By Darren Zancan

Even after finishing the preseason 1-0-1, Coach Lindsey Basalyga said she feels that the women’s soccer team still has improvements to make. The Colonels beat Union College in the team’s final preseason game 5-1, but Basalyga still said she feels the team was exposed. “We were exposed defensively,” Basalyga said. “Our back line is new and Stephanie Lynch is still getting used to the new players.”

All-OVC goalkeeper Lynch is a four-year starter who has amassed an Eastern record of 302 saves (before Louisville).

But she faces the challenge of leading a defense with one returning player. Junior defender Stephanie Murray, who was named to the OVC-All-Tournament team in 2008, will help Lynch in the backfield.

“We need to build from the preseason and become more comfortable in the back,” Lynch said. “We also have to take chances in the attack. Having back (defensive) players getting in the attack will help.”

Lynch is the last line of defense, so it’s going to take a strong leader to get the attention of the defense.

“Personally I want to work off what I did last year, which is being a vocal leader,” Lynch said. “Being confident will help direct the defense.”

The Colonels finished 5-11-3 (2-4-3) last year and are picked to finish fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“Fifth is a great place to be,” Basalyga said. “We have some respect.”

The seniors have been together for three years now and feel the team chemistry is stronger than it has been before.

“We’re clicking,” Carly Muller, senior, said. “The addition of personality and everyone coming together gives us the best chemistry we can ask for.”

Muller is a pivotal part of the team. The Colonels reached the OVC tourney two years in a row, but Muller is looking to a NCAA berth.

“We have a certain goal, which is the second round of the NCAA Tournament,” Muller said. “It’s achievable and it’s something we can do.”

If the Colonels are to reach their goal, the offense must match the defense for 90 minutes each game. The defense allowed only five goals in eight OVC contests.

On the other hand, the offense only managed 12 goals in 2009. Senior Alex Raich finished with two goals but looks to build off her junior campaign.

“I need to score more goals and lead this team,” Raich said. “We have all the tools. We just have to work hard. Hard work pays off.”

The Colonels opened their season at Louisville Friday night, but came up short in a 4-1 loss.

Courtney Nestor had the lone goal in the 51′ minute for the Colonels.

“Hopefully her (Nestor’s) first goal will spark more opportunities,” Basalyga said.

The Cardinals scored twice within six minutes to take a 2-0 lead heading into halftime. The lead grew 3-0 on a Julie Casselman goal. Nestor followed a minute later for her first career goal, but in the 73′ minute Angelika Uremovich sealed the win with a goal.

Eastern managed just six shots, while the Cardinals pounded out 18 goal shots.

“I think we had a few technical breakdowns, which resulted in two quick goals,” Basalyga said. “They didn’t break us down much. It was a lot of our own mistakes. We can fix them.

The Colonels bounced back to defeat Xavier at home Sunday 1-0. Muller had the team’s lone goal in the 32nd minute on a breakaway.

“On the first breakaway, I struck it too early,” Muller told “I should’ve taken more touches. The second time around, though, I took just the right amount of touches.”

Xavier out shot the Colonel’s 15-11. Lynch recorded her 18th shutout of her career.

The Colonels didn’t have much turnaround time to prepare, playing less than 36 hours later. “We prepare the same,” said Basalyga. “It’s about us. We can’t make any drastic changes.