By Seth Lamar
The win-loss column may be looking better than it has in years past for Eastern’s women’s soccer team, but close losses over the weekend to Akron (5-0) and Cleveland State (1-5-1) reminded the Colonels there is still work to do.The Colonels (2-3-1) entered last weekend with the best start in the history of the program before traveling to Ohio for part of the team’s non-conference portion of the schedule. Eastern traveled to Akron on Friday for a rematch against the undefeated Zips to avenge last year’s 1-0 loss, but the Colonels found themselves playing catch-up for most of the game.
Akron outshot Eastern 9-4 in the first half before senior forward Kayla Swearingen tied the game at 1-1. The Zips would take the lead for good late in the second half and hold on to win 2-1.
Coach Lindsay Basalyga called the game a good test and said it would ultimately make the Colonels a better team.
“There’s never going to be a perfect season, but the top teams learn how to overcome adversity, and Akron is a quality team that should prepare us well for the OVC,” Basalyga said. “We need to be capitalizing on the attack; we need to be producing offensively.”
Basalyga was disappointed in how long it took the Colonels to respond offensively, but was pleased in the team’s defensive effort, especially from junior midfielder Eva Hollenberg.
“Hollenberg has been playing really well,” Basalyga said. “She’s our most improved player from last year.”
In the second game of the weekend, the Colonels faced the Vikings of Cleveland State. Basalyga said she hoped Eastern would attack early and often, but the game was gridlocked at zero for most of the game.
Sophomore goalkeeper Stephanie Lynch had another solid performance, playing all 90 minutes and recording eight saves, but it wouldn’t be enough for the Colonels.
The stalemate would last until the 81-minute mark in the match, when Cleveland State’s Sylvia Olsby scored the game-clinching goal for the Vikings. Basalyga said goals late in the game have plagued the Colonels in every loss this season.
“Every time we’ve lost this season, we have given up a goal in the last eight minutes,” Basalyga said. “We don’t grab games in the first half.”
Up next for the Colonels is the long-awaited return to EKU Soccer Field on Sept. 19, when Kent State comes to Richmond. It will be the first home game since Aug. 24 for Eastern after traveling to Tennessee, California and Ohio in recent weeks.
“We’ll be excited to play at home,” Basalyga said. “We’re hoping they respond to that. I think they can get into their own routine, because being on the road wears on you.”
Basalyga said the matchup with Kent State will be a true test of character for the Colonels, and the days leading up to the game will make up an interesting week of practice.