By Sophie Kelner
The women’s soccer team concluded its season following a loss in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament to Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in penalty kicks.
After regulation play, the teams were tied 1-1 and then headed to overtime.
Both teams’ defenses held up after two overtimes of aggressive offensive play — ending with a dramatic diving save by Cleveland State goalkeeper Jamie Daniels, forcing penalty kicks.
The Jaguars of IUPUI scored early in the shootout to defeat the Vikings 4-2. IUPUI went on to capture the title of Horizon League Champions.
Although the loss marked the end of the 2017 season, the Vikings achieved many successes under first year Head Coach Dallas Boyer.
Boyer explained his feelings after a bittersweet season.
His goals for the team began with focusing on rebuilding the program by being better teammates, playing and practicing harder all season.
The team quickly surpassed his expectations during the early parts of the season.
“As the season started, we had some early successes. We quickly realized that if that was the only thing we were able to accomplish together, then we’d be selling ourselves short a bit,” Boyer said. “They proved immediately that they had accomplished those things, and we were able to ask and demand more from them.”
The team goals shifted from rebuilding to becoming a competitive program within the Horizon League.
The women hopped on board with his new leadership. Junior center back and team captain, Toni Dickson, echoed his remarks about goals of changing their mentality and team work ethic.
“We came into this season to find stability again in our program and to find that fire to compete. I think we found all those things,” Dickson said. “Most importantly, we all wanted a change and to be the change and next step for the Cleveland State women’s soccer program.”
With the newfound stability, the Vikings landed five women on regular season honor teams for the conference.
Dickson was selected as a member of the Horizon League All-Academic team for the first time. The junior maintains a 3.95 GPA as a pre-physician assistant major.
Junior McKenna Vento and Sophomore Aliani Lorenzo achieved Second Team All-League honors, while freshmen Grace Grant and Jenna Prathapa were named members of the All-Freshmen Team.
Prathapa earned Freshman of the Year for the conference by leading the Vikings with 15 points and six goals.
This marked the first time in school history for a Viking to win Freshman of the Year.
Boyer explained his excitement about returning all five of his award-winning players next season. He credits the group with contributing to the team’s record of most goals scored in a season.
“Jenna [Prathapa] and Grace [Grant] injected some much needed individual creativity into our attack… McKenna [Vento] and Aliani [Lorenzo] are the keys to our shift in the style of play we adopted this year in that they are both excellent players in establishing possession and getting into an attack with controlled passing,” Boyer said.
In addition to the record for goals, the ladies came one game short of tying the most wins in a season set by the 2011 team.
This year, the Vikings won nine games — five within league regular season play.
With their success during the regular season, the team clinched its first Horizon League playoff berth since 2015 with a win against last year’s champion Northern Kentucky in late October.
Only the top six teams make the tournament. The top two teams within the conference earn a first round bye.
As Cleveland State enters the offseason, they look to grow even more from this season’s successes.
The Vikings graduate two players this spring, goalie Jamie Daniels and midfielder Katie Bainbridge.
Even though the team loses only two players, the two have left their mark on the Cleveland State women’s soccer program.
Daniels started every game since the second game of her sophomore season. She ranks fourth in career saves at Cleveland State.
Bainbridge ends her career with 17 points and 11 assists. She finishes tied for the second most assists in school history.
Boyer credits the duo for strong leadership this year and hopes the returning eight juniors will be able to fulfill those roles.
With most of the team returning, the team hopes to get off to the right start next spring to begin preparing for the fall season.
“We are really excited to get everyone back after the holidays and really jump back in to the spring season so we can continue the progress and momentum we’ve created,” Boyer said. “Sprinkle in a transfer or two and an incoming freshman class that we are excited about for next fall, and we can’t help but be incredibly excited about what 2018 has in store for us.”