Having achieved their first winning season in 15 years, hopes are high on the AU women’s soccer team that the program will take another step forward this fall. “Last year was a key turning point for us,” said Coach Myhre. “It gave us confidence that we can compete and play with anyone. It wouldn’t have been possible except for the work and dedication of the classes before them who not only laid the foundation, but instilled the mentality and work-ethic to create a championship culture. From the fall, we know what it takes to compete with the best and understand that it takes a daily commitment from everyone to sustain it.”
The Ravens were picked to finish sixth in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference preseason poll voted on by the conference coaches. The top four teams from the regular season qualify for the conference tournament, the next step the team is looking to take.
Coach Myhre and junior forward Katie Frazer both expressed that qualifying for the conference tournament is a goal they would like to achieve.
“As a program,” Myhre said, “we want to continue the growth by having another winning season, one in which we finish on the top four and make the conference tournament.”
Frazer echoed the sentiment. “Going from 15 years of losing season to being a conference tournament finalist would be pretty cool,” she said. “I’d like to see our record improve and turn some of those losses and ties into wins.”
Although the Ravens did lose some valuable contributors from 2016 to graduation, they return an experienced group who took tremendous strides in the offseason.
“Graduating a large class last year created opportunities for other players to step up,” said Myhre. “We are extremely impressed with how the team responded.”
Myhre pointed out that the upperclassmen have stepped up as leaders during offseason workouts and set the tone for what is to be expected of the team.
Frazer, Ashley Downs and Danae Miller were all named HCAC Players to Watch. The three upperclassmen all fill vital roles for the team. Frazer was the third-leading goal scorer and led the team in assists, using her speed to get behind the defense. Downs provides fantastic defense along the back line, as she helped limit opponents to nearly two less shots per game than the Ravens last year. Miller helps apply constant pressure on the defense and helps spread the field with her passing ability.
Emily Buchman, the 2016 team’s leading scorer with eight goals, also returns to the team.
The Ravens scrimmaged Depauw on Saturday, dropping the contest 2-0. Frazer commented that she thought the team played well, especially after only one week of practice together. “I was extremely pleased with how the team played,” she said. “Various people stepped up to fill positions in which they were inexperienced. Everyone came in prepared and ready to play, which makes me really excited for the upcoming season.”
AU will travel to scrimmage Oakland City tonight before opening the season at home on Saturday against Illinois Tech. The Family Day contest is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m.
“We will need to be disciplined and capitalize on our chances in the box,” Myhre said when discussing the keys to victory. “We are a very possession oriented team that moves the ball around well.
“At the end of the day you have to score and find the opportunities to get in behind the defense. We need to ensure we are making our shots count and track runs defensively along the back line.”
The Ravens will then host Trine and Bethel the following week before hitting the road for four consecutive away contests.
Conference play begins Sept. 30 in a home game against Mount St. Joseph.