By: Edward Perez – Staff Writer
The Dayton women’s soccer team began its season with a two-game road trip in Florida last weekend. The Flyers traveled to Miami to face Florida International on Friday, falling 2-1 in overtime. Redshirt sophomore midfielder Libby Leedom scored the Flyers’ lone goal, on an assist from senior midfielder Nicole Waters. Dayton headed to Fort Myers on Sunday to take on Florida Gulf Coast, where the Flyers lost, 2-0. The Flyer faithful’s first chance to see the 2015 team in person will be Thursday, when the Flyers host Ohio State at Baujan Field at 7:30 p.m.
The Flyers ended the 2014 season on a high note. They upended No. 1 seed La Salle to win the Atlantic 10 conference tournament for the first time since 2011, and also took part in the NCAA soccer tournament as a result.
It was the Flyers’ first time beating La Salle since 2010, and Dayton had fallen to them in the 2013 A-10 championship match, adding more significance to the 2014 conference championship win.
Unfortunately, the Flyers’ excitement was cut short after falling to Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 4-0.
Looking back on these accomplishments, head coach Mike Tucker is confident his team can go far in the upcoming season, under the leadership of returning veteran players.
“That is a goal [for the upcoming season], to win the league and to be playing in the NCAA,” Tucker said. “Fortunately, we have a really good group of veterans who [have] been there and done that and know what it takes, so we feel pretty good about that.”
Tucker, who enters his 21st year as the Flyers’ head coach, says that his goals of winning the league and playing in the NCAA tournament are an objective that can be reached through the process of accomplishing several smaller goals that will indicate the success of the team throughout the season, such as winning streaks and shut outs.
Many others expect the Flyers to have another successful season. Eleven of the 14 head coaches in the A-10 conference selected UD’s women’s soccer as preseason favorites in last month’s preseason poll.
Tucker believes that veteran players, such as seniors Ashley Campbell and Waters, who were both named to the 2015 A-10 preseason team (along with sophomore defender Nicolette Griesinger, sophomore forward Alexis Kiehl and junior midfielder Erin O’Malley), will take initiative in leading the team to a successful season.
“Ashley and Nicole are two of the better players in the country and they’ve been recognized by a lot of people as being those kind of players,” Tucker said. “Having players like that as both your captains and leaders give our younger players someone [to follow] on how to carry themselves in training and what their expectations are, and there’s a bit a respect for them from our opponents in what they’ve accomplished.”
Campbell and Waters both led the team in terms of making an impact in games last season, with Campbell recording 16 goals and six assists, while Waters tallied eight goals and 18 assists. Waters’ 18 assists was the fourth-highest total in the nation. Waters led the nation in assists in 2013.
Tucker has indefinite plans to start a few players of the newest class who he thinks have been playing well in training.
Kaelyn Johns, a first year, will be one of the goalkeepers this season, and Tucker believes she will have a strong presence in the back. Johns has taken part, and has several accomplishments with, the Eastern Pennsylvania branch of the United States Olympic Development Program.
Nadia Pestell, also a first year, will be playing the role as the team’s left back defender. Pestell won a silver medal with the Canadian national team in the 2013 CONCACAF U17 Championships in Jamaica. Tucker strongly believes she can contribute a lot to the team.
Campbell and Waters both look forward to the season and hope the team can make it as far as the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. As both seniors, they hope to leave a positive image for UD women’s soccer and make it something the Flyer community can come and support often in strong numbers.