Staff Writer, OhioBobcats.com
ATHENS, Ohio – For the Ohio women’s soccer team, there is just a different feeling in the air at Chessa Field.
It may be the addition of two coaches to the coaching staff or the energy that has been brought by the seven new players.
It could be a fire burning from last year’s season, when Ohio fell a game short of a Mid-American Conference Tournament berth.
Either way, the Bobcats are ready to roll.
Ohio opens up the season Friday at Butler, then returns home to Chessa Field on Sunday for a 2 p.m. match against Dayton.
Butler won the 2015 Big East Tournament, earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament where it lost in the first round to Ohio State 2-1 in double overtime. It was the Bulldogs first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Dayton was picked to win the Atlantic-10 in preseason polls. Dayton missed out on the NCAA Tournament last year by one game, losing in the conference championship 3-2 to Duquesne in a shootout.
“We want to win any game we go into,” coach Aaron Rodgers said on the mentality his team has when entering a non-conference game. “Yes, we make our non-conference schedule to prepare us for our MAC schedule. It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to be tested against some good teams.”
The rest of Ohio’s non-conference schedule highlights rival Marshall and in-state rival Xavier. The Bobcats kick off MAC play on September 23 at Bowling Green.
The Bobcats were picked to finish fourth in the MAC East in a preseason poll.
Throughout the preseason, Rodgers announced that his captain this year would be senior forward Alexis Milesky.
Returning players include junior midfielder Hannah Jaggers and junior defenseman Megan Niebuhr.
Ohio opened up its preseason with two exhibition games against Northern Kentucky and Valparaiso.
The Bobcats beat the Norse 2-1, coming behind from a 1-0 deficit. They went on to tie the Crusaders 2-2 in game two of the preseason.
One of the biggest impacts on the field this season will be the freshmen that Rodgers added over this past offseason.
“All of them fit in very well with our personalities,” Celeste Fushimi-Karns said. “Kind of our first night together we all blended, there hasn’t really been any awkwardness. Its just been really fun integrating them on and off of the field.”
Senior midfielder Mollie Whitacre said the addition of the new players have brought more creativity to the team. With the creativity, the upperclassmen’s game has been elevated, opening more opportunities for the team, especially when attacking the net.
Some of the players who will be helping with more attacking on the net will be freshman Remi Eades and junior transfer Bryce Hueber.
Eades led her Gahanna Lincoln High School team to the regional semi-finals her junior year, earning all OCC her junior and senior year of high school.
Hueber transferred from Wright State where she played two seasons, scoring nine goals and assisting on four. She was named to the Horizon League Freshman Team and first team All-Horizon League in her sophomore year.
Possibly the most exciting thing that this opening weekend holds is the chance to play at Chessa during Welcome Weekend, something that hasn’t happened for years and has the team abuzz.
“It gets us excited, everybody loves it,” Fushimi-Karns said about the big crowds at Chessa. “To have that huge support system when you’re warming up, and to see all these people walking in and taking a seat. It gets us all excited and nervous, a good nervous. It makes us want to play even better.”