The Shawnee State women's soccer program, led by second-year head coach Natasha Ademakinwa, will play 17 contests across the 2019 season, including eight home matches at Shawnee Turf and four home bouts against opponents that either received votes or were ranked in the NAIA Top 25 Poll at the end of last year in a schedule release that was made public by Ademakinwa.
Ademakinwa, who enters her second season coming off a 5-11-1 overall campaign in her first year as the head coach of the Shawnee State's women's soccer program, put together a solid season, especially after having to replace two four-year starters on the frontline of the attack in Maddie Woodard and Jenny Campbell in her first season as head coach. Despite losing 30 goals and eight assists from the duo, the Bears still managed to scratch out five wins and scored the same amount of wins on their conference slate (2-5) as the 2017 group obtained (2-4-1).
This season, the biggest challenge for Shawnee State will be equaling the production that four-year goalkeeper Michaela Garner supplied in the goal for the Bears.
Garner, who will slide into an assistant coaching role under Ademakinwa, started from the opening contest of her collegiate career against Rochester (Mich.) and never looked back, earning three Second-Team All-MSC honors over the course of her career in 2015, 2017, and 2018 by amassing 487 saves (third all-time in SSU women's soccer history) while allowing just 145 goals for a goals-against-average of 2.08. Her seven shutouts as a junior in 2017 were the most in a single season in program history, and Garner, who was a three-time All-Academic MSC honoree, also collected the third-best goals against average in program history (1.50) in 2017, which led to the aforementioned 2.08 GAA that put Garner in second place all-time.
Garner's replacement certainly won't have an easy task replacing the aforementioned numbers, but freshmen Hannah Bolender and Hannah Marzolf look to be up to the task. Bolender, a three-sport athlete at Western Brown High School in Mount Orab, collected a goals-against-average under 1.00, while Marzoff, who played at Bethel High School in Tipp City, was a part of a roster that finished a respectable 9-6 in 2018.
Around the remaining areas of the pitch, Shawnee State is aided by the return of seven letterwinners, including Destiny Chester, who is the leading returnee with four goals and an assist despite playing just nine games last season due to injury. Olivia Ball, who has not only played in, but started, each of the 51 contests since joining the program in the Fall of 2016, returns to the lineup, while Jill Kelly, who has played in 50 affairs and started in 45 bouts during her career at SSU, also returns to the lineup. Chester -- a forward -- and Ball and Kelly -- who will be midfielders -- are joined by another experienced hand, Clarissa McKinney, in the senior class. McKinney will be a defender for SSU in 2019. Hannah Smith, Sierra Drake, and Kaelynne Goozey -- who will be sophomores in the program -- also return to compete the seven returnees that the program will sport.
Beyond that, however, much of the production that Shawnee State will experience this year will come from its incoming recruiting class. In addition to the previously mentioned Bolender and Marzolf, 12 additional players will be joining the SSU women's soccer program for their first season under the women's banner, including Brenna Woodard -- who follows in the footsteps of her older sister, Maddie, by joining the program -- Lucy Snyder, Northwestern Ohio transfer Alex Raudier, and local Northwest standout Sydnie Jenkins among others. Woodard posted 48 goals and 31 assists over her high school career at Preble Shawnee High School in Camden, Ohio while leading her team to a 40-14-9 overall record, Snyder scored 19 goals over her last two seasons at Carmel High School in Indiana, Jenkins led McDermott Northwest to its most wins in a season, six, since the girls soccer program started up in 2013, and Raudier, a junior, has notched three goals and two assists over the course of her college career to date. The three incoming freshmen mentioned are all listed as midfielders, while Raudier will contribute as a defender to the program.
However, further production will be coming in the form of several hands from overseas. Nikki Van Wees, a 5-7 forward from the Netherlands, played for clubs such as FC Purmerend and SC Buitenveldert, while Eiilidh Mchattie, a 5-4 forward from Scotland, and Ellie Aston, a 5-0 defender from England bring accomplished finishing and defensive abilities, respectively, bring excellent skills to Portsmouth from programs such as Westdyke and Leicester City Ladies FC. Paige Alford, Ramiah Wallace, Kylie Busick, Cassidy Asbury, and Alli Blank round out the remaining newcomers, with Busick being a part of a three-time 16th Region Championship unit at Russell ('16, '17, '18) in addition to leading the Red Devils to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's Elite Eight in all three of those years.
