EATON — Third-year coach Michael Bacher is eager to show off just how talented his Eaton girls’ soccer team is.
The Lady Eagles went 3-14 in 2015, and only 1-11 in the SWBL Southwestern standings. But Bacher feels this team will make opponents watch out for Eaton. A strong core of seniors and an influx of younger players is a welcome source of talent for the Purple and Gold.
“Overall, we have improved from a year before,” Bacher said. “Everything showed improvement: goals for, goals against, everything. I think the girls started to believe in the season towards the end of last year. We ran into a tough spout in the beginning of the season with some tough losses. But after that, things started falling in place and our game improved. Into the tournament, the girls started playing the way I wanted them to play. Through the open fields and conditioning, a lot of last season has carried over. The chemistry is there, and the girls are now confident in my coaching.”
A lot of senior leadership was lost from last year with the graduation Madison Bowman and Madison Couch. “They were solid leaders, they were the kind of girls that everyone looked up to last season,” Bacher said. The good news is a large number of returning players will man the field.
Seniors Jessica Spitler and Hallie Wilt are two of the team’s captains. Spitler was named to the All-SWBL honorable mention list last season. Senior Mariyah McKelvin was named first team All-SWBL midfielder, and Kate Bulach earned second-team All-SWBL. Also on the team are seniors Ashley Lehman and Kennedy Smith.
“We had a lot of open fields and conditioning,” Wilt said before an alumni scrimmage. “We worked until we couldn’t work anymore. We didn’t have a good season last year, and I want us to be better.”
“The seniors I have coming back were all sophomores in my first year of coaching here,” said Bacher. “It’s time for them to wreak havoc. They are a really special young group, so they really need to just let it all out.”
“We want everyone to respect us,” Spitler said. “We expect to do a lot better because the team chemistry is much better.”
“I’ve trained a lot more and we’ve all conditioned hard over the summer,” McKelvin said. “I’ve been playing soccer for 12 years. It’s different as a senior compared to my younger days. When I came in as a freshman, I remember thinking that my senior year would never happen. But the time flew by really quick and now I want to make the most of it.”
Ashlyn Black is a returning sophomore goalkeeper who displayed solid play last season. Tyler Pittman is a sophomore All-SWBL honorable mention player who has taken over where Couch left off, according to Bacher.
Emily Dungan and Bulach are special, according to Bacher. “Emily can play the ball very well, while Kate is our beast-mode girl and has the strongest feet on the team. When Kate kicks the ball, people get out of the way,” he said.
Junior Chelsea Cruze, and sophomores Ashley McKee, Abby Liddy, Black, and Kylee Phenis are expecting playing time.
A promising freshman, Taylor Roth, will play midfield this season. “I think she’s going to help us immediately and in the future,” Bacher said.
Other freshmen include Isabella Trader and Montana Smith.
Strength in numbers is the name of the game for Bacher, who has 30 girls in the program — 16 on varsity.
Eaton’s first game of the season was at Edgewood on Saturday, Aug. 20. They will play Preble Shawnee on Thursday, Aug. 25, at Preble Shawnee.
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH