MAC Women’s Soccer Preview

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The Ohio soccer team starts its Mid-American Conference season Friday, as it welcomes Bowling Green and Central Michigan to Chessa Field this weekend. The Bobcats are heading into conference play with confidence, as they haven’t lost a game since Aug. 30.

The five-game undefeated streak for Ohio has come down to one thing: opportunities. The Bobcats are averaging 16 shots and 8.2 corner kicks per game in September, and as a result, they have scored a little over two goals a game.

At the beginning of the season, Ohio head coach Aaron Rodgers had clear objectives for his squad and one of them was to put more balls in the back of the net. In eight games this season, the Bobcats have 13 goals. Last year, they had just 17 goals in 19 games.

“I think we are still growing every day, you know. And our goals coming into the season were to score more goals than the other teams and to finish higher than the Ohio soccer program has in the last few years,” Rodgers said. “And so if we can follow the scoring more goals than we’re giving up, I think we will achieve that goal of finishing higher up.”

The Bobcats finished nonconference play with a record of 4-2-2, which was best in the MAC East. They have gone 4-0-1 in their last five games and have the confidence they needed heading into the conference season of 11 games.

“It’s always good to have an undefeated streak because we do have the confidence. Obviously moving from pre-conference to conference play, the intensity level probably ramps up,” Rodgers said. “We’re like any other program. We’re looking at ourselves as 0-0 right now. Ideally, we’d like to go 11-0 the second part of our season.”

If the Bobcats finish in the top four of the conference, which was one of Rodgers’ goals, they will host one of the first round games in the MAC Tournament. Last year, the Bobcats snuck into the tournament as an eight seed and lost 1-0 to eventual MAC champions Miami.

“If we can get to a place where we can host a game, that’d be fantastic,” Rodgers said. “I just want the girls to continue to learn and grow every day.”

The Bobcats host Bowling Green and Central Michigan this weekend, two teams that went winless in their nonconference schedules.

“We’re 0-0 and want to be 2-0 at the end of the weekend. I know Bowling Green’s coming in with the same mentality. They can be 1-0 at the end of Friday night, and Central Michigan can be 2-0 at the end of the weekend,” Rodgers said. “Whatever they did in pre-conference, I don’t believe has any bearing on how they’re going to come in and prepare to play us.”

These two home games for Ohio are huge momentum builders before it hits the road for four straight conference games in the next two weeks, including tough matchups against Miami (OH) and Akron. For the Bobcats to achieve their goals, they’re going to have to get in the win column in these first two home games.

“The MAC has always been an evenly leveled conference,” Rodgers said. “I think Miami has a good team. I think Eastern Michigan has a good team. They’ve both done really well in pre-conference. I think Buffalo, they’ve given up very few goals.

“It’s going to be even. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a dog fight.”

The Bobcats play Bowling Green Friday at home at 4 p.m. They come back to Chessa Field on Sunday to face Central Michigan at 1 p.m.

East Division

Akron (3-3-2)

Coach: Vernon Croft

2012-2013 Record: Overall (6-11-1), MAC (2-8-1)

Last MAC Tournament Title: 2009

Key Players Returning: Kelly Deniro (2012 Second-Team All-MAC, eight starts this season), Lani Smith (Three goals to start season)

Top Newcomer: Sarah Sivic (Leads team with four goals and four assists in eight starts)

Bowling Green (0-6-0)

Coach: Lindsay Basalyga

2012-2013 Record: Overall (1-17-1), MAC (0-10-1)

Last MAC Tournament Title: 2005

Key Players Returning: Madeline Wideman (2012 Honorable Mention Academic All-MAC, one goal, two assists), Alyssa Carmack (Central defender, 2013 co-captain)

Top Newcomer: Haley Malaczewski (Leads Bowling Green freshmen with one goal)

Buffalo (3-2-2)

Coach: Michael Thomas

2012-2013 Record: Overall (5-12-2), MAC (3-7-1)

