FAIRBORN — When it comes time to sink or swim, Wright State women’s soccer coach Pat Ferguson is betting on his team swimming.
“We only graduated two kids last year, which was a good and a bad thing,” Ferguson said. “It was tough last year because we were young, but this year we have a lot of experience returning, a lot of minutes. It keeps us from having to throw the young kids into the deep end of the pool so quickly.”
There are 13 juniors and seniors on the Wright State roster, which should keep the young kids out of the deep end until they at least learn how to dog paddle. The Raiders return 91 percent of their points from last fall (57 of 63) and nine of the 12 players who started at least 11 games return.
The returnees include including junior forward Aaliyah Patten, a first-team all-Horizon League pick, and second-team all-league midfielder Niki Romero, a senior. Patten led the team in points (four goals, four assists). Romero and senior Sarah Colvin tied Patten for the team lead with four assists each.
“Niki Romero played all over the field last year due to injuries and such, but she is going to be playing center back this season, which is a good thing for our team,” Ferguson said. “Sarah is part of a senior class that has done a really good job of creating a culture in this program.”
Junior midfielder Mattie Cutts, who led the Raiders with five goals, is also back and sophomore forward Jordyne Helinski had a “terrific” preseason, according to Ferguson. Wright State’s .098 team shooting percentage last fall was its highest since 2011.
“Particularly compared to the last several years, this team will be very dangerous on the attack,” Ferguson said. “I think we showed that (in a preseason game) against UNC-Asheville, where we scored three goals in seven minutes. We have athleticism and depth. Teams that we’re playing can’t just focus on Aaliyah. They have a lot to be aware of.”
Other returnees who started at least 11 games for the Raiders in 2016 include seniors Ellie Ganz, Kaeli Studebaker and Brooklyne Mason and sophomores Christine Ommert and Andrea Gomez.
Second-team all-conference goalkeeper Katie Ruff has graduated, but backup Maddie Jewell returns. Freshman goalkeeper Miranda Thomas recorded 16 shutouts in 20 games as a senior at Strongsville High School.
Junior Kayla Schrubb is a transfer from Indiana State who started 24 of 32 games for the Sycamores over the last two seasons. Other newcomers who may see significant playing time early include freshmen Erin Graefen, Destiny Johnson and Brittney Petrosky.
The Raiders were 6-11-2 overall last season, 4-4-1 and sixth place in the Horizon League. The league’s coaches picked Wright State to finish fifth this time around. Wright State ended its season with a five-game losing streak, one it hopes to snap Aug. 18 against Weber State at the season-opening Las Vegas Invitational.