As part of our work here at SoccerWire covering the college recruiting process, we’ve started a new series in which we’re talking to coaches from throughout the college soccer community. The series will highlight college programs across the country and will provide youth soccer players with valuable insights into the recruiting arena. 


Preparing for an upcoming season is never easy in college soccer. With new players coming in, older players leaving, a quick turn-around from preseason to regular season, and the constant demands of recruiting, college teams certainly face a daunting task each season getting ready. For teams like Western Washington University women’s soccer program, who are coming off winning the Division II NCAA Championship last season, expectations are even higher.

Travis Connell, who is the head coach at Western Washington, shared how his side is approaching this pivotal point of the season.

“The players and coaches are eager for the season to start,” said Connell. “There is something special about the beginning of a season when everything is possible. Everyone is excited to see teammates and catch up with them. There is so much individual training that occurs during the summer, so when everyone returns to campus and gets to train together as a team there is a palpable buzz on the field.”

For Connell and the Vikings staff, the process of getting ready for the summer starts in the spring with the team outlining their goals and objectives not just for themselves, but their players as well. “Together (before school lets out in the spring) we create individual summer training plans for each player. They do that work on their own or in small groups during the summer. The coaches check-in on them periodically, mostly to catch up on what is happening in their lives. We are fortunate to have a very self-motivated group. That frees the coaching staff up to spend the summer scouting prospects at tournaments and ID camps and communicating with recruits.”

Western Washington’s approach to recruiting has paid off. Connell has led the Vikings for 21 seasons, which includes two NCAA Division II titles (2022 and 2016) and 12 Great Northwest Athletic Conference titles. The side earned their second NCAA title last December, defeating West Chester 2-1. The side will have a strong nucleus returning for this season including Morgan Manlili (Division II College Commissioner’s Association All-American third team) and Estera Levinte (United Soccer Coaches All-America second team).

In terms of recruiting, Connell notes that the Vikings place an emphasis on effort and concentration as well as how they react to adversity (if they make a mistake or go down a goal) when looking at players:

“We look for players that have an impact on the game,” he said. “How many actions can they be involved in? How much ground can they cover? Do they actively defend every possession?”

On the field technical and tactical skills are important to the Vikings in the college recruiting process but so too are academics and how players handle juggling multiple responsibilities.

“Balancing academics, soccer, work, social life while living away from home for the first time is a lot,” said Connell. “Experience leading a healthy balanced lifestyle while staying organized with your school, soccer training and work helps you navigate this new phase of life.”

For the Western Washington University women’s soccer program, expectations are high. But given their track record of success and replenishing their program through the recruiting process the excitement is understandable for the season ahead.