Finding a way to build a winning streak is something most teams find difficult to achieve. The ability to take the field each and every day and play with consistency is hard even for the best of the best. But for the Ashland University women’s soccer team, success means sticking to the same routine and taking each moment day by day.
The Eagles had a nine game win streak prior to Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contender Grand Valley State University on Nov. 1. The team found themselves ranked No. 11 in the nation, while tied for first place in the GLIAC standings.
The Eagles started their season 2-0 with home a win against Lewis followed by a road win over Tiffin. The Eagles then suffered their first of two losses of the season, falling to Findlay by a score of 3-1.
“After we lost to Findlay I think we all just rallied,’’ senior goaltender Hannah Lee said. “We figured out what worked and what did not work and really came together as a team and I’ve never been a part of a team that has been this close.”
After the loss to Findlay, the Eagles went on to win nine straight games and a tie against Trevecca Nazarene. During the streak, the team triumphed over Saginaw Valley State (2-1) and beat Ferris State University twice (2-1, 3-1).
The win streak started back on Sept. 27 with a win over Northwood (2-1). The Eagles got goals from Faith Lewis and Brianna Fourman in the victory. From there, the team took off and has not looked back since.
Getting a head start in the offseason is a huge factor when trying to string together multiple wins in a row, especially for a streak that lasted particularly long.
“We talk about the season as a whole. It is not just the fall, it’s the preseason that started back in January,” women’s soccer head coach Taylor Clarke said.
Clarke is in his second season at the helm of the Ashland University women’s soccer team.
“It has been a long building process and it is an accumulation of all the things we have done,” he said. “Having a good winter, a good spring, then a good summer and then it finally reaches this final stage. It’s where it all comes together.”
The Eagles fell short in the first round of the NCAA Tournament a season ago, losing 1-0 to Ohio Valley. Despite the heartbreaking end to the 2018 season, the loss empowered the team to be extra motivated for 2019.
The Eagles have not only made their case for being a top team in the country, but have now also implemented themselves as frontrunners to win a conference championship in a conference that has very tough competition.
Two wins over the Ferris State Bulldogs and a win over the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals stand as evidence that AU can compete competently within the GLIAC.
Up until Nov. 1, the Eagles were undefeated in the GLIAC. A tough loss to No. 2 Grand Valley State (14-1-0), however, would give the Eagles their first conference loss, making their record 7-1.
Two days later the team bounced back to defeat Davenport 2-1. The Eagles had the better of the play for a majority of the game and held a 61-39 advantage in possession, but the game remained scoreless at the intermission. Both Ashland goals were scored by senior forward Deijah Swihart, in both the second period and overtime period.
The Eagles are looking to continue to make statement after statement, including winning a GLIAC title, sophomore midfielder Tori Baker said.
Motivation can certainly go a long way. Being doubted from the start and having critics can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. There are multiple examples of players or teams proving those critics wrong and this 2019 Ashland team is yet another perfect example.
“Throughout the season we’ve been using what we call ‘kindell to the fire’ with all the things that have happened to us,” Baker said. “We use our preseason ranking as fuel just to motivate us and keep us going.”
The team believes it is crucial to have at least one motto that can stick with a team throughout the entirety of a full season.
There are many words that can describe the 2019 Ashland University women’s soccer team but some have stood out more than others. Amazing, determined, heart and character seem to all be equally important for the Eagles in finding their success this season.
“We all have different personalities but we all click,” Swihart said.
Swihart is currently the leading scorer on the team, with 10 goals this season.
“Everybody is amazing,” Clarke said. “This team has such a great group of individuals and we honor that.”
The Eagles have gotten contributions from everyone during this magical run. Seven different players with multiple goals on the season, along with outstanding play on the defensive end and in the box by Lee.
Everything has fused together to create a team that has had great success so far in the season.
The Eagles next game is at Saginaw Valley State on Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. After that, the GLIAC tournament will begin with the quarterfinal on Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. at Ferguson field.