The Ashland University men's soccer team continued on its path to sustained success with a productive spring training period that saw the Eagles attain positive results on the field.
"We've seen continued growth," said AU head coach Oliver Slawson. "We're still young. It's been continued growth as far as playing toward winning games and playing with a certain style and brand where we try and dictate the games. That's been showing in the results and who we've been playing against."
The Eagles impressed this spring with 17 goals scored, while conceding just 11, in seven games in the offseason. Ashland came away with a 3-1 win over Notre Dame (Ohio), consistently one of the top teams in the Atlantic Region, and defeated former GLIAC member Walsh, 3-0. The Cavaliers beat the Eagles, 2-1, in regular season play in 2016.
Last season, the Eagles' second since reinstating the program after a three-year hiatus, the Eagles had no problem scoring goals, bagging 31 in 17 games played. The problem was AU's ability to maintain possession and contain the opponent's attack when it came, especially late in games.
"We scored enough goals to win games," said Slawson. "We averaged about two goals per game. If you're doing things right that should be enough to win any game. We've still shown some signs of youthfulness, naivety and vulnerability without the ball. Our issue hasn't been breaking teams down or getting into dangerous areas. It's what we do without the ball."
That was the primary issue Slawson and the Eagles needed to address this offseason.
"What we've seen this spring is we've been better with the ball, managing the game through retention of the ball, rather than just playing vertical," Slawson said. "Also in moments we've had to defend, we've defended well. Outside of one game where we still showed some poor habits, we only conceded a handful of goals in the other six games. We continue scoring goals and look dangerous going forward, but we've also started to shore things up a little bit without the ball."
The Eagles finished with a 7-9-1 record last season, despite having no seniors or juniors as main contributors. Now the group Slawson is working with has been through the GLIAC a couple times and is starting to learn how to have consistent success at this level.
"You put on the shirt, you get out there, you play well and you win," Slawson said. "We want to build the understanding of what we need to play well, and what performance indicators will help us have good games and successful results."