When a hard-fought season comes to an abrupt end in extra time of a tournament playoff game against a rival school, you can assume that the players on the losing team would feel defeated and deflated.
This was the case for the girls on the Eastern Michigan University soccer team last year when it fell by a score of 3-2 to Western Michigan University in the first round of the Mid-American Conference tournament.
The loss came in double overtime when WMU scored on a header from a free kick set-piece by forward Emma Kahn in the 107 minute. EMU was unable to find an equalizer and suffered a heart breaking loss.
Senior EMU goalkeeper Megan McCabe described the loss as “one of the worst of my career”.
But it seems as if head coach Scott Hall and his staff has learned from past shortcomings, having recruited four attacking minded players for the 2015-2016 season to bolster offensive production.
He also knows that defending set-pieces is a part of the game his team needed to work on in pre-season, but is also looking to score more goals off of set-pieces.
“We hope to not give away goals in set pieces and make teams earn goals,” he said. “We will count on players like Trapp, Tillar and Kansman to help defend and score set-pieces this year.”
The team will have to rely on veteran players from across the field, forward Megan Trapp, midfielder Ellie Tillar, defender Hallee Kansman and goalkeeper McCabe will be instrumental to the Eagles season but Hall looks to his entire team for offensive and defensive production.
“We lost two seniors [from last season] who scored a lot of goals,” Hall said. “This team will need to find scoring from everyone front to back.”
It won’t be an easy road to defending the team’s MAC West division title, and the road to the MAC Tournament will not be any easier as the Eagles look to make it past the first round of the tournament.
EMU plays their first game of the season against Washtenaw County rivals the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on August 24 before playing a handful of out-of-conference matches to prepare the team for its MAC schedule.
The Eagles open their MAC schedule against Ball State on September 25 in Muncie, Ind., but it’s the matches against WMU, Miami and Buffalo that are the most important games that Hall is looking forward to.
“WMU is a big game,” he said. “But all MAC games are tough, everyone is good and playing twice a weekend is a tough grind, so whoever is left standing at the end is pretty good.”
EMU face off against Miami on Sep. 27, Buffalo on Oct. 2, and WMU on Oct. 23.
After last season’s heartbreaking finish, McCabe says the team is going to be ready, and wants to excel past the successes of last season that are clouded by the loss to WMU in the post-season.
“Last year was a very disappointing ending, we expected a lot more out of ourselves that we didn’t live up to, “McCabe said. “So I think this year we’re really going for blood. We have a point to prove.”
Follow Robert Sherman on Twitter: @r__sherman