By Rick Henneman
The Youngstown State University soccer team will begin the 2017 season looking to improve from its 3-12-2 (1-7-1 in conference) record from 2016. Head Coach Fabio Boateng is entering his second season on the sideline for the Penguins and expects better things from his team this year.
“If you look at our record last season, we conceded a lot of goals,” Boateng said. “In the preseason, we spent a lot of time with our backline. The goal now is to press teams aggressively and keep the ball in front of us.”
Possibly the biggest upside to the 2017 season is the amount of returning talent on the YSU roster. Senior Marissa Martin was named to the Second-Team All-Horizon League in 2016 and All-Freshman team in 2014. Martin ranked second for goals in the Horizon League with six and fifth with 1.33 points per game against league opponents.
Another key player returning to the Penguins is senior defender Sophie McFarland. McFarland contributed to both offense and defense last season by collecting four assists in 2016 while playing in the backline.
Although the Penguins have a lot of talent returning to the team, Boateng has been more impressed with another aspect of his squad.
“The game is funny, talent can only take you so far,” Boateng said. “I think our greatest aspect has been the unity in the team. You feel that family environment and they work for each other. When you feel good about yourself and your teammates it translates on the field.”
YSU will be starting the season in a 3-5-2 formation with three defenders at the back.
“Our goal is to be very strong in the center of the field,” Boateng said about the change of formation. “We want to keep the ball in the opponent’s half of the field and that will take a lot of pressure off of our backline.”
Junior Alison Green will look to carry over the momentum from the 2016 season where she had a career-best two goals and two assists. Green said that she is enjoying the role that she plays in the new formation.
“I think that our formation this year is so much better than what we have done previously,” Green said. “I didn’t know I would be on the outside of midfield coming into the season and we have so much more space to work with. It is really up to us on the outside.”
YSU began their season with matches against Canisius College and St. Bonaventure University.
The Penguins fell on the road to Canisius 1-0 in double overtime on Aug. 19 but bounced back with a 1-0 win over St. Bonaventure at home on Monday night. Boateng was happy with his team’s performance during its home opener.
“This is good for the team’s confidence. Last year’s record wasn’t very good and you start the season with a heartbreaking loss in overtime. It’s a big win for the girls to come home and open your home slate with 1-0 win over a team that beat us 6-0 last year.”
Senior Kyler Lum scored the game-winning penalty kick goal in the 48th minute against St. Bonaventure.
“I think my goal as well as everyone else’s is to just do really well this season,” Lum said about improving this season. “This preseason was very rough on us so every time we need to put in 100 percent. It doesn’t matter if we win or lose if we just put in hard work.”
YSU will continue its season this Friday on the road at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.