The Eastern Michigan University women's soccer team hosted Oakland University Sunday afternoon in a pre-season exhibition match that saw the Eagles secure a 5-1 victory at Scicluna Field.
Whether or not the Eagles could replace the scoring power lost by graduating seniors Angela Vultaggio and Bianca Rossi was the question heading into the upcoming season, but it seems the Eagles have found help in an unfamiliar face.
Red-shirt freshman Kristin Nason spent last season watching her teammates from the bench. Nason didn't see a minute of game time in the 2014-2015 season.
And then on Sunday Nason scored two goals and added an assist on the afternoon in her first competitive match with the Eagles. Nason scored her first on a superb individual effort in the 12th minute that saw the forward put the ball in the top left corner after making a run in the box.
Nason struck again to put the Eagles up 2-0 in the 26th minute when she opted to shoot rather than pass to forward Megan Trapp in a two-on-one situation with Oakland goalkeeper Alison Holland.
"It's a great start for the team," Nason said. "You can't do it without anyone else, we all came out really good and ready and I think we delivered today."
After halftime the Eagles continued their fine run of form with a goal in the 54th minute by freshman Peyton Davis, who also made her debut for EMU.
Five minutes later a great run to the corner by midfielder Ellie Tillar resulted in a cross delivered to the head of junior Madison Hirsch, who in turn put the ball in the back of the net, putting the Eagles up 4-0.
Oakland was able to get on the board thanks to an own goal off ofa miscue by the EMU defense, deflecting the ball past freshman goalkeeper Kaylin Williams in her debut for the squad.
The Eagles then added a fifth goal in 70th minute, scored by junior Michelle Rollins, leaving the game with a score of 5-1 and allowing the defense to take care of the remaining 20 minutes.
In a game that saw the offense gel and come together as a unit, it took the back line of Hallee Kansmann, Julia Lombardi, Rachel Washburn and Chanel Vani time to build some chemistry. But other than a shaky 15 minutes to start the game and an own goal, the Oakland University offense were unable to breakthrough.
Another unanswered question for the beginning of the season was whether or not senior starting goalkeeper Megan McCabe was going to be fit come the end of August.
McCabe played the first half of the game against Oakland, her first action since injuring her posterior cruciate ligament in the offseason, garnering 4 saves with no goals against.
"I feel incredible, it's been a hot and demanding pre-season," McCabe said. "It's nice to finally get out here and play against an actual opponent. I'm very happy with the result."
Williams manned the net for the second half of the match, allowing 1 goal in her first appearance for the Eagles.
McCabe is slated to start Friday when EMU takes on the University of Michigan.
Coach Scott Hall was impressed with his teams win on Sunday, but he knows his team can play to higher heights. Hall was pleasantly surprised with the offensive firepower on Sunday, but he knows more will be needed against upcoming opponents in the beginning of the season.
"This team knows it's going to take all of us as well as different types of goals, one was a serve, one was a break so we have some different types of scoring
"I think the players we have know that we can't depend on some of the past players that scored goals for us and dig us out of trouble."
The Eagles women's soccer team will travel to Ann Arbor Friday evening to take on the University of Michigan. The last time the to Washtenaw County rivals met was in 2013 when EMU fell to Michigan 2-1 in overtime.
"We got some goals in, we've been working a lot on the attack and this game was to get some time under our belts," Hall said. "We have some good opponents coming up in Butler and DePaul, but Michigan is a whole different ball of wax."
Follow Robert Sherman on Twitter: @r__sherman