The Ashland University men's soccer team raised a trophy last season and played in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
The journey to lifting another trophy begins Thursday (Sept. 5) as the Eagles trek to Painesville, Ohio to take on Lake Erie in a nonconference matchup.
"The preseason is what it is. A lot of times want it to be over before it's started, so it will be nice to get out and start the season," said fourth-year head coach Oliver Slawson. "We have some guys with an opportunity to get to the level we were at the last time we played a competitive fixture.
The Eagles finished last season with an 8-10-3 record, but it was the way they finished that raised eyebrows and expectations for this season. Ashland went 6-2-2 over its final 10 games on the way to a GLIAC Tournament title and the program's sixth berth in the NCAA Tournament. Ashland nearly advanced in the bracket, but were halted in the first round by Saginaw Valley, 4-3, in overtime.
The Eagles scored 22 goals in their last 10 games last season as they played their way to full strength and health in the second half of the season.
"We'll need to focus on ourselves as a work in progress," Slawson said. "We'll emphasize our identity and our brand. That shouldn't be dictated by the personnel we have out there. We need to do things these first few weeks so that we can have a longer season at the end of the year."
Junior Justin Libertowski, who recorded a hat trick in the Eagles' 5-3 defeat to the Storm in last season's opener, finished the year with a GLIAC-leading 13 goals – the fifth-most in program history.
In the defeat to Lake Erie last year, the Eagles held a 2-0 lead after just seven minutes, but the Storm scored three before the break and put the game away in the 85th minute.
Lake Erie finished 9-6-4 last season and played in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference semifinal.
Ashland and Lake Erie have split 10 contests all-time.
After Thursday's opener, the Eagles are off until their first home contest of the season against Walsh on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m.