As with all fall sports teams for Eastern, the Panthers women’s soccer team and head coach Jake Plant had to make some big changes after the Ohio Valley Conference announced on Aug. 14 that all fall sports will be postponed until the spring.
“My first thoughts were that it was obviously the right decision,” Plant said, “because we’re at a point where guaranteeing safety and making sure that the safety of the athletes and the team is the most important thing.”
Eastern looked to make its third OVC Championships appearance in as many years this fall, and while Plant said members of the team are downhearted that chance has been moved to spring, the team ultimately understood and backed the decision.
“We’ve got a pretty mature group,” Plant said. “The team also kind of acknowledged it as the right choice as well, and as much as they’re disappointed that they don’t get to play, they were already here early, ready to start competing hard and they were ready to go if they were given the go-ahead. But because they weren’t, they’re just going to adjust their energy elsewhere.”
The roster makeup for Plant’s squad changed quite a bit from last season, as the Panthers lost reigning OVC defensive player of the year and goalkeeper Sara Teteak, long-time defensive anchor Lindsey Carlson, leading goal-scorer Sarah DeWolf and three other consistent senior starters.
With 14 new faces on the roster since the Panthers’ last game in November of 2019, Plant said that if there is any benefit that could come from the postponement, it is the ability to have more time to work with the team throughout the extended offseason.
“That’s a big number for a soccer team to add,” Plant said, “so that development stage and making sure all of those girls are on the same page … so by the time we hit February or March or whenever we get going, it’s like they’ve been here the whole time, which is great, so honestly, it’s a huge silver lining for us.”
As of now, Plant said the team is awaiting confirmation but anticipating being able to hold team activities including meetings and workouts for eight hours per week, the typical figure for the team’s spring season.
He said he expects this fall to look similar to a regular fall season in terms of how the team structures workouts and player development, but the biggest difference will come from a lack of games during non-competition season since Eastern can typically play five games in the spring.
The Panthers finished last year at 2-5-3 in conference play and 4-10-4 overall.
Oscar Rzodkiewicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]