By: Steve Boltri – Staff Writer
Most sports teams have a “best player” that acts as a leader on the field and assumes a little bit more responsibility than the rest of the team. Junior forward Alexis Kiehl is exactly that player for the Dayton women’s soccer team.
The team has collectively scored 20 goals this season, with 10 of them plus an assist from Kiehl. That means she has been directly involved in over half of the team’s goals. According to coach Mike Tucker, “It’s imperative for any team to have a dynamic attacker capable of scoring goals at any time.”
Kiehl is clearly capable of scoring goals, but a theme of the first half of the season was that Kiehl was the only player capable of scoring on a regular basis. Having only one reliable goal scorer is not a recipe for success and it showed heavily in their results towards the beginning of the season.
The Flyers lost five of their first six games, scoring one goal per game in each of those losses. Kiehl scored every goal for the team in that string of losses. Although Kiehl stepped up and scored goals in those losses, it clearly wasn’t enough for the team as a whole, and she could have used more support in the attacking third of the field.
One reason for Kiehl’s lack of support early on in the season is because star forwards Ashley Campbell and Nicole Waters graduated in 2016. Campbell and Waters combined to be one of the most dynamic attacking duos in the history of the Dayton women’s soccer program, and playing without them has clearly been a big loss.
As Kiehl put it, “Nicole and Ashley were players who were able to find the net almost every game and accounted for the majority of our goals and success last year. Because they are no longer here, I feel an increased responsibility to score because someone on our team has to step up.”
In the early part of the season, Kiehl stepped up, but it wasn’t enough for the team as a whole.
Since starting the season 1-5, Dayton has improved and has won twice, drawn three times, and lost four times in its last nine games. The players have remained the same, so what has changed has been Coach Tucker’s tactics and game plan.
One major change that’s been made, according to Tucker, is that because opponents recognize Kiehl and format their defensive tactics to shut her down, she’s been playing in a variety of different positions other than her normal striker role, including attacking midfield and out on the wing “to get her isolated on a single defender.”
Aside from taking measures to keep Kiehl involved, Tucker has also made it a point to get other players involved. He said, “[Getting other players involved in the attack] has been a work in progress and we have played in both different formations and with different players in those positions. Training sessions in the past few weeks have emphasized attack in the final third as well.”
The objective after the first few weeks of the season has been to get players other than Kiehl more involved in the attack in an attempt to help the team as a whole find success. That plan has come to fruition as the season has worn on. Dayton is 1-6 this season in games in which Kiehl has scored, and in each of those six losses Kiehl scored the only goal for the team. In the one win, Kiehl scored four goals as Dayton beat Davidson 5-0.
In games in which Kiehl has not found the back of the net, the Flyers are 2-1-2. This is not to say that the team has more success when Kiehl doesn’t score, but rather that the team has more potential to succeed when Kiehl isn’t the only player scoring goals.
To finish the season on a high note, it is imperative that as other players continue to step up to score goals, and Kiehl also continues to score goals. The game plan moving forward, according to Tucker, is to continue with the newly formed pairing of Kiehl and senior Libby Leedom, which “has already proven to be a dynamic pairing.”
It will be interesting to see if, for the remainder of the season, the duo of Kiehl and Leedom will be able to emulate the success and productivity that Campbell and Waters enjoyed in their time together, while keeping the rest of the team involved as well. If this can be achieved, success will surely follow.