SEASON PREVIEW: Soccer Women Ready To Make A Move

Megan Breidigan anchors the defense for the Royals. (photo by Scott Eyre)
Megan Breidigan anchors the defense for the Royals. (photo by Scott Eyre)

In 2018, the EMU women's soccer team came one game away from making the ODAC Tournament for the third year in a row. After graduating just two seniors, this group is back with more upper classmen than recent years, ready to take that next leap forward.

Record in 2018: 6-8 (4-6 ODAC)
Coach: Ted Erickson (29-54-5 overall, 18-34-1 ODAC in five seasons) – Last season, the Royals scored more goals (27) than they allowed (22) for the first time in the Erickson era

Season opener in 2019:
- host Marymount on Friday, Aug. 30 at 4:00pm then again on Sunday, Sept. 1 against Averett at 2:00pm

Other season highlights:
- host St. Mary's (Md.) on Wednesday, Sept. 4 for the Rowdy Royals Game
- celebrate Senior Recognition on Homecoming Weekend against Lynchburg on Saturday Oct. 12
- play at rival Bridgewater on Wednesday, Oct. 23
- close the regular season against Sweet Briar on Saturday, Nov. 2

Career stats to watch this season:
- senior forward Laura Rittenhouse enters No. 7 in EMU Career Points (43) and needs eight more to enter the top 5; seven more to tie Morgan Hill for 5th with 50
- Laura Rittenhouse is currently No. 5 in EMU Career Goals (20). Nora Osei is in 4th with 28 goals
- midfielder Rachel Sauder is currently tied for 10th in EMU Career Assists (8) and needs two to enter a tie for 8th
- senior Leah Wenger enters No.5 in five different EMU Career Leaders categories for goalkeepers

Interview

SID: How would you recap 2018 in a couple of sentences, and how does that play into your team for this fall?

TE: The 2018 season was an opportunity for several young players to gain a significant amount of minutes and quickly grow into college players. In several games we were pleased with the results, including some games in which we lost, but within those games we had shown growth from years past. With the addition of this year's incoming class and our returning players, we look to improve this year in our overall record.

SID: While neither of your graduated seniors were starters, they provided stable leadership.  How will you replace them?

TE: This year we have two outstanding young women, Rachel Sauder (Lyndhurst, Va./Stuarts Draft) and Megan Breidigan (Douglassville, Pa./Daniel Boone), who will be our team captains. Both began this role in the spring and have provided excellent leadership to the group. But not all responsibility falls on their shoulders. We have really stressed that every player shoulders the responsibility of holding themselves and their teammates accountable. Our seniors last year helped establish this type of culture and this group will continue it.

SID: Your young core is becoming an experience core.  How does that play into your expectations for 2019?

TE: Our expectations rise as our core gets older. It's our expectation that the returning players must put the time into preparing themselves during the off season so that once we start, they can guide our incoming players and allow them time to adjust to college.

SID: Rachel Sauder is developing into a catalyst out of the midfield.  Along with her, who are your key returners and what roles do you expect them to play this year?

TE: Along with Rachel we have a group of players who will see significant amount of minutes in the midfield; Haley Barnes (Bassett, Va./Bassett), Emily Hostetler (Marshallville, Ohio/Smithville), Liz Huffman (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Mechanicsburg Area), and Norma Morris (McGaheysville, Va./East Rockingham). Depending on how they perform during preseason will play a large role into what role we ask them to play this fall.

SID: Tell me a bit about your incoming recruiting class.  First an over-arching comment on the group as a whole, and then mention a few individuals and what roles they might play in their first year?

This incoming class is very well-rounded. Several of the players are capable of playing in multiple positions and will most likely be asked to do so this fall. None of our incoming players have been asked to come in right away and fill large roles, but instead we are excited that we have the depth and talent returning to allow all incoming players to slowly adjust to college soccer.

SID: Leah Wenger (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite) is taking her 40 career starts into her senior season.  What do you expect out of your keeper crew this year?

TE: We expect Leah to carry us this season as our senior goalie and only goalkeeper on roster (but don't tell our opponents that). Leah had an excellent spring season and has put time and energy into her summer training, so that she is prepared for her final year.

SID: Last year you out-scored your opponents for the season and were basically one tough road loss from making the ODAC Tournament.  What will it take for the program to make the next step this year?

TE: Our schedule changed slightly from last year, but we still look at it and see games that we expect to win and games to hope to have a good result. Last year's early road loss to Guilford showed the group that we cannot afford to take a day off in conference. That topic was discussed by many players in their post season individual meetings, so we expect that drive to be there this season.

SID: What is something you will be specifically watching or working on this preseason?

TE: We will be deciding on our shape and what may hopefully allow us to score even more goals this season. The system of play will all depend on the players and if they are capable of moving as one collective unit or not.

SID: What will the strengths of your team be this season?

TE: Goalkeeping and midfield play.

SID: Overall general feeling of what 2019 will be for your team?

TE: Fun! This group enjoys being around each other and the incoming players are excellent people as well. There will be highs and lows, but we will always have our fun.