Ohio soccer mentor Aaron Rodgers has pretty much seen time from a number of perspectives in his stewardship of the Bobcats.
Good times finishing in the upper levels of the MAC and hosting (and winning) a playoff match.
Not so good times dealing with injuries and rough seasons when the ball bounces the wrong way at the wrong time.
Confusing times with Covid that change the prospects of when and if a season can actually happen, not to mention recruiting in a pandemic.
About the only time he’s not experienced is a live performance of Morris Day and the Time performing Jungle Love.
But Rodgers’ love and passion is soccer and he is most definitely looking forward to a relatively normal season at the helm of Bobcat futbol.
“Our 2020 season was postponed so we had a schedule in the Winter and Spring. It was an adjustment to say the least, but we got to play every healthy body on our roster. It’s been a quick turnaround considering our last meaningful game was April and not November.”
With that recent experience for last year’s freshman class, Covid rules allowing extra eligibility, three transfers, talented incoming freshmen, and sold returners, Rodgers sees the upcoming campaign in a positive light. “We have one of the best overall team chemistry I can recall. There is a ‘team first’ positivity with this group and they are blending in really well.”
Taking a look at the squad, senior Sam Wexell returns at the most experienced goaltender but will be in competition with junior Reece Dorsey and grad student Ana Aquado, a Minnesota transfer.
The back line is aptly anchored by stalwart Paige Knorr, a Covid returnee, and seniors Olivia Sensky and Morgan Collica. The defense is filled out with the experience of Ella Bianco, Heather McGuire and Elle Ferguson. Add frosh Maddie Coates, Kennedy Rieple, and Quintin Tostevin into the equation for playing time.
Moving to the midfield, the competition for spots will be interesting since there is substantial depth, experience, and promise. Shae Robertson, Carson Prigge, and Isabella Ginocchi made the all-MAC freshman team last year and look to parlay that into a successful sophomore season. Veterans Haley Miller, Olivia Derrow, Konstantina Giannou, Izzi Boyd and Sarina Dirrig bring experience to the middle. Blending into that critical third will be touted freshman Ally Campanella and Pitt transfer Madison Clayton.
“We should be really strong in the middle, both initiating the offense and working with the defensive set. We should be able to hold, attack, and disrupt as part of our overall game plans.”
The number of options in the attacking scheme should be exciting. All-MAC forward Abby Townsend is a game-proven goal machine. Joining her are fellow seniors Maeve Maloney and Taylor Dickerson along with junior Reagan Berg, sophomores Payton Rigg and Aubrey Rea.
Newcomers include Widner transfer Julianna Farina and freshmen Emma Adams.
“We should have some good speed up top and increasing our strategic movement should result in goals,” Rodgers assessed. “My assistant Cortney Wiesler and I will have a lot of decision to make considering all the talent we have. It’s a good problem to solve.”
Gabby Isola and Ash Allanson will also be assistants on the Ohio staff.
The pre-season will be taxing with matches against VMI, Navy, Northern Kentucky, James Madison, Eastern Kentucky, Cleveland State, Western Carolina, and local foe Marshall.
The first home game will be against Marshall on August 26.
“We’ve developed some rivalries with several of those non-conference teams so that should get us ready for the MAC campaign.”
The conference schedule will begin on September 23 with a home tilt against always-physical Buffalo. Home games at Chessa Field are free.