ATHENS, Ohio — The Ohio women's soccer team is set to open the 2017 season at home this weekend with contests against Robert Morris and Butler. The Bobcats face off against Robert Morris for the team's home opener on Friday, Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. Ohio then plays the Butler Bulldogs on Sunday, Aug. 20 at 2 p.m. Both matches will be held at Chessa Field and feature special surprises for guests. Fans who come to Friday's contest against the Colonials will walk home with a free pint glass while Sunday's spectators will be able to take part in Family Sunday Funday where face painting, pictures with Rufus and inflatables will be available.
On Friday, Aug. 11 Ohio played an exhibition match against Northern Kentucky that saw the Bobcats fall 1-0. The lone goal came from NKU's Jessica Frey off a left side pass from Macy Hamblin.
Friday marks the first time that Ohio women's soccer has started the season at home since 2013 and head coach Aaron Rodgers is looking forward to it.
"None of the players on the team, not even the seniors, have opened up at home so it's something unique for these players and we're pretty excited about it. To have our first real match in front of our own fans and sleep in our own beds and be in our own routine is a big advantage to us. And to have both Friday and Saturday this year is great" Rodgers said.
Rodgers also commented on how he hopes that a strong performance this weekend will lead into a healthy start for the Bobcats.
Ohio fell to Robert Morris and Butler last year but Rodgers and the Bobcats look to flip the results this year and start the season on the right foot. Despite the positive outlook though, Rodgers is taking the season one game at a time.
"Last year we dropped an overtime game at Robert Morris and we have that on our mind. The girls that are returning remember that and want to set the tone, obviously, to avenge a game from last year but also set a very good positive tone for this year" Rodgers said.
Expanding on his one-game-at-a-time mindset, Rodgers spoke on what he wants to see on Friday against the Colonials. A constant struggle that Ohio dealt with in the 2016 season was defending late in the game and flipping the field during opportune times. Rodgers believes his team is ready to park the bus when needed and set up scoring chances.
"The biggest thing is that we want to defend really well," Rodgers said. "We spent so much of this preseason on our defensive shape and our defensive tactics so if we can defend really well, stay compact, stop counter attacks as quickly as we can; then we can actually build a counter attack on our own. I think we did really great last year, we had a great spring in scoring goals and we've added some good personal that I think is going to enhance our attacking soccer."
Assistant coach Debs Brereton also spoke about the importance of defending this season and how she feels that the players are coming into these first two contests full of confidence. Ohio only allowed one goal against the Norse and Brereton thinks that's something to be proud of.
"To be able to keep such a strong team at bay for so long in the game, they will definitely be more confident in their ability to defend against a quality team. Playing against a 3-5-2 was very different for us, I think it's something that we're going to see again, so regardless of what system we play against this weekend, our team definitely feel more prepared for it for sure," Brereton said.
With pre-season officially in the books, the Bobcats are geared up and ready for the road to the Mid-American Conference championships.
LAST TIME AGAINST ROBERT MORRIS
Ohio saw the Colonials in 2016 at the North Athletic Complex in Moon Township, Pa. The Bobcats forced overtime but fell 1-0. Kasia Bak (Niagara Falls, Ontario) recorded Robert Morris' goal off a turnover in Ohio's final third. The match was Ohio's second consecutive overtime game and fourth on the season.
SCOUTING THE COLONIALS
Ohio is RMU's first opponent of the season. The Colonials finished 2016 with a 6-12 record (4-4 NEC), earning a sixth place finish in the Northeast Conference and narrowly missing the NEC Tournament with a loss on the final day of the season. The team registered a .464 SOG percentage. Robert Morris was predicted to finish sixth in the NEC coaches' poll.
Top performers last year were Jane Schleicher (Pittsburgh, Pa.) (three goals, one assist), Bak (two goals, four assists) and Greer Monahan (Sewickley, Pa.) (two goals, one assist). Makenzie Shearson (Belle Vernon, Pa.) was the top goalkeeper for the Colonials, going 5-11 with a .754 save percentage and 1.89 GAA in 17 games.
LAST TIME AGAINST BUTLER
The Bobcats opened the 2016 season against Butler, falling 2-1 in overtime. Ohio's lone goal came from Katie McCurley (Lake Zurich, Ill.) in the 48th minute, a second-half response to Serina Kashimoto's (Hiroshima, Japan) 14th minute penalty kick. The winning goal came in the 99th from Breann Pempek (Indianapolis, Ind.). Ohio ended the contest with nine shots, three SOG, one goal.
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS
Butler finished the 2016 campaign going 11-7-2 (4-4-1 Big East) with a Big East Tournament appearance that saw the squad fall 4-0 to Georgetown. The Bulldogs recorded 31 goals with a .500 SOG percentage. In goal, Butler's three keepers collectively recorded a 0.93 GAA and .817 save percentage.
Leading scorer for Butler was Kashimoto who recorded nine goals, seven assist with 30 SOG and three game-winning goals. Paige Monaghan (Succasunna, N.J.) was the second-most productive offense threat with six goals, three assists with 28 SOG and three game-winning goals. Hannah Luedtke (North BArrington, Ill.) locked down the team between the sticks with a 1.02 GAA and .806 save percentage in 20 games.
The Ohio women's soccer team has been selected to finish fourth in the Mid-American Conference's East Division in a vote of the league's head coaches, the MAC announced Monday, Aug. 14. Kent State was predicted to finish top of the MAC East followed by Buffalo and Miami. In the West, Ball State is expected to take first, followed by Central Michigan and Western Michigan. Ball State is also expected to win the MAC Championship this season, with Central Michigan and Kent State coming in second and third respectively.
Ohio travels to High Point, N.C. on Friday. Aug. 25 for a 7 p.m. matchup against the High Point Panthers at Vert Stadium. The team then comes home to host Cleveland State on Sunday, Aug. 27 at Chessa Field.