By BRIAN LESTER
University of Findlay women’s soccer coach Crystal Dye feels good about her team as it heads into a new season.
After all, the Oilers have seven returning players and all seven are starters. Dye is hoping that experience translates into success on the field as UF takes aim at its first winning season since 2010.
“It’s been a little up and down in the preseason, but things have gone well overall,” Dye said. “I feel good about this team because I think we have a great opportunity to be successful.”
The Oilers missed out on the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament a year ago, finishing 8-8-2 overall and 4-6-2 in the conference. They are picked to finish ninth in the league this season.
Dye believes consistency will be the key to success for the Oilers, who opened last year at 4-1 but never carried that momentum through the rest of the season.
“I think we are a very tight-knit team and we are playing well together,” Dye said. “That is a great thing to help us find that consistency. We continue to get better at it each day.”
Senior forward Eryn Weber will be vital to the Oilers’ success. She is the leading returning scorer and a first-team all-GLIAC selection. Weber scored nine goals and dished out five assists last season.
Senior midfielder Danielle Hart is also back and is coming off a year where she scored two goals and tallied five assists.
Kirsten Fruchey, a senior midfielder/forward, also returns after scoring four goals a year ago.
Those three accounted for 15 of the Oilers’ 29 goals.
Junior Kendall Kwiatkowski (midfielder) and senior Emma Owens (midfielder) should provide a boost to the offense this season, although Owens is currently hurt. Kwiatkowski scored two goals last season.
The Oilers did out-shoot the majority of their opponents last season but were unable to cash in a lot of their scoring chances.
“We out-shot almost every team we played, but on the other end, we didn’t win some of those games. The finishing part hurt us,” Dye said. “We’ve worked a lot on finishing opportunities.”
From a defensive standpoint, the Oilers are counting on sophomore Kate Prewitt to lead the way. The second-year defender is also a captain for the Oilers.
“She played in the middle last year,” Dye said. She has that mentality of being the instructor out there. We’re expecting her to have a great season.”
Senior Samantha Edwards, a Kalida grad, and junior Katelyn Anderson also return to help anchor the defense. Anderson battled an injury last year but is healthy again and could be a difference maker.
In goal, Samantha Trimboli returns. She started in five games and gave up 16 goals while making 40 saves. Trimboli is being pushed in practice by freshmen keepers Bre Parish and Madison Moore. Parish is a Riverdale graduate.
“Sam has a lot of experience, but the two freshmen are giving her a run for her money,” Dye said. “It’s great to have that competition in practice. All three are fighting for time.”
The Oilers will be tested early as they host Lewis out of the Great Lakes Valley Conference and travel to Lee, which owns four NAIA national titles. Lewis finished 8-7-2 last year while Lee, in its second year at the NCAA Division II level, went 14-42.
The highlight of the GLIAC schedule is a Sept. 28 battle at home against defending national champion Grand Valley State, the preseason No. 1 team in the country. The Oilers beat the Lakers 3-2 two years ago. It was GVSU’s only league loss that season.
Dye said her team is ready for the challenges ahead this year as it tries to earn a trip to the conference tournament. UF opens the season on Sept. 6 at St. Joseph’s. GLIAC play begins on Sept. 26 at Malone.
“I definitely think we have a chance to be one of the better teams in the league,” Dye said. “Getting into the playoffs is the big thing. If we can get in and win a game, anything can happen at that point.”