Mackenzie Dimarco said. “You could see other teams arguing on the field, but we never did that.”

Emporia State soccer lost some key players after the past season. Ashlyn Lakin’s flip-throws accounted for 12 goals in the Hornets’ 2021 MIAA championship season.

“That’s a lot of goals to just go away,” head coach Bryan Sailer said. “We’ve been trying to figure out where those are going to come from if we want to reach the numbers we did last year. So, just trying to be better on set pieces, maybe. We’ll have to institute other types of throw-in plays where our movement is a little better off the ball because we can’t just throw in the box anymore.”

Dimarco returns for her senior year. She scored 20 goals in 23 games the past season. She’s helping the freshman get up to speed this fall.

“We’re trying to bring the old culture into the new team, and just trying to build up the freshmen’s confidence so that they can play at the level we were at last season,” Dimarco said. “It’s ultimately up to us to help them build that up.”

Unlike football or similar sports, the soccer team doesn’t usually use a redshirt year for freshman.

“[The freshman] are really quiet,” Sailer said. “Soccer is so different… We get thrown into the fire right away, so they need to get through that shyness and that tentativeness, and just get after it right away.”

Aislinn Hughes is the only returning captain. Hannah Woolery, Dimarco and Joanie Westcoat have stepped into leadership positions.

“It’s their senior year, too, academically,” Sailer said. “They are trying their best to urge these people on, being supportive, encouraging, but at the same time, getting them to reach a higher standard.”

Cair Paravel graduate Hannah Woolery knows she can continue her first team All-Region status with her teammates’ help.

“We have the rest of our team, so we can rely on them,” she said. “It’s a team game, not a single-person game, so you always know you have them to fall back on to just keep playing your game and your style.”

Joanie Westcoat is a big returner by the net. She recorded six assists the past season, while starting in the center of defense.

“Last year, we knew we could accomplish some goals by the end of the season, but we really didn’t know the extent of the goals we could accomplish, and we really kept our heads high throughout the whole season,” Westcoat said. “I just hope that our mentality going into each game carries through to this season.”

Despite coming off an NCAA tournament run and being ranked No. 14, the Hornets aren’t narrowing their sight on the postseason yet.

“We haven’t had the power to be the team that just focuses on the end,” Westcoat said. “We know that each game is crucial. Every game we play could be setting us up for failure or success at the end of the season.”

Emporia State’s first four games are on the road. The Hornet’s season begins Aug. 26 at West Texas A&M. The first home match is Sept. 11 against Fort Hays State.