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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Ashland women’s soccer slotted No. 1 in nation, first time in program history

The Eagles have started the 2023-24 season with a 4-0 overall record
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Brynn Meisse
The Eagles now hold the No. 1 spot in the national heading into a contest against the undefeated Malone Pioneers to kickoff conference play.

The Ashland University women’s soccer team has highly impressed coaches at the national level in all of Division II as in the most recent United Soccer Coaches Top 25 NCAA D-II poll, the Eagles were slotted at the No. 1 spot.

The high praise comes after the Eagles went 4-0 in non-conference play to start the 2023-24 season, with one of those teams being the No. 4 nationally ranked Ferris State Bulldogs.

“I think for the program there is a history of success,” said Head Coach Cayleb Paulino. “Each year we look to raise the standard of excellence. We always want to be pushing that standard week in and week out.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 12, a 28-year drought of never being ranked that highly came to a close for the Eagles as they were placed at the No. 1 spot in the nation for the team’s flawless play to begin the season. Prior to the No. 1 ranking, the Eagles were No. 16 in Week One and receiving votes, but not ranked, in the preseason.

“I think this high ranking is a testament to the growth of the program and where the program has been in the past,” he said. “I think its also an acknowledgement that the group has put in and those at the national stage are starting to notice.”

In the season opener, the team took down No. 8 Grand Valley State by a 1-0 scoreline, before returning home to beat Rollins College 2-0. With back-to-back shutouts under the team’s belt, they went on to take on two strong Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) sides in the Ferris State Bulldogs and the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals.

When facing the Cardinals, the Eagles were once again on the way to a shutout as they led 2-0 heading into the final minute of the contest. In the 89th minute, however, they would give up the team’s first goal of the season, but would still leave with a 2-1 victory.

Following three straight wins to start the season the Eagles would go up against its hardest test yet, the No. 4 ranked Bulldogs. The contest looked even on paper as both sides came into it undefeated, but it was the then No. 16 ranked Eagles coming out on top in dominating fashion with a 3-0 shutout win.

“We scheduled these games to prepare against some of the best teams in the region,” said Paulino. “All three GLIAC teams we faced are projected to be some of the top teams in their conference and in the NCAA tournament when the postseason rolls around.”

With three shutouts through four games, while piling on eight goals offensively, the Eagles have been awarded with a No. 1 national rank heading into Great Midwest Athletic Conference play in the coming week.

“We put ourselves with four wins in a good position to be No. 1 in the region,” said Paulino. “I thought our resume spoke for itself but we have a lot of work still to do.”

Outside of the Eagles, only seven other teams at the D-II level sit 4-0 on the season. Of those seven, only four are in the Top 25 in the nation. Those teams include No. 4 Catawba College, No. 13 McKendree University, No. 19 University of Tampa and No. 23 Northern Michigan University.

The Eagles, with confidence and momentum under its belt, look to take on the Malone Pioneers on the road to kickoff conference play on Saturday, Sept. 16, with kickoff set for 5:30 p.m.

“The goal for us this week is to go 1-0,” said Paulino. “We want to keep building momentum each week.”

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