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Women’s soccer: Ohio State paving path for 2017 championships in spring

OSU sophomore defender Haley Walker-Robinson dribbles around an Ohio University player on April 8 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Lydia Freudenberg | For The Lantern

With the 2017 season on the horizon, the Ohio State women’s soccer team will not only attempt to bring home the program’s second Big Ten title, but also its first national championship.

The biggest challenges currently facing the team have little to do with either. Finding new leadership and preparing for incoming freshmen are far more worrisome issues, said senior forward Sammy Edwards.

“We have big shoes to fill,” she said. “We’re going to be missing a big part of our program and a lot of players that were starters last season. They’ll be hard to replace, but I don’t think we need to replace them. I think we need to bring our own things to the table. Hopefully, I’ll fall into a leadership role, so I can help us have a successful season.”

That leadership is invaluable to Edwards and the rest of the team, but healthy competition within the locker room carries equal weight at OSU.

“We have younger players trying to push older players, who are already trying to fulfill roles of leadership,” Edwards said. “It helps us push each other. A lot of times, if you have too many leaders, you might end up having too many players that don’t feel like they’re able to speak up. We have a good blend on the team, so I think it’ll work out really well.”

Led by then-senior forwards Nichelle Prince and Lindsay Agnew, the Buckeyes finished last season with an overall record of 11-7-3 (4-4-3 Big Ten). On Jan. 12, the pair became the first two players in program history to be selected in the NWSL Draft.

While following in such enormous footsteps is no easy task, the leadership qualities Prince, Agnew and other former seniors passed down make the transition much smoother.

“We had some great senior leaders last season, but I think they definitely passed down those leadership qualities to the upcoming seniors and to the rest of the players on the team,” said junior goalkeeper Devon Kerr. “I think our team as a whole, collectively, has good leadership qualities now. Everyone offers something different and useful.”

As OSU’s spring exhibitions wind down and the 2017 season comes into focus, senior midfielder Nikki Walts said that the Buckeyes must adopt a team-first mindset.

“Right now, we definitely have a huge team focus, we all have to step up,” Walts said. “We’ve been trying to come together and figure out what we want for next season. We want to make sure that from the start of the game to the end, we’re on top of everything. We have to be willing to do whatever it takes to win.”

Walts understands that strong leadership often equates to success on the pitch, and it’s her goal to ensure that’s exactly what happens next season.

“Being a role model to all the younger players is something I strive for,” Walts said. “I want to be the one stepping up when the times get rough and just making sure everyone is collectively together, and that we’re all in it for the same reason. Being a role model on and off the field is what I want to contribute to next season.”

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