Women’s soccer team begins season with pair of matches

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Women’s soccer team begins season with pair of matches

Jason Howell | The Daily Eastern News
Red-shirt sophomore forward Chris Reed sends the ball up the pitch in a game on Nov. 3 at Lakeside Field.  The Panthers lost to the Cougars 2-1.

Jason Howell | The Daily Eastern News Red-shirt sophomore forward Chris Reed sends the ball up the pitch in a game on Nov. 3 at Lakeside Field. The Panthers lost to the Cougars 2-1.

Jason Howell

Jason Howell | The Daily Eastern News Red-shirt sophomore forward Chris Reed sends the ball up the pitch in a game on Nov. 3 at Lakeside Field. The Panthers lost to the Cougars 2-1.

Jason Howell

Jason Howell

Jason Howell | The Daily Eastern News Red-shirt sophomore forward Chris Reed sends the ball up the pitch in a game on Nov. 3 at Lakeside Field. The Panthers lost to the Cougars 2-1.

Dominic Renzetti, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Eastern women’s soccer team starts its season this weekend with a pair of non-conference matches. The first, on Friday in Highland Heights, Ky., against an opponent its never faced before in Northern Kentucky, and the second, on Sunday at Lakeside Field against Indiana State, a team Eastern has struggled against in recent years.

Northern Kentucky hosts Eastern for the two teams’ first ever meeting at 6 p.m. Friday at the NKU Soccer Stadium. Eastern is the first of two Ohio Valley Conference opponents to play the Norse that weekend, with Morehead State also coming in on Sunday.

The Norse finished 6-10-2 last season and failed to make the Atlantic Sun tournament. The Panthers finished 6-14-0 in 2014, losing in the first round of the OVC tournament to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

Jason Cherry, now entering his second year as Eastern’s head coach, said he expects Northern Kentucky to be a very athletic team.

“I know they’re going to be an athletic team that’s going to go at you,” he said. “They’re going to work hard. Their athleticism is really good. They’ve had some good matches with some other coaches I know.

The Panthers are returning leading scorer Meagan Radloff, who scored seven goals in 2013, as well as assist leader Madison Carter. The Norse is also returning their leading scorer, junior Casey McMillian. The Grand Valley State transfer had five goals and four assists last year.

Cherry said smart play is the key to winning against Northern Kentucky.

“We’re going to have to go there and play smart, play intelligent, and if we do that, and work together, it’s going to be a very competitive game,” he said. “They’re very well coached and I have a lot of respect for them. I’m looking forward to it.

For Sunday’s 1 p.m. home opener, the Panthers are taking on Indiana State, a team they have not beat since 2007.

“The last three or four years, they’ve had our number,” Cherry said.

The two teams’ most recent meeting in 2012 was decided in the 87th minute with a goal from Indiana State’s Sydney Lovelace to seal the 1-0 victory.

The loss left a bad taste in the mouth of the Panthers and Cherry said he knows the seniors are eager for a rematch.

“I know the girls are looking forward to it because of the history,” he said. “I know the seniors really want to beat them before they go out.”

Cherry gave credit to Indiana State head coach Erika True for stretching out the Panthers in their last match and capitalizing on the opportunity, but he insists it’s no longer the same Eastern team.

“We’re a different team,” he said. “We play differently now.”

The Panthers will certainly look different on Sunday. Junior goalkeeper Cortney Jerzy is out for the year after suffering another concussion, leaving it between junior Emily Hinton and red-shirt sophomore Kylie Morgan.

Jerzy started 14 matches for the Panthers last season, but was not cleared by team doctors to play in the 2014 season. Morgan, who gave up 10 goals in five games in 2013, also struggled with a lingering hand injury throughout last season, but Cherry said she is good to go for this year.

Hinton started three games for the Panthers last season, giving up nine goals. Cherry has yet to name a starter for this weekend. Morgan and Hinton split time in the team’s preseason exhibition game against Loyola, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

Indiana State, which was picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll, lost its 2013 leading scorer, freshman standout Abby Reed, who transferred to DePaul. Reed had 10 goals and 22 points for the Sycamores last season.

Dominic Renzetti can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]