The 2016/17 season was certainly fruitful for Team Solent Ladies

The Solent Ladies team won their BUCS division and stormed to victory against Bournemouth in Varsity. It showcased the wealth of female footballing talent Southampton Solent University had to offer; the huge crowds for the girls’ 4-0 Varsity win in May highlighting the unquestionable appeal of the women’s game.

Solent Ladies went into the 2017/18 season with a need to reinvent themselves following promotion to the BUCS Western 1A division. This process started with a new coach at the helm. The hugely successful Jesse Waller Lassen was replaced by Rafa Citron, whose experience with AFC Bournemouth gave the team a new dimension going into the new campaign.

Citron was not the only alteration made to the side this season. Second-year students Georgie Lowe and Hollie Veness were being promoted as the new team captains. Before the start of the season, Lowe was keen to praise the impact of the new gaffer. She said, “He knows what he wants to do with us this season. He’s come in pretty direct and now it’s about putting that across in matches.”

A Solent Success 

Although the change in management took some time to set in motion, Solent Ladies currently sit second in their BUCS division. They won four of their last five league games. Big wins at home and away against local rivals Bournemouth University and a commanding 4-0 victory over University of West England at Test Park mean the Sparks are enjoying life in the top division.

Citron recently spoke of his pride in his team’s football so far this season, stating, “What we’ve done so far is really good.We’ve played really well this season, even if we didn’t win every game.” Exeter University were the runaway team in the division this year, winning all eight of their games so far. But Citron believes in his teams footballing ability more than matches the league leaders, claiming: “They score loads of goals and play really nice [football], but when they have the ball they don’t play the way we play.”

So far this season Solent Ladies have scored eighteen goals in nine games. They’ve won five of these fixtures in the process. Big losses to Exeter both at home and away and a harsh home defeat to South Wales threatened to derail their season as early as November. But with consistency, both in terms of numbers at training sessions and performances, came an upturn in results. Solent Ladies are unbeaten in the league since mid-December, and now face a crucial battle for the second-place finish.

Their rivals for this elusive league position are University of South Wales. The Sparks will face them in their final game of the season across the border. “We’ll go for the last game on the 7th of March against South Wales,” said Citron. “If we win, we’ll finish second so I’m hoping for the three points.”

An optimistic future 

To finish second in your first season for Solent Ladies can certainly be deemed a success. It’s definitely something fresher midfielder Rebecca Cork is aiming for from this season. “I’m really excited for the end of the season,” said Cork. “If someone had said second [place] at the start of the season I would be buzzing.”

It has been a season to be proud of so far following plenty of changes for Solent Ladies. The team have matured and adapted as the campaign has gone on, with Citron now stamping his continental style of play on the side. Next season the squad are hoping to replicate or even better their BUCS campaign successes this season, as well as achieve a strong finish in the BUCS Trophy and Sunday League.

Originally written by: Adam Whyte