The Ashland University women's soccer team played in the NCAA Tournament last season and reached as high as No. 18 in the United Soccer Coaches national poll.
But now the Eagles look to build on their sustained success and that process starts again on Friday (Sept. 6) when they open the regular season at Ferguson Field against Lewis. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
"It was a great moment for us (qualifying for the tournament), but we're excited for what the future holds," said second-year head coach Taylor Clarke. "Now it's how do we get back there? We know we have the players, the style of play and the grit to get to that point."
The Eagles return almost all of last year's team to the squad this year, losing just two seniors to graduation. Thirty-three of Ashland's 34 goals return, including leading scorer Deijah Swihart, a senior, who scored six goals in just eight games last year as she was limited by injury.
All four of AU's All-GLIAC standouts are returning as well with three of them anchoring the back line, including senior center back Sydney Wright and sophomore center back Tori Baker. Junior Hannah Lee won GLIAC Goalkeeper of the Year honors and will return to mind the net for the Eagles, who posted 10 clean sheets last year.
"We defend as a group, whether that's the 11 on the field or all 33 on our roster," Clarke said. "We make sure that everyone is committed to keep a clean sheet in training, so that when we get to the games, there's no shock to the system. We know what the expectation is."
Along with that the Eagles want to create their own chances, maintain possession and keep the ball away from their opponents. They will emphasize playing from the back and building an attack through the midfield.
Twelve different players scored a goal for the Eagles last year as they hope to continue the development of their depth. Ashland will still be a young squad with just five seniors on the roster.
Ashland and Lewis played for the first time in their histories last season and shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in Romeoville, Ill
Friday's game is one of just two for the Eagles at Ferguson Field in September. They return home on Sept. 19 to face Trevecca Nazarene.