Last MAC Tournament Title: N/A

Key Players Returning: Katie Roberts (Led the team in goals in the past two years), Ainsley Wheldon (Senior goalkeeper with 28 saves and five goals allowed)

Top Newcomer: Angel Hart (Has started five games at midfield)

Kent State (5-3-0)

Coach: Rob Marinaro

2012-2013 Record: Overall (13-5-2), MAC (7-3-1)

Last MAC Tournament Title: N/A

Key Players Returning: Jessacca Gironda (20 career goals), Stephanie Senn (Eight shutouts last year, eight goals allowed this season)

Top Newcomer: Jenna Hellstrom (Tied for team-leading 3 goals)

Miami (3-5-0)

Coach: Bobby Kramig

2012-2013 Record: Overall (20-3-1), MAC (10-0-1)

Last MAC Tournament Title: 2012

Key Players Returning: Katy Dolesh (Tied for second in MAC with five goals, two-time First Team All-MAC selection) Kayla Zakrzewski (2012 First Team All-MAC selection, three goals and five assist this season)

Top Newcomer: Taylor Jackson (One goal and two assists in seven games played)

Ohio (4-2-2)

Coach: Aaron Rodgers

2012-2013 Record: Overall (8-10-1), MAC (3-6-1)

Last MAC Tournament Title: N/A

Key Players Returning: Maggie Murnane (Leads team with three goals), Mattie Liston (317 career saves)

Top Newcomer: Lexi Milesky (Two goals and one assist in eight starts)

West Division

Ball State (5-2-1)

Coach: Craig Roberts

2012-2013 Record: Overall (8-7-5), MAC (5-3-3)

Last MAC Tournament Title: N/A

Key Players Returning: Maimee Morris (One goal and one assist to start season), Cailey Starck (Starter with three assists this seasonwe)

Top Newcomer: Kelsey Wendlandt (Leads team with three goals)

Central Michigan (0-7-1)

Coach: Peter McGahey

2012-2013 Record: Overall (15-7-1), MAC (10-2-0)

Last MAC Tournament Title: 2010

Key Players Returning: Laura Gosse (Led 2012 team with five goals, one goal to start 2013), Emily Cooksey (Has started all eight games and has one goal in 2013)

Top Newcomer: Kaylin Hoomaian (Started all eight games as a defender)

Eastern Michigan (3-4-1)

Coach: Scott Hall

2012-2013 Record: Overall (11-6-2), MAC (8-3-0)

Last MAC Tournament Title: 1999

Key Players Returning: Angela Vultaggo (Six goals and seven assists in 2012, four goals and three assists this season), Bianca Rossi (Led team in 2012 with eight goals, three goals this year)

Top Newcomer: Madison Hirsch (Has played in six games, one assist)

Northern Illinois (2-5-1)

Coach: John Ross

2012-2013 Record: Overall (8-9-2), MAC (4-6-2)

Last MAC Tournament Title: 1998

Key Players Returning: Cori Frankenberg (Led 2012 team with four goals, two goals this year), Amy Carr (Six shutouts and 53 saves last year)

Top Newcomer: Alex Elias (Defender has started four games with one goal this year)

Toledo (3-5-0)

Coach: Brad Evans

2012-2013 Record: Overall (7-11-2), MAC (5-5-1)

Last MAC Tournament Title: 2011

Key Players Returning: Rachel MacLeod (Seven goals in eight starts this year), Angelica Hernandez (Two assists this season, two goals in 20 starts as freshman defender)

Top Newcomer: Kiersten Johnson (Second on team with two goals)

Western Michigan (2-3-2)

Coach: Nate Norman

2012-2013 Record: Overall (5-9-4), MAC (1-5-4)

Last MAC Tournament Title: 2003

Key Players Returning: Diana Dedvukaj (Three goals, two assists last year), Megan Putnam (Senior starter in the midfield)

Top Newcomer: Megan Ross (Leads team with two goals)