Wright State grad takes reins of women’s soccer program

Wright State's Destiny Johnson controls the ball during a game vs. Butler this season. Joseph Craven/Wright State Athletics
Wright State's Destiny Johnson controls the ball during a game vs. Butler this season. Joseph Craven/Wright State Athletics

FAIRBORN — Travis Sobers wants to put his imprint on the Wright State women’s soccer program as a first-year coach — and he’ll get to that.

Sobers had a hand as a longtime assistant in helping the Raiders develop a never-back-down mentality, and his top priority is making sure that never wanes.

“First and foremost, I tell the kids, ‘If you were to ask a team about us, the first thing I’d like the opposing coach and players to say is Wright State is a team that doesn’t ever give up. They compete from the first whistle to the last,’” he said.

“We’ve done that in the past, and that’s something we want to continue as a group.”

The 41-year-old Trinidad native was an All-Horizon League soccer player for the Raiders in 2000 and ‘01 and still holds the conference record for goals in a title game with three. He took over after the 2020 season (which was played last spring) for Pat Ferguson, who left to become the Ohio Wesleyan women’s soccer coach.

Ferguson was 148-114-34 in 16 seasons, including a 65-42-14 league mark. He was a two-time coach of the year.

Though the Raiders never won a championship, they made three trips to the league title game and reached at last the semifinals nine times.

“Pat has laid a really good foundation. We were competitive from the time he got here,” Sobers said.

Travis Sobers, WSU women's soccer coach
Travis Sobers, WSU women's soccer coach

Credit: © Courtesy Wright State Univers

Credit: © Courtesy Wright State Univers

The Raiders finished 4-5 against a conference-only schedule in the spring, but they played without forward Destiny Johnson, who was a 2019 first-team all-league pick and the team’s top scorer with nine goals, including five game-winners.

Johnson is back after recovering from ankle surgery, as is 2020 all-conference forward Olga Massombo.

Goalkeeper Jessika Seward and midfielder Lauren Borchert were all-freshman team picks a year ago.

But the Raiders haven’t meshed yet, losing their last three games to fall to 2-4-1. And Sobers has found defeats are harder to shake while occupying the big office.

“Making decisions is a little different, but I like where the team is going,” he said. “It’s just a matter of trying to turn some things around from these last couple days, which haven’t been what I hoped for. But we’re getting there.”

Wright State was picked seventh out of 12 teams in the HL preseason poll, while Milwaukee, which won its third straight crown last spring, is the favorite.

The Raiders open conference play on the road against the Panthers at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“Milwaukee has been the standard-bearer in the league for as long as I can remember,” Sobers said. “They’re going to be circled by everyone as the team to beat.

“But I feel, from 2 to 10, it could be anyone. That’s how wide open the league is. It’s going to be really competitive.”

The 54-year-old Ferguson was ready for a change after last season — the grind of constantly competing against better-funded programs can be taxing — and found an ideal fit at the Division-III school in Delaware, Ohio.

The Bishops are off to a 4-1 start, proving the staples of the program he built at Wright State will work at any level.

“I miss my former players,” said Ferguson, who started his head coaching career at Malone and Mount Union. “They overachieved year after year, and I’m really sad not to be coaching that group now.

“But I’m really happy to be coaching the group I have. It’s been a very positive step for me and one I’m glad I took.”