COLUMN: Why beating Western Michigan is a must

Nov. 2, 2014 might be a date that lives in painful recent memory for coaches, players and fans of the Eastern Michigan University soccer program. It was the season that was supposed to end in a championship, but Western Michigan University got in the way of championship plans and ended the tournament early for the Eagles.

The team played through 106 minutes of soccer, scored two goals in the 82nd and 89th minute courtesy of Molli Krick and Madison Hirsch respectively, to tie the game and force overtime. The girls fought through one exhausting overtime and had momentum on their side as they watched a header from a free kick beat goalkeeper Megan McCabe and end the Eagles season.

A week earlier the Eagles had beaten the Broncos 1-0.

After the heartbreaking loss the team lost seven players to graduation or other factors, including both Krick and Angela Vultaggio, who led the team in scoring. Also losing Bianca Rossi who scored six goals last year. The losses left head coach Scott Hall’s squad bare in offensive power as well as low in veteran players. This years squad has five seniors.

Going into the 2015-2016 season it was obvious that the Eagles needed to find fire power from within, seeing as the team couldn’t rely on Vultaggio anymore. Redshirt freshman Kristin Nason, senior Megan Trapp and junior Ellie Tillar were expected to make large contributions to the team’s offense to make up for the loss of Vultaggio and the like. But it just hasn’t happened.

Nason has five goals on the season and no other player on the team has scored more than one. Trapp has one goal despite firing 19 shots on net, she hasn’t found the scoring touch that the team has needed.

So why is beating Western Michigan Oct. 23 a must for the Eagles 2015-2016 season? Because beating the team that crushed Mid-American Conference dreams last season is important to the future of the program. With the lack of cohesive offensive opportunity this season, the match against Western Michigan can serve as a measuring stick to life after players like Vultaggio, Rossi, Trapp, Oddan and the like.

How the young squad reacts to the difficulty of playing a team that took the Western Division champions out of last year’s tournament, of which they could of won, will be a test of the teams durability and cohesion.

Young players like Nason, Peyton Davis, Jennifer Bentley, Gabriella Mancini and Michelle Rollins will need to prove themselves in the match against Western Michigan, not only to prove their worth to the program, but to put critics to bed about the cloud above the future of the program.

Beating Western Michigan on Oct. 23 is about more than the road to the 2015 MAC Tournament. It’s about how a program that has had sustained success through the last 15 years, can continue to find success in the face of adversity with an inexperienced, yet talented roster.

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