BEREA, Ohio – Under the direction of second year head coach Jim Wojtkun, the Baldwin Wallace University women's soccer team is looking to climb up the ranks of the Ohio Athletic Conference in 2018.
In his first year at the helm, Wojtkun's squad finished with an overall record of 11-8-1 and a 4-4-1 mark in the OAC, advancing to the postseason tournament for the fourth consecutive year. Wojtkun returns 15 letterwinners and seven starters from last year's team with a breakdown of three seniors, five juniors and 11 sophomores while also welcoming 15 new faces to the pitch this fall. The Yellow Jacket women were picked sixth in the 2018 OAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.
"We expect this year to be a growth year," Wojtkun said. "We have a solid core of quality players who have bought into our cultural environment, which creates that foundation for growth. The senior leadership has infused into the group and has set the stage to produce at an even-higher level. The junior class continues to make the team better while the sophomores are poised for some breakout performances all across the board. The freshmen, though, are going to challenge the rest of the roster by creating a competitive environment and forcing players to step up every day."
After leading the OAC in most offensive categories last season, senior three-time All-OAC and two-time Academic All-OAC forward Rachel Bender (Massillon/Jackson) returns to lead a young Yellow Jacket offense. The 2017 OAC Co-Forward of the Year posted team-highs of 16 goals and eight assists for 40 points and currently ranks second in BW women's soccer history in career goals and points scored.
Joining Bender in the attack are sophomore forwards Olivia Muldoon (Middleburg Heights/Berea-Midpark) and Kasi Didion (Sandusky/Perkins) along with freshmen forwards Michelina Rush (North Huntingdon, Pa./Norwin) and Margaux Duvall (Avon Lake). Muldoon had a strong finish to her freshman campaign as she netted two goals against nationally-ranked and eventual conference champion Ohio Northern University while Didion, Rush and Duvall will all push to contribute offensively this season.
The midfield position will also provide an added depth to the offense between junior Kenna Poptic (Dublin/Jerome), sophomore Kenna Stones (Dresden/Tri-Valley) and sophomore Kayla Webb (Brunswick). Poptic was the team's fourth-leading scorer a season ago as she recorded career-highs of two goals, three assists and seven points. Meanwhile, Stones and Webb combined for three goals and four assists in their inaugural season, including one game-winner. In the defensive midfield, senior Cassandra Waickman (Stow/Stow-Munroe Falls) will bring her veteran presence and 60 career appearances to lead the entire group.
Rounding out the returning midfielders are junior Claire Cuthbertson (Berlin Heights/Edison), sophomore Kaitlin McGuire (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland) and sophomore Alex Guido (Macomb, Mich./Eisenhower). Cuthbertson missed the entirety of her sophomore season due to injury while McGuire made 16 appearances, mostly on defense. Meanwhile, freshmen Mikaela Henline (Dayton/Huber Heights Wayne), Olivia Kane (Hilliard/Darby), Maddie Farrell (Macomb, Mich./Dakota), Jay Vasvery (Wauseon) and Isabella Reigle (Niles/McKinley) will look to add to the midfield depth in their first collegiate campaign.
Anchoring the back line will be senior two-time Academic All-OAC defender Bri Osborne (Cincinnati/Batavia). Sophomore defenders Morgan Gray (Dublin/Scioto), Josie Fenn (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shaler Area), Bella Szymanski (Cuyahoga Falls/Norton) and Cydney Granneman (Avon, Ind.) each gained valuable experience as freshmen, each making at least 10 appearances.
Freshmen defenders Amanda Donahue (Morrow/Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy), Caitlin Jurcago (Strongsville), Anna Wenzinger (Columbus/Bishop Watterson), Katie Moc (Columbus/Westerville North), Rachel Barnes (Brunswick/Lutheran West), Aundrea Scattino (Girard/Niles McKinley) and Addison Baird (Concord Twp./Mentor) will all battle for time on defense alongside junior Courtney Cofer (Norton) and sophomore Kortney Marzenski (Parma/Valley Forge).
Two junior Academic All-OAC goalkeepers in Emma Bruno (Pittsburgh, Pa./Bethel Park) and Sophia Weidner (Medina) will vie for minutes in the net this season. The two juniors combined for 92 saves, a 1.38 goals against average and eight shutouts in 2017; however, freshman goalie Lyndsey Valentine (Springboro) will also provide some stiff competition as she looks for time in her first collegiate season.
BW opens up the 2018 season with a trip to Erie, Pennsylvania, to compete in the annual Herb Lauffer Memorial Tournament, hosted by Penn State-Behrend College. The Yellow Jackets will take on host Behrend on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 12 p.m. in their first game. The first home game will be Saturday, Sept. 8, against non-conference foe Oberlin College while OAC play opens up on Saturday, Sept. 29, with a trip down to Bexley to take on Capital University.