The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Women’s soccer gears up for season opener against Grand Valley State

The Eagles will start non-conference play on Thursday, August 31

The Ashland University women’s soccer team has dominated the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) play for the last two seasons since joining the conference ahead of the 2021-2022 season. However, the Eagles will have to wait four games before they can get their feet back in conference play.

To start the season, the team will take on four non-conference opponents over the course of 10 days in preparation for the GMAC. First up for the team is the Grand Valley State Lakers on the road in Allendale, Mich.

“I thought last year we had one of the toughest non-conference schedules in program history.  This fall, our first four games are even tougher,” said Head Coach Cayleb Paulino. “We have added Grand Valley to our season opener along with Rollins, Saginaw Valley, and Ferris to that list. Teams who are no stranger to the NCAA tournament.”

The history books show that the Lakers have always been a difficult team for the Eagles to take down, especially when on the road. Through 3o outings the Eagles are 10-20 against them, with a road record of 5-12, showing that playing on the road against the Lakers is no easy task.

The last time the Eagles and Lakers went toe-to-toe against one another was back on April 16, 2021, which marked the 30th all-time matchup between the two sides. Fortunately for the Eagles, they would come out on top in a nail-biting 2-1 victory.

In that last contest, the Eagles only recorded five shots, with two finding the back netting while the Lakers took 19 shots finding just one goal.

The only currently active Eagle that played in that contest was forward Vanessa Menchofer, who came in for 27 minutes to help provide a spark for the team offensively.

“Playing against a team like Grand Valley is no different than any other team. Yes, they have had a lot of success in the past, but that doesn’t mean we don’t treat it like any other game,” said Menchofer. “We know it will be a good competition because of the hard work put in this off season. Regardless of who we play, Ashland will always come off of the field having each other’s backs.”

This offseason has been an important one for the Eagles as they welcome in new faces, skill-sets and expectations. After winning the conference championship in back-to-back seasons, the Eagles want to keep their stellar play going.

“Our goal this year continues to be the same as previous years, our hard work and dedication throughout the off seasons and entire year will help lead us to another successful season,” said winger Avery Rosso. “A successful season this year would include a three-peat as conference champs and not only the advancement into the [Division II] NCAA tournament but the goal of advancing farther than we have in the previous two years.”

To get to the Eagles’ goal of tournament success, the Eagles will need to showoff the work they’ve done to start the season.

“Having hard non-conference games only prepares us to be at our best once conference play begins,” said winger McKinley Mendenhall. “It gives us an opportunity to figure out who we are as a team and how to handle high pressure situations that we will face in those tough games.”

Mendenhall was a key piece to the success the team found the past two seasons as she’s been recognized with Great Midwest Freshman of the Year and second-team All-Great Midwest honors in her freshman year. In her second year, she stepped it up a notch with second-team United Soccer Coaches and D2CCA All-Midwest Region honors.

Last season she also led the team with 13 assists, which is good for the third most assists in one season in program history. However, one big hit to the Eagles’ offensive production comes in the graduation of forward Bailey Clark.

“Bailey was a great friend and teammate, and it will be hard to replace her. I have no doubt that as a team we will come back better and stronger than ever and the next person up will step into that role,” said Mendenhall. “As a freshman, Dani already started molding her place on this team and as someone I can work off of. We have a lot of new faces and great talent coming in that I am so excited to play and win games with.”

Hicks was right behind Mendenhall on the stat sheet in 2022 as she knocked in nine goals while dishing off five assists for the Eagles. Her play will be crucial for the Eagles to have as they prepare to kick off the season with challenging opponents in front of them.

“It is an opportunity to challenge our group against some of the best and I know our group is very much looking forward to it,” said Paulino.

The Eagles and Lakers will go toe-to-toe on Thursday, August 31 at 7 p.m. on the road at the GVSU Soccer Field to start the team’s 2023-24 campaign.

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