By Ben Hercik
After a Horizon League runner up season last year, expectations are high for the Cleveland State University women’s soccer team this season. With the team projected to finish third in the conference this year, which is a step down from where they finished last season, the Vikings started the season against some stiff competition.
The season began with the Vikings going to three straight double-overtime games with a 1-1-1 record. The first game of the year saw a double-overtime draw on the road against Kent State University. Junior goalkeeper Stevie Holbrook was the difference maker in the game, stopping all 11 shots that the Golden Flashes had in the game.
The team then returned home to face the University of Akron to pick up their first win of the season. After a goal in the second minute that put the Vikings up 1-0, Akron responded late in the first half to tie up the score at one-a-piece. After a scoreless second period and first overtime, junior Elena Gutlove, a transfer from Butler University, broke the 1-1 tie with her goal in the 105th minute to push the Vikings to the 2-1 win. One of Gutlove’s goals for the season is to score more goals, but she also hopes to help the team come together, as there are a lot of underclassmen on the team.
“Scoring goals is an obvious one, but also helping the team mesh together,” Gutlove said. “We want to grow together and continue to improve on the pitch.”
After the 1-0-1 start to the season, and only giving up one goal in the first two games, Holbrook was named the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week. This is Holbrook’s second time winning the award, with the first time being the first week of the season last year. When asked about winning the award, Holbrook was honored but was more excited to see how well her teammates were playing this early in the season.
“It’s cool to be awarded that for sure, but the biggest part of coming back is more of the results of the game and how my teammates are on the field,” Holbrook said. “It’s bigger than the award and that looking at how well we’re doing and how much of a fight we put up. It’s a big deal to see everyone ready to go right away.”
The team’s momentum was halted when they fell to Ohio University 2-1. After giving up an early goal in the first period, the Vikings struck back and tied the score in the second period with a Gutlove goal. That was her second goal of the season, but it was not enough as Ohio scored a goal in the second overtime to win the game. The Vikings bounced back a few days later, defeating Miami University of Ohio 1-0 thanks to a goal by junior Essence Canady in the second period, with an assist from Gutlove. This is the first year that Canady played forward since high school, and she was very excited to score that goal.
“Honestly, I got a little teary eyed,” Canady said. “I played forward all throughout high school, so it was like a dream come true to get back on the forward side rather than on the defensive side.”
With that win, the Vikings moved to 2-1-1 on the season, but coach Dallas Boyer thinks there is still room for the team to grow. With the lack of senior leadership, the team is still trying to find its stride.
“This group needs to find what it’s best at,” Boyer said. “We haven’t found it yet, which is a good and scary thought that we are finding ways to win without really playing at our best. With last years’ group being so senior heavy and knowing what to expect, it’s exciting to see this group on the field and not know what their best is.”
After the win over Miami of Ohio, the team traveled to Texas to participate in the University of Texas at San Antonio Tournament. The Vikings fell to the UTSA Roadrunners 3-0 and Rice University 2-0. The team returns home for a game on Sept. 12 against Niagara University.