The start of the 2013 season was not kind to the Ohio women’s soccer team.
Only two goals were scored in the first three fixtures, and first-year head coach Aaron Rodgers was still in search of his first win at Ohio. Going on the road to obtain a victory is always difficult, but after a 5-1 thrashing of Eastern Kentucky, the Bobcats have carried that momentum all the way to Youngstown.
The Ohio Bobcats (3-2-1) will be hoping to extend their win streak to four games when they travel to take on the Penguins of Youngstown State (1-3-1) on Friday at 4 p.m.
Despite the fact that they were unable to win any of their first three games, Rodgers believes the team is starting to gel at the right time.
“We played well the first few games even though we didn’t score much,” Rodgers said. “The confidence is building and the team is learning from each other. The freshmen are contributing to the cause, as well. We are getting familiar with each other and trusting each other. We are taking our chances and we are more aggressive.”
The Bobcats are 2-0-0 away from Chessa Field this season. Senior central midfielder Maggie Murnane wants to make sure the fans are satisfied even though the team travels to different areas to play matches.
“We want to win for our fans,” Murnane said. “With away games, we want to spread the word. If we continue to win, we will attract people to come to our home games. It’s about having dedication to the program. We always want to win no matter where we are playing.”
During their three-game win streak, the team has scored 10 goals and only conceded three. For Rodgers, it is all about the mentality the team has.
“We were creating chances earlier in the season, but we didn’t have an aggressive edge to our game,” Rodgers said. “Now we are starting to take our chances more regularly. I hope we can keep doing that.”
Murnane is tied for second in the Mid-American Conference in goals with three, and the Libertyville, Ill., native is fourth in the MAC in points with seven. It’s safe to say that Murnane is enjoying her soccer at the moment.
“So far, it has been a good start to the season for me,” she said. “But there’s always room for improvement. I have been scoring in the flow of the games and on set pieces, which I hope to keep doing. Everything is coming along well.”
The Penguins have yet to win a home match this season, but on Sept. 6, they were able to earn a credible 1-1 draw with Akron. If the Bobcats want to win their fourth game in a row, they will have to play solid defensively.
“They (Youngstown State) are a good defensive team,” Rodgers said. “Their formation is similar to ours. They will get numbers behind the ball and counterattack when they have the opportunity. We will have to be patient, have good possession of the ball and spread them out wide. If we do that, seams will open up, which will hopefully allow us to score goals against them.”
In preparation for Friday’s match, the team has been working on its defensive shape. They want to make sure that other teams do not get many opportunities to score goals. The forwards have been working on their movement, and the team has also done some 2 vs. 2 situational soccer, as well.
Ohio will have to keep its eye on Brittany Dowd and Chelsea Haney. Dowd has a game-winning goal to her name this season, and Haney ranks third in the Horizon League in shots per game at 3.4. Jackie Podolsky is fourth in the Horizon League in saves with 28.
For the Bobcats to win their fourth-straight contest, the team will have to get off to a fast start, according to Murnane.
“We have to come out with energy,” Murnane said. “We have to limit their chances and keep shooting on goal. We have to be gritty but play well together.”
The Bobcats and Penguins will square off for the fourth time. Ohio holds a 3-0 series lead, which includes a 1-0 victory in Athens last season.