The Embry-Riddle women’s soccer team had a successful return to play in 2021, winning the California Pacific Conference and earning a spot in the NAIA National Tournament after not playing in 2020. The Eagles will have its sights set on the same goals, and even higher, as they start a new campaign on Tuesday.
The Eagles really found its groove at the end of the season, winning nine of its last 11 games in 2021. While the team graduated some of its starters and key players, ERAU is returning a lot of contributing performers to the team.
One place that there is a lot of experience returning is the back end. Key players like Aryanna Sanchez, Haley Matthews, Ellie Neal and Paige Thompson are back, and can be big when it comes to helping two younger goalkeepers.
“These two goalkeepers [Annabelle Ruckle and Lucy Hayward] have really been pushing each other,” Sanchez said. “I think they are really pushing each other to greatness and I am really excited to see what they can do with it.”
The offense is returning a lot of firepower as well, including two forwards who had excellent Freshmen seasons. Haley Harris was named Cal Pac Freshman of the Year after an eight-goal campaign, and Rae Yoshioka scored seven goals during the first season in Prescott. With a lot of the same forward and midfield group returning, it makes the offense a lot easier to run.
“It’s relaxing because I know I can slip a through ball and someone is going to be at the end of it,” Yoshioka said. “I know where they are going to cross the ball, and where they are going to make runs because its like we read each other’s minds.”
This Week’s Matches
OUAZ (1-1-0, 14-5-3 in 2021) – The Spirit split its first weekend of the year in Southern California, which included a win over Cal Pac member Saint Katherine. Last season, OUAZ reached the semifinals of the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament, and reached the final match of the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament. OUAZ also returns four All-Conference players and NAIA All-American Honorable Mention Cassidi Calzaretta.
Rocky Mountain (10-5-3, 7-4-1 Cascade in 2021): The Battlin’ Bears will start its season against OUAZ on Saturday, looking to build off of a successful 2021. RMC reached the Cascade tournament, losing on penalties against Southern Oregon. The Battlin’ Bears had three players earn All-Cascade honors for a great season.
Last season, the Eagles captured its seventh Cal Pac Championship, whether it be via a regular season, tournament championship, or both. The Eagles finished with the best record in the Cal Pac last season, and won both of its conference tournament games to capture the crown.