By Ben Hercik
After a lackluster 9-9-1 season last year, there weren’t very high expectations for Cleveland State’s women’s soccer team this year.
They were picked to finish in the middle of the pack, fifth out of 10 teams in the Horizon League. However, they are on pace to win more games than all of last season.
They have a current overall record of 8-4-1 and a 4-0-1 record in conference play.
They have beaten Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Youngstown State, Green Bay and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Their lone tie came against Oakland University.
The team is currently sitting in a tie for second in the conference with Northern Kentucky and trailing Milwaukee by one game for first place.
“We had a couple devastating injuries early in the season, but we’ve done exceptionally well to recover from those and have players step up with the opportunities that have opened up,” Head Coach Dallas Boyer said.
“Our start to the conference season is the best in the program’s history. It sets us up for some incredibly important games here in the last few weeks of the regular season.”
Some of those players that have stepped up are McKenna Vento, Ja’Maya Ward, Sarah Krause and Dani Sowinski.
Vento, a senior midfielder, is tied for the conference lead in goals with five; three of those being game winners. Vento has had quite the successful career at Cleveland State. She is currently in seventh place all time in goals scored for Cleveland State at 11 and is part of a three-way tie for second place all time in assists with 11.
Ward, a freshman forward, and Krause, a senior midfielder who transferred from Pittsburgh, have been able to take the pressure off Vento this season.
Both have scored four goals each, and both are in the top 10 of the Horizon League in assists with four each.
Ward and Krause are in the top 10 along with Sowinski, a senior forward, who is tied for second in the conference with seven assists.
Not all the praise can go to the offensive players though, as Stevie Holbrook, a sophomore goalkeeper, has recorded 46 saves this season.
Her 46 saves are tied for fourth in the conference. Her five shutouts, which is the third most in the conference, have been an integral part in the team’s success this year. Of those five shutouts, three of those have been in the last three games and she has only allowed two goals in league play this season.
“Our goal since the beginning of the season has been to have the best season in program history, win more games, score more points and finish the highest we ever have in the Horizon League,” Boyer said.
“The team has put themselves in position to achieve these goals, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The team has put themselves in position to play important games at the end of the season, and it will be exciting to watch them chase those goals together.”