Players for the Dayton Flyers women’s soccer team reported to campus Monday.
They will practice four times before playing an exhibition game Sunday at the University of Cincinnati. Eleven days later, coach Eric Golz’s second season as head coach officially begins at the James Madison Invitational in Harrisonburg, Va.
Golz had big cleats to fill a year ago. He replaced Mike Tucker, who stepped down after the 2016 season, his 22nd as head coach. Tucker also guided the Flyers to the NCAA tournament in his final season.
In Golz’s first season, the Flyers finished 9-9-2 and 4-4-2 in the Atlantic 10. It was the program’s second straight non-winning season after 20 winning seasons in a row. While the Flyers earned a berth in the A-10 tournament by beating Massachusetts 3-1 in the regular-season finale, they lost their first game, 3-2 to La Salle in the quarterfinals.
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With a season under his belt, Golz said the program feels more like his own.
“We’re excited for year two,” he said. “I think some of the philosophies and cultural values that we’re trying to build and implement and grow are coming to life. We’re excited about the season ahead with a core of returning veterans who got valuable experience last fall but also a large incoming freshman class that we think will add some competition within the team and certainly add some energy and fresh perspective.”
Here are five things to know about the Flyers:
1. Veteran leaders: Senior midfielder Keagin Collie, who has started 30 games the last two seasons, and senior defender Beth Kamphaus, who has 34 career starts, will serve as captains.
“They’ve both played a lot of minutes,” Golz said. “Keagin is a central midfielder. Beth played as a center back. Both are the spine of our team. They both had good falls last year and followed it up with good spring seasons. They’ve continued to grow in their influence and impact and leadership as well as performance.”
2. Freshman class: Dayton has 11 freshmen on the roster. There are six freshmen from Ohio, two from Canada, two from Indiana and one from Arizona.
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Golz expects some freshmen to contribute right away, naming Tiana Bucknor, Magalie Dépôt and Izzy Greene as three who could see early action. All of the freshmen will need time to acclimate to the game, but he expects the group to make the Flyers better by giving them more depth.
“Last year, we were pretty short in terms of how many players we played off the bench,” Golz said. “That’s something we hope to grow this year.”
Senior goalkeeper Kaelyn Johns, who started all 20 games last season, tore her ACL in the A-10 tournament loss to La Salle last season but has been cleared to play as practice begins.
“She obviously has not played since last fall,” Golz said. “We have to get her into camp and get her comfortable and confident again. Coming off an injury where you’re out for that long there’s a mental side of healing as well as a physical one. She’s played a lot of games in her career. We hope her best is yet to come.”
4. Getting started: Many Dayton players spent the summer playing for semi-pro or club teams or completing internships, preparing for life after college.
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When they start practice this week, the first thing they will face is a fitness test so the coaches can get a barometer of where they stand.
“We have standards in place that we expect the players to meet,” Golz said. “Then we’ll begin right away and get on the field and start implementing defending principles. We’ll focus on defending first. As we go through it, we’ll work on developing values and developing roles within the team and developing leadership. The preseason is huge for building relationships both on and off the field and building a sense of purpose in terms of why are we are, what are we doing and what we are trying to achieve.”
5. Offensive potential: Dayton lost its leading scorer, Alexis Kiehl (12 goals), who’s now playing in the first division in Iceland with Selfoss. She finished her career with 45 goals, the fourth-highest total in school history. She was named the A-10 Offensive Player of the Year.
The top returning scorers are junior forward Micayla Livingston (seven goals) and senior forward Sara Robertson (four goals). Senior defender Nadia Pestell, who led the team with six assists and was named to the All-A-10 second team, also returns.