Ever since Aaron Rodgers accepted the Ohio women’s soccer head coaching position, the former University of Kentucky assistant coach has told anyone who would listen that he wants to play a dynamic brand of soccer that results in many goals being scored every week of the season.
The team has found immediate success in implementing Rodgers’ style of the play. The Bobcats have won half of their games so far this season, and they recently just saw a six-game unbeaten run come to an end. In that stretch of games, the Green and White scored 14 goals, including putting five goals past Eastern Kentucky in their first win of the season.
Despite having an incredible amount of success offensively, Rodgers knows that he has to have a great defense for his plans to work efficiently.
The two most influential players at the back for Ohio this season? That would be junior Gabby Hausfeld and sophomore Grace Campbell.
The defensive duo have been playing a majority of the minutes at center-back for Rodgers’ squad, and they have helped the ‘Cats allow only 11 goals in 10 matches so far this campaign.
Hausfeld and Campbell both got their start in soccer when they were 4 years old. Campbell did participate in dance and softball for a little while, but along with Hausfeld, the Wadsworth, Ohio, native stuck with soccer.
Campbell has always played defense in her soccer career. Hausfeld’s soccer career has seen her play in different positions.
“I’ve played striker and in one game I played goalkeeper,” Hausfeld said. “I started to play defense, and it is the one position I love to play.”
Defenders may not get all of the accolades after matches, and that is something that does not bother Hausfeld.
“Defenders don’t get a lot of highlights, but I have the chance to back people up,” Hausfeld said. “Our backline is a strong connection between all of us. Making a slide tackle and blocking a shot are the best feelings in the world.”
Campbell says she likes being the last line of defense because she can see the entire field. The sophomore is able to communicate with her teammates, as well.
“I would say my communication is the strongest part of my game,” Campbell said. “I use it a lot to help my team in our games.”
Since both of them play next to each other for the majority of the match, a key to their success has been the ability of both players to build a strong rapport.
“We get along on and off the field,” Hausfeld said. “We have a similar mentality on the field. I have her back and she has my back.”
Besides having a similar mentality on the pitch, the duo have been able to show their leadership qualities on and off the field.
“They have been absolutely fantastic this season,” Ohio head coach Aaron Rodgers said. “They are great leaders and competitors.”
Although they are great leaders and competitors, Rodgers knows that Hausfeld and Campbell expect the most out of their teammates.
“They are good players, but they both have a great will to compete,” Rodgers said. “They have high expectations for everyone on the team.”
The Bobcats may be scoring at a high rate this season, but Campbell knows how much Rodgers values a solid defensive structure.
“Defense is the first thing we address in practice,” Campbell said. “We typically do one vs. one and two vs. two drills. We work on forcing the attacking player to go to one side.”
In the 3-1 win against Bowling Green on Sept. 27, there were many instances in the contest when Hausfeld had the ball at the back, and the Cincinnati native had to make the right pass knowing that if she didn’t, Bowling Green’s offense would be coming right at her. There is a lot of pressure to make the right decisions on the field, but for Hausfeld, it is nothing new.
“Being a good defender comes with experience,” Hausfeld said. “I try to stay comfortable knowing that I am the last line of defense, which comes with pressure. For me, it is second nature.”
Rodgers has been able to put his stamp on the Ohio program in year one of his tenure, and Hausfeld credits him for taking her game to the next level.
“Aaron is an awesome motivator,” Hausfeld said. “He wants everyone to feel as comfortable as possible so they can do the best they can on the field.”
Rodgers has also been able to make Campbell see the game in a totally different light.
“Aaron has brought a different aspect to my game, something I have never thought of before,” Campbell said. “Allison (Whitworth) has also helped me think about the game in a different way, which has helped me.”
The team recently saw a 290-minute scoreless streak come to end, which included shutouts against Youngstown State and Cleveland State. Campbell was pleased to play a role in the streak.
“It was awesome to be involved with that,” Campbell said. “It’s fun to say you got a shutout and help the team. We were doing our job to not let goals past us.”
It is safe to say that when the ‘Cats record a shutout, it gives Hausfeld a great sense of accomplishment.
“It’s always awesome when we win,” Hausfeld said. “It’s all the better if we are able to get a shutout.”
The team still has nine games left to make this season a special one. Rodgers is holding Hausfeld and Campbell to a high standard.
“I want both of them to help lead the team and the backline,” Rodgers said. “I hope that they continue to defend well, get involved in the attack and help keep possession of the ball.”