However, their two conference wins are enveloped by five non-conference losses, most recently falling 0-2 to sixth-ranked UW-Eau Claire on Sunday afternoon.
The Blugolds established their presence early, scoring the first goal off of a corner kick at the 15:45 mark of the first half. On the ensuing Ole kickoff, UW-Eau Claire won back the ball, marched down the field and scored again. Just 22 seconds separated the two goals and the St. Olaf women found themselves facing a difficult deficit early on in the match.
The Blugolds kept their players fresh, utilizing 17 second half substitutions, and the Oles were unable to climb their way back into the match. Jess Magnuson '09 led the women with four shots in the game.
UW-Eau Claire was the third nationally ranked opponent that St. Olaf has already played in its young season. The women also suffered a 1-4 loss to top-ranked Wheaton College (Ill.) and a hard-fought 1-2 loss to 21st-ranked University of Chicago.
Senior captain and midfielder Jenny Wetzig acknowledges the frustration coming from an 0-4 start, but he remains positive about the rest of the season.
"Going through an extremely tough non-conference season has benefited us so far," said Wetzig. "While it is hard mentally, it forces us to work on points of weakness that may otherwise go neglected in an easy non-conference schedule."
Head coach Jeremy Driver echoes Wetzig's focus on learning from tough opponents, calling the non-conference schedule "extremely beneficial."
"The strength of our non-conference schedule has prepared us extremely well for the level of competition we will face in the MIAC this year," Driver said. The Oles' non-conference record will not factor into any post-season implications this season. So despite the five losses, the team's two wins are much more critical.
This year's varsity roster includes 10 first-years, as well as a number of upperclassmen new to the varsity level. Coach Driver sees this as another benefit of the Oles' tough schedule.
"[The new players] have made a faster transition to college soccer because of [the schedule]," Driver said. "We have received tremendous play from our first-years and other returning players who did not see much action last year."
The young St. Olaf squad faces their next tough challenge when it returns to MIAC action this Friday at 4 p.m. They will host Macalester College at Rolf Mellby field. The Scots were ranked first in the MIAC coaches' preseason standings this year.