The Ashland University women's soccer team last played on Sept. 5, and with 10 full days off, the Eagles have taken the opportunity to rest up, regroup and prepare for their upcoming schedule.
The slate does not allow for any breathing room as the Eagles trek north for games at No. 12 Grand Valley State (Friday, 7 p.m.) and Ferris State (Sunday, noon). The games will not count as GLIAC games – both teams will play Ashland at Ferguson Field later this season that will count in the conference standings.
"It's just like playing any big region game," said fifth-year head coach Danny Krispinsky. "That's what they are – two big region games that don't count against our conference schedule. We're not approaching them as any different games. We know these teams really well and know the challenges they bring to the table."
Prior to their long layoff, played three games in five days and started the season with a 1-1-1 record. The Eagles closed the stretch with a 2-1 overtime road win at Lake Erie in which they overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit.
Ashland scored just three goals in the season's first three games, something Krispinsky said his team has focused on during their break from competitions.
"We have to be better in the attacking third, having a little bit more urgency in that area of the field and getting more opportunities created," he said. "We have to play quicker and create more space for ourselves."
The Eagles will try to do that against a Lakers team that has played in the last four NCAA Division II title games, winning three of them. GVSU (2-2) opened the season with a pair of losses, but has since rebounded with two 2-0 home wins over Cedarville and No. 10 Minnesota State-Mankato.
Ashland will then face off with Ferris State (2-3) on Sunday. The Bulldogs lost to Mankato last week, 1-0, but topped Cedarville, 2-1, in Big Rapids, Mich. AU and FSU played to a scoreless draw last season and they split two games in 2015 with Ashland defeating Ferris in the GLIAC semifinals in a wild game, 4-3.
In order for the Eagles to have a successful weekend, they will need to continue their trend of solid defense as they have allowed just four goals in three games.
"We have to stay disciplined in what we're doing and staying mentally locked in on what our responsibilities are," said Krispinsky. "It's going to come down to discipline and if we can fulfill our responsibilities to what we're capable of."