Women’s soccer says goodbye to 7 seniors

Elias Albert, Staff Reporter

Seven seniors on the women’s soccer team are set to play their final regular season home game at Eastern when they host Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Thursday.

These seniors include defender Briana Hickman, midfielders Karlee Deacon and Bianca Navejas, forward Molly Hawkins, forward Hannah Miller, goalkeeper Hannah Vieth and student-assistant coach Cortney Jerzy.

Coach Jason Cherry only had positive things to say about his group of seniors.

“They’re all a pleasure to have on the team,” Cherry said. “They’re a fun group and it translates well to the rest of the team. That’s how college athletics are supposed to be.”

Cherry took time to reflect on the time he’s spent with each of the departing players.

He began with Hawkins, who has recorded a team-leading seven goals and has added two assists. She scored her first career goal back in 2013 in walk-off fashion against Belmont.

“I’m very happy for her,” Cherry said. “She’s just always wanted to do well. She’s adjusted to the changes that we’ve asked her to make and succeeded. She doesn’t have to look back and ask, ‘what if?’”

Cherry said Hawkins has done well to earn some personal success, despite battling through some lingering injuries.

Miller is sitting at four goals and leads the team in shot attempts. Through her Eastern career, she has scored 11 goals and recorded four assists.

“She’s very competitive,” Cherry said. “You can tell just by looking at her that she’s driven to score and help the team win.”

Cherry said Miller has been the source of a number of Eastern’s chances this season and throughout her career.

Navejas has scored two goals during her time at Eastern and has done so while playing an extensive amount of minutes.

Cherry said Navejas is a respectful person both on and off the field.

“She’ll do anything that you ask her to do,” Cherry said. “We’ve tried her in a few different places and she’s always willing to cooperate.”

Deacon was noted by Cherry as another respectful member of the team. Her play has been limited this season due to injury, but Cherry said that she still has an impact on the team.

“She’s been great for the program,” Cherry said. “She puts the team before herself. She’s probably our biggest cheerleader on the sidelines too.”

Hickman has played in all 18 games this season and has racked up minutes throughout her Eastern career.

“She’s a hardworking kid,” Cherry said. “She does a great job on the field and in the classroom. Plus she comes from an Eastern-alumni family.”

Vieth joined Eastern after beginning her career at Illinois Central. She also saw time with Eastern’s rugby team during the last two years.

“She’s a phenomenal player,” Cherry said. “She’s another player who’s adjusted to what’s handed to her. She’s fearless and tough, despite facing some adversity.”

Jerzy was promoted to a coaching spot after playing goalkeeper for the team in previous seasons.

“She’s a great part of the team,” Cherry said. “She’s vocal and she’s a big help to everyone on the roster. A real pleasure to have around.”

As a whole, Cherry said the group of seniors was very cooperative and willing to sacrifice anything for team.

“They’ve grown over the years,” Cherry said. “They’ve remained positive and mature throughout the years. I’m proud to say that I was able to coach such a great group.”

Hawkins said being coached by Cherry was a growing and learning experience that she feels is something that is exclusive to student athletes and their coaches.

“His time here began the same year that we came in as freshmen,” Hawkins said. “He’s been there to see us grow both in the aspect of soccer and also as being young adults.”

Cherry said the group, more than anything, was fun to have around.

“If you aren’t having fun as a student athlete, what’s the point?” Cherry said. “They’ve all been such a pleasure to have around and they’ve been great for the younger players.”

The group of seniors will play the last regular season game of their Eastern careers as they host Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Thursday at 3 p.m.


Elias Albert can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]