FAIRBORN — Wright State University women’s soccer coach Pat Ferguson pointed to his team’s pace when describing their strengths. Coming off a 12-8 record last season, the Raiders hope also to stay ahead of their conference foes in the standings and on the scoreboard in their league tournament.
The Raiders will field an ample amount of upperclassmen leadership this season, including six seniors and eight juniors. Additionally, there are eight more returners.
Fairborn High grad/senior forward Aaliyah Patten and midfielder Mattie Cutts, along with sophomore forward/midfielder Erin Graefen, were Horizon League First-Team recipients in 2017 and accounted for nine goals and 13 assists.
The trio of forwards: senior Kayla Schrubb (Piqua HS), junior Jordyne Helinski and sophomore Brittney Petrosky (Vandalia Butler) tallied 10 more of last season’s goals.
Junior defenders Alysha Harmer (Tippecanoe), Christine Ommert (Springboro) and junior goalie Maddie Jewell (Lakota West) return to a WSU squad that was tied for first in league games for shutouts with five.
With the addition of 11 freshmen on the roster, that experience should pay off. Ferguson says this has been integral to success in his 23 years of coaching.
“I’ve told the team that I’ve never seen a truly successful team without a good junior and senior class,” Ferguson said. “We really need that leadership and experience in order for that to happen.”
“We have a good team atmosphere, and the work ethic is really high,” Jewell said. “We’re very strong defensively and have some good attacking forwards that I think will put a lot of balls in the back of the net for us.”
WSU will have its share of tests during non-conference play. This includes matchups against Louisville, Tennessee and Cincinnati on the road.
“For our program, it’s always about what we do during conference,” Ferguson said. “I think playing against those tough teams will expose us and show where we’re strong or weak.”
“We have a tough season leading up to conference. I think that’s going to get us more prepared to play our opponents,” Cutts said.
Last season’s 12 wins was the most for WSU since 13 victories in 2007. The campaign culminated in a 2-1 loss against Milwaukee in the HL tournament semifinals.
The players agree this will be a major source of motivation for a program that had its three lone tournament crowns from 1998-2000.
“I posted a picture of the last moment of our game when we lost in the semifinals. It is a reminder everyday to work harder,” Jewell said. “I feel we have unfinished business left on the field.”
Players in this year’s freshmen class to keep an eye out for on the pitch could be midfielder Reagan Clark, Sydni Callahan and Taylor Ulrich.
Junior newcomer and midfielder/defender Naomie Guerra (Loveland), who transferred from William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss. and represented Trinidad and Tobago over the summer, should add a spark defensively.
“If you look at what our program has done over the past 12 or 13 years, they seem to overachieve on a regular basis. That is because we get the right kids,” Ferguson said. “We’re not necessarily trying to get the most talented. If we can continue to instill that culture into the younger players, that’s going to help us.”
The numbers say the Raiders are capable of reaching great heights, and it appears, they have enough heart to do it too.
“Everyone on our team wants to be here and has proven it. We have a great group of girls,” Cutts said. “This is the year I’m most excited about.”
The Raiders lost an exhibition game in Indianapolis to Butler University, defeated Bowling Green in a home exhibition, and had an exhibition game with the University of Dayton cancelled due to weather. The 2018 regular season commences Aug. 16 at Louisville for WSU.
Story provided by Alan Hieber, WSU Communications, wsuraiders.com.