by Abigail Hintz
462 days after the Cedarville women’s soccer team last set foot on the field, the Lady Jackets will compete once again as the 2020-21 season gets underway on Saturday, March 13. The season will open against reigning Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) champions, Walsh, who also happen to be the team’s last loss.
The G-MAC made the decision in August to push fall sports to the spring due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. For Cedarville this included men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball.
The Lady Jackets, who were ranked third in the 2021 G-MAC Preseason Women’s Soccer Coaches Poll, will hit the ground running and complete the season, postseason included, in just seven weeks. There will be no NCAA tournaments though the administration granted athletes an extra season of eligibility due to the nature of this season. Cedarville will play each G-MAC team one time before the conference tournament the last week of April.
For head coach Jonathan Meade, the condensed schedule doesn’t change much.
“Even though the season has been moved and it’s been shortened, our expectation is still to be at our best and to reach the goals that we have during the normal season,” he said.
Last season, his team made it all the way. They took home the NCCAA championship to cap off a 16-6-1 season with a 10-2-1 record in the G-MAC. Though there is no NCAA or NCCAA tournament this year, Meade still wants to see his team go as far as they can, which means a G-MAC championship.
“Above all those things is we obviously want to play in a way that glorifies God,” Meade emphasized. “That is a way for us to just be a light to those teams and spectators that we’re going to face over the next two months.”
Senior Taylor Noll has seen a lot from her team in the past months of preparing and hopes to see more growth before and after the season begins.
“It’s almost like not having a season has almost brought this individualistic approach because this just hasn’t been a priority in so long,” she says.
The team is focused on ridding themselves of that mindset and building chemistry as the start of the season looms closer each day. Noll says they are working to encourage one another amidst the uncertainty of the season and overcome the mental block faced by so many.
“We’ve been talking a lot as leaders on the team, just encouraging the team to remind ourselves why we’re on the field,” she said.
Meade has been thrilled with his team’s willingness to be flexible amidst the back-and-forth nature of their longest preseason ever.
“To have them head off to class one morning and the next thing you know halfway through the day, we’re not training here we’re training here and it’s been moved to this time instead of that time. They’ve just handled it really well,” he said.
Despite the condensed nature of the season and the team’s familiarity with all of their opponents, Meade expects the competition to be fierce.
“The G-MAC just continues to get stronger and stronger,” he said. “I think everybody’s going to be tough and they’ll have taken steps forward. I think everybody used the fall as kind of like a preparation time.”
The fall did prove to be beneficial for aspects of the program. Meade pointed out that a normal freshman coming into the program will not get much time to acclimate and therefore will rarely see playing time early in the season. However, this year’s freshmen have had several months to work with the squad and prepare for the season.
“I think you’re going to see freshmen have a much bigger impact,” Meade said. “Now I really feel like we have our entire roster to work from for games.”
Noll foresees some challenges in the condensed schedule as the squad’s first game will be their true first game outside of intrasquad scrimmages. They haven’t had the chance to scrimmage or play against anyone since last season.
However, on the flip side of that, the team will have far less time to get burnt out.
“We have literally six weeks of playing before the postseason. So, let’s just give it all we have,” Noll said.
The Jackets graduated four seniors last season and one this past December. This season they will look up to players like Noll, who is one of five seniors on the squad. Overall, the roster holds a lot of youth and Meade expects to see those young players step up this season. They will need to as star junior forward Olivia Hoffman is out with injury this season as well as senior forward Rose Anthony – both significant losses for the Jackets.
The season opener will take place at Walsh with kick at 7:30 p.m. Walsh is tied for first in the 2021 G-MAC Preseason Women’s Soccer Coaches Poll. The Jackets will travel to Ohio Valley next Thursday before coming home for their home opener against Ohio Dominican University next Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Abigail Hintz is a junior Journalism major and the Sports and Digital Editor for Cedars. She loves reading, playing Spikeball with her friends and watching soccer 24/7.