Updated Thu, Aug 8, 2013 11:41 am
For even the most futile sports teams, the beginning of a new season brings optimism and a newfound cause for excitement. Every team starts 0-0-0 with an equal playing field for all.
The Marietta women’s soccer team is no different with a new head coach in Tracy Blasius, a skilled bunch of seniors and a group of eight newcomers. There’s a shared excitement and belief that this season will be better than the last.
This season, the Pioneers look to leave the past behind and reverse a trend.
Since Marietta’s 14-3-2 campaign in 2005, the team has gone a combined 32-77-16 including a 3-13-1 mark in 2012.
“My plan is to take baby steps, starting with instilling a winning attitude,” Blasius said. “If we can remain organized and confident, we’ll have more success and build from there.”
Marietta returns 14 letter winners from the 2012 squad, but Blasius is expected to bring a new look to the program, as they attempt to return to the top of the Ohio Athletic Conference.
Non-conference: The Pioneers open the regular season at the Defiance Purple and Gold Classic, taking on Defiance and Westminster (PA) on Aug. 30 and 31, respectively.
Marietta will play 11 non-conference matches, seven within the friendly confines of Marietta Field. The Pioneers can accumulate some wins against sub-.500 teams on their schedule, but they will be tested before the OAC matches start.
The tough matchups will come against Wooster (12-6-1 in 2012), Centre (20-2-0) and Thomas More (20-2-1), while Marietta can pick up some victories against teams like Bethany (3-12-2), Oberlin (1-15-1) and Hiram (4-12-2).
OAC match-ups- Outside of a one goal victory over Heidelberg and a 1-1 draw with Muskingum, both in the bottom three of the conference, the 2012 Pioneers struggled against conference foes, getting outscored 26-2 and posting a conference record of 1-7-1.
Blasius’ squad travels to Tiffin, Ohio, on Oct. 5 to kick off conference play against Heidelberg, who also finished with a 3-13-1 record in 2012.
Notable matchups include Blasius’ return to John Carroll on Oct. 12 where she was the head coach from 1997-2011.
“It’s going to be an interesting day, for sure,” Blasius said on her return to John Carroll.
The Pioneers take on defending OAC champs Otterbein at home on Oct. 30; the Cardinals took last year’s matchup 2-0 in Westerville.
“I have a lot of experience with the OAC… and it’s a talented conference,” Blasius said. “The success of any team can be measured by how they do within the conference.”
The game plan
Coming off a poor defensive season, Blasius plans to focus on the team’s organization on that half of the pitch. Much of the offensive game plan will stem from counter-attack opportunities.
While Blasius learns more about her players’ strengths and weaknesses, she insisted that there wouldn’t be one uniform strategy throughout the season.
“Each [plan] could be different based on the opponent,” Blasius said.
Blasius’ 2011 John Carroll squad had a goal differential of +12, while the 2012 Pioneers’ goal differential was -36.
Blasius doesn’t expect a drastic turnaround, but hopes to earn the program some respect within the conference by knocking off 3 or 4 conference foes, in addition to earning a few wins in non-conference play.
The new head coach sees the breadth of retuning letter winners as a positive moving forward.
“We have the leadership, but they’re looking for some guidance,” Blasius said. “(The team) is motivated and has a passion to get better.”
Before their regular season opener against Defiance, the Pioneers have an exhibition match against Rio Grande at home on Aug. 21 at 5 p.m.