The Ashland University women's soccer team has won five of its last six games and takes that success into a weekend road trip – the Eagles' final one of the season – to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The Eagles (7-4-1, 4-1 GLIAC) start their trip at Michigan Tech (5-5-1, 2-2-1 GLIAC) on Friday at 7 p.m. before traveling to Northern Michigan (2-7-2, 1-2-2 GLIAC) on Sunday for a noon kickoff.
"This is the third year in a row we've done this trip," said fifth-year head coach Danny Krispinsky. What we're most concerned about is that we have two good opponents that we're going to play. They both play very well on their home fields. That's the major concern right now is preparing for what each of those teams brings to the table."
The Eagles are 3-0-1 in four games in the Upper Peninsula over the last two seasons, beating Michigan Tech both times and tying Northern Michigan last year.
Ashland comes into this road trip with confidence in the offensive third. The Eagles have scored 11 goals in their last five games and are coming off a 2-1, double-overtime win over Ferris State.
AU has scored 17 goals by nine different players on the season. Lately, Krispinsky's squad has also had success maintaining possession, which has allowed for a more balanced attack in which the defenders are able to press higher up the field and keep pressure on their opponents.
"That's something that we've wanted since Day 1, but if you can't keep the ball, your outside backs can't get forward," he said. "So I think that shows we've been improving as a whole team. It's allowing our outside backs to get forward because they're not always having to get back because of a turnover.
"The midfield and defenders are picking better passes out going forward, our forwards along the top line are able to hold the ball a little bit better and combine with those around them," Krispinsky said. "Our outside backs are recognizing the situation and are willing to get forward a little bit more."
Senior center back Julie Lacock scored on a corner kick to tie the Ferris State game late in regulation and assisted on the overtime game-winner, sending in a free kick that senior Morgan Bittengle slid into the back of the net.
The defense has stood out for their stinginess as well, facing 17 shots against Ferris State, but conceding just one goal.
"Julie and Sydney Wright have connected so well as center backs," said Krispinsky. "Center backs are the quarterbacks of your defensive system. They have done a great job of organizing and leading by example and they've spearheaded our effort defensively."
Freshman keeper Abby Lampe made seven saves in the Ferris State win and has become one of the top keepers in the GLIAC. She ranks fifth in the league in saves and save percentage.
"The first few games were not great games for her and she knew that," said Krispinsky. "She let in some goals that she knows that she shouldn't be allowing. Whether you're a senior or a freshman, you're going to have to get through some tough times. Lampe has responded and she's shown she's one of the best goalkeepers in this conference."
Krispinsky has also been impressed with the way Lampe and the rest of the back line have developed chemistry as the season has gone along.
"Lampe's not afraid to get after it," he said. "As a freshman, that's rare and impressive that she's willing to get after the girls that are in front of her."
After their trip north, the Eagles will return to Ferguson Field for their final three games of the regular season.