Men’s soccer fights for GMAC spot, women set to host

Mackenzie Pflum, Reporter

The Ashland University Men’s Soccer team wraps up the regular season this week with the final regular season game against Lake Erie College. The Eagles are still trying to clinch the sixth seed to participate in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) Tournament.

Lake Erie College is ranked first in the conference with a conference record of 11-2 and have already clinched the title of regular season conference champions. Ashland has backed themselves into a corner with only one win in their last five games.

Now, the Eagles have some added pressure going into the final game of the regular season, hoping to push them through to the playoffs.

This season has been full of tribulations for the Eagles. They were matched up against tough opponents right off the bat and went winless in their first seven games to start the season. They managed to find their groove and battle through injuries and COVID-19 protocols that kept the line-up always changing, but were able to rip off four straight wins towards the end of the season and now sit at 5-7-4.

Prior to this season, Ashland had long been a part of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, winning the conference title last spring. This is the Eagles’ first year in the GMAC but head coach Nick Roberts is no stranger to the conference.

This is Roberts’ first season with Ashland, but prior to accepting a job with AU, he was the head coach at Urbana, who participated in the GMAC in its inaugural season. Roberts is familiar with the teams and is comfortable with them, but for a lot of his players, it is the first time seeing some of these teams.

Coming into the home-stretch of the season, Roberts stressed how important he believes rest is for the players with tournaments right around the corner.

“At this time of the year, our players are fit,” Roberts said. “They’ve been playing for three and a half months now. If you keep going at a hundred miles an hour, you’re going to end up with a broken machine.”

There are seven seniors on the team, who Roberts has said have been so hardworking and helpful to the younger players. They are hoping for a chance to prove themselves in tournament play.

“They are capable of having success as they’ve proven in the spring,” Roberts said. “But that’s all in front of us and we have to get out there and do it again.”


Women’s Soccer

The AU Women’s soccer team will wrap up their successful regular season at Lake Erie College. In their penultimate game against Ursuline on Saturday, they clinched the title of GMAC regular season champs with a 11-0-2 record in conference play.

Head coach Cayleb Paulino is proud of his team for all the success they have had this season but he knows there is still work to be done.

“We continue to be hungry and want more,” Paulino said. “Each week our goal is going 2-0. We aren’t worried about who’s next week or what’s ahead of us.”

Like many other athletic teams on campus, the team has struggled through injuries and COVID-19 protocols, but the team has kept the next person up mentality throughout the season. They have been able to get a lot of players crucial time on the field.

This is Paulino’s first season with Ashland University, as he was previously an assistant coach with Ohio Northern University.

“I think we have a very deep line of talent and a lot of competitive players,” Paulino said. “So, I was lucky enough to step in and have a very successful team.”

As the season winds down, Ashland’s final goals for the season include winning the GMAC tournament and making a NCAA tournament run. The team has fine tuned their skills and continues to improve week to week.

The Eagles split the season up into what it calls “three seasons.” First season includes their non-conference games, the second season is conference games, and the third season is postseason play. They each have different pressures and expectations from each other. At this point in the season, both pressure and expectations are high, and the women have to manage those both physically and mentally.

“It comes down to, are you up for the challenge?” Paulino said. “Because any given night a team could come and knock us out in the GMAC. We have to be ready.”

Thanks to their undefeated conference record, the Eagles will receive a first-round bye and will hold home-field advantage throughout the GMAC tournament. Ashland’s first GMAC tournament will begin with the semifinals on Nov. 11.