"I'm excited for our season to start," Ademakinwa said. "With our new additions as well as our five internationals being the first in our program history, I'm excited to get going. I cant wait to see what this team will do. Last year we lost a lot of upperclassmen, so will be interesting to see how our young group of girls will deliver and play. I'm hoping to improve our record and compete in a strong fashion."
While the schedule certainly is of a tough variety, Shawnee State will have a feather in its cap as far as the schedule is concerned as the Bears, after a trio of scrimmages against Glenville State (W. Va.), Cincinnati Christian, and Wilmington on Saturday, Aug. 17, Monday, Aug. 19, and Wednesday, Aug. 21, will open their season with a tough bout right out of the gate against Grace (Ind.) -- who went 20-4-1 last season -- at the Shawnee Turf on Saturday, Aug. 24 to open up the home schedule for all fall sports on the SSU campus. That contest will be at 5 p.m. Following that, however, the Bears also get Carlow (Pa.), Union (Ky.), and West Virginia Tech at home as Shawnee State plays the trio on Wednesday, Aug. 28 (6 p.m.), Wednesday, Sept. 4 (5 p.m.), and Wednesday, Sept. 11 (5 p.m.), respectively.
Following the four-game homestand, the Bears will hit the road for six consecutive games beginning with a bout at Ohio Christian University on Saturday, Sept. 14. Road contests with Point Park (Pa.) (Tuesday, Sept. 17, 6 p.m.), Brescia (Ky.) (Saturday, Sept. 21, 2 p.m.), Lincoln Trail (Sunday, Sept. 22, 2:30 p.m.), Cincinnati-Clermont (Thursday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.) and, last but not least, a Mid-South Conference opener against Campbellsville (Saturday, Oct. 5, 6 p.m.), follow afterward.
After the six-game trip, the Bears return to Shawnee Turf to play two perennially tough Mid-South foes in Lindsey Wilson and Cumberland (Tenn.) -- who SSU faces on Tuesday, Oct. 8 and Saturday, Oct. 12 (Homecoming) at 5 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively -- before heading back to the road for three consecutive games, including Georgetown (Ky.) on Wednesday, Oct. 16 (6 p.m.), MSC newcomer Thomas More on Saturday, Oct. 19 (5 p.m.), and Pikeville the following Saturday on Oct. 26 (1 p.m.). SSU closes the 2019 regular slate with two additional home bouts against Life (Ga.) at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30 and Cumberlands (Ky.) at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1. The latter of the two affairs will serve as Senior Day for the program.
Looking ahead, the Mid-South Conference Tournament slate is set to begin on Thursday, Nov. 7 with the MSC Tournament Quarterfinals in Bowling Green, Ky. The MSC Conference Tournament Semifinals and Finals are scheduled for the following week -- Thursday, Nov. 14, and Friday, Nov. 15 -- in Bowling Green.
If SSU wins the MSC Tournament Championship or obtains an at-large berth, the NAIA Opening Round contest will be played on Saturday, Nov. 23 at host campus sites. The NAIA National Tournament is scheduled to run from Monday, Dec. 2 to Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Orange Beach Sportsplex in Orange Beach, Ala.
To get to that point, the Bears will have to play quality soccer against 10 teams with winning records on their schedule, including Grace, Lindsey Wilson, Cumberland (Tenn.), and Cumberlands (Ky.), who were the teams who either received votes or finished inside of the NAIA Top 25 at the end of the 2018 season, and Cincinnati-Clermont, who won the USCAA (United States Collegiate Athletic Association) Division II National Championship in 2018.
However, Ademakinwa believes that the 21 girls available in her program are ready for the tests that lie ahead.
"The Mid-South Conference challenges us, and we compete against highly ranked competitive teams," Ademakinwa said. "It will be a challenge again this year, but one that I'm sure we will be ready for. I now have confident fighters who are up for the challenge. This year can be a year to build a foundation for the upcoming years or a year where our new team can compete for a winning season. That will be up to the girls."