By Ben Hercik
The Cleveland State women’ soccer team completed their most successful season in program history.
The team compiled a 11-7-1 record and was able to reach the Horizon League Conference Tournament Finals for the first time ever on Nov. 3rd. Of those 11 wins, six of them occurred in conference play, including a stretch where the team went 5-0-1.
The team’s only losses came against Detroit Mercy and Milwaukee. It just so happened that these were the two teams that they met in the conference tournament. The Vikings were able to enact revenge on Detroit Mercy with a 2-1 win and advance to the championship match.
The whole experience was something new for the program as they had never advanced that far. In only his second season as head coach, Dallas Boyer was very happy with the result. Boyer said that the win and celebration was his favorite experience and this showed how far the team has come this season.
“We were able to handle that very well in the semi-final victory over Detroit, playing some of our best soccer of the season in that first half in getting out to a 2-0 lead,” Boyer said. “To us, it was the culmination of an entire year’s worth of work to climb the ladder of the conference and prove that we are in fact ready to compete at the very top of the Horizon League.”
After making it to the final, the team only had one day to prepare for Milwaukee and the championship game. This timetable did not faze the Vikings, as the team went stride for stride with Milwaukee for the whole match. By the end of it, the two were tied in both overall shots and shots on goal. But heartbreak struck in the 58th minute, as a shot by Milwaukee found the back of the net and gave them a 1-0 lead. That score would be the final result of the game, and it ended the Vikings’ historic season.
“The finals loss, especially in the manner in which it happened, was definitely heartbreaking. We went toe-to-toe and played evenly with the program that has for a long time been the best in the Horizon League and ultimately the difference in the game came down to a bad bounce,” Boyer said. “But as the flow of the game and the stats all played out evenly, we just couldn’t break through and find a goal that night.”
Now that this season is over, all eyes turn to next season. The Vikings are losing some very talented players, including five starters, but Boyer doesn’t think that losing those seniors will be an issue. A big help in that is the fact that a majority of the players from the defensive half will be returning.
“In goal, it was important that Stevie Holbrook had such a successful first year. Experience is so important in that position especially, so the value in getting that time under her belt, and more importantly in leading a team to victories there, will springboard her forward the rest of her career,” Boyer said. “Defensively, Essence Canady and Megan Bine stepped in and really solidified us after a couple early season-ending injuries to players we expected to rely heavily on this year. They were both fantastic all year and a huge reason we gave up the second fewest goals in the conference this year. Both will need to take the next step and be leaders of that group the next few years.”
The Vikings are losing senior forward Sarah Krause and senior midfielder McKenna Vento. Vento finished the season tied for the league lead in goals, while Krause was in the top ten in the league in goals, as well as being in the top five in both assists and points.
Boyer does understand how big of a loss they will be but does believe that they have the right players in place to fill those holes.
“In midfield is where we will take the biggest hit from the departing seniors that performed so well there for us,” Boyer said. “In that returning group, Bri Niedermeier will immediately take a bigger role. She’s been a huge piece of our success the last few years and I look forward to watching her take the next step next year.”
Boyer also expects Abby Major, Bianca Sarti, Elaina Walnoha, Grace Grant, Ja’Maya Ward and Jenna Prathapa to have bigger roles next season and expects them to continue to develop as players. Boyer doesn’t think that this will be a one and done effort and expects that the Vikings will be in the hunt for another shot at the championship next season and is excited to see all the players develop more in preparation for next season.