@EWUSoccer Enters 2014 Season with Healthy Mix of Returning Players and Promising Newcomers

Returning veterans and new players unite for the upcoming Eastern Washington women's soccer season.

There is much to be excited for in regards to the upcoming season for the Eastern Washington women's soccer team.

This year's team consists of many new faces and names which include a new coaching staff. New head coach Chad Bodnar is excited to create a long lasting and successful program at EWU. Along with Bodnar comes assistant coach Max Weber and goalkeeper coach Rich Cullen.

Bodnar and Weber both come from Walla Walla Community College where the program achieved an astounding 210-15-11 record under their leadership. Also at Walla Walla, they were able to win three NWAACC Championships and nine East Region titles. The coaching staff is looking to bring their tough mentality to the team.

"Players are going to have to adapt to the way we do things," said Bodnar. "They are going to have to learn the new philosophies, the new training and understand that they are going to have to work hard on a daily basis to earn their way individually, and to earn our way collectively as a group."

In addition to the new coaching staff, Eastern returns with 11 letter winners from last year. Perhaps even more exciting is that 14 new players will be joining the veterans.  Head coach Bodnar is confident that this year's blend of players will be positive aspect for the team.

"Our strength is the mix of the veterans that already exist on the team and the fresh faces that are bringing energy and competition to our group," Bodnar said, "Everyone right now is ready and willing to make an impact. It is a good blend of players."

The Eagles are currently underway on building that strength. "Right now our biggest challenge is understanding everyone's roles and what they contribute to the group. It's all new, and it's very different, and it's going to take time to gel as a program. " said Bodnar.

When asked about the leadership on the team Bodnar commented, "The team is wide open in terms of leadership. Everyone is capable of being a leader. Right now, all the seniors I would say have done well taking people in and being receptive to new things. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the younger players to step up into a leadership role as well."

One of the stand-out seniors and potential leaders for this year's squad is All Big Sky forward Cassie Black. Black has been a shining spot on the Eastern roster for some time and will be looking to continue her strong attack while staying committed to pushing and challenging herself on the pitch. She finished last season leading the team in points (8), shots (53) and shots on goal (23). Additionally, Black is already EWU's career leader in goals entering her senior year.

Many other outstanding players return to form Eastern's back line. Returning to the defensive end of the field is last year's assists leader Kayla Sutter along with senior Katie Cashman and senior Jessica Wallace.  Also returning is starting goalkeeper Nathalie Schwery who achieved a .744 save percentage last season. Both the coaching staff and the team are looking forward to having a solid returning defensive end that has great game experience.

Seniors Haley Stading and Marianne Johnson return to form an active midfield for the Eagles while competing for playing time with some of the younger players on the team who are looking to excel. Some young players that are currently making themselves known are Kiana Hafferty, a transfer from Seattle Pacific University, and Chloe Williams, a local freshman from Spokane.

Despite many returning positional players, don't expect to see some of the players in the spots they have played in the past. Bodnar commented on the positional breakdown by saying, "Our first thoughts for the team were to expect players to in be in some new spots. We aren't good enough at this point as a program to say someone is locked in to a spot. We are going to have to be able to adapt, and we are going to have to be flexible. The best kids that have earned a spot will play, and we will continue to push each other on a daily basis to continue to improve"

The battle for positions and playing time is still underway. Assistant coach Max Weber stated that, "We are still learning the players. We have to take each practice and game as it comes and see where it goes from there."

The Eagles are primed and ready to deal with all the challenges that will be headed their way this season. They are looking to complete their season goals and improve as a team. Bodnar talked about the goals and challenges that the team will face this year. "Our eyes are set toward the end of year," he said, "All we can do is believe in ourselves and we definitely would like a chance to play for something that matters at the end of the season."

"The toughest test for the team this year is going to be finding a way to become a full cohesive unit. Finding a way to mix will take us a long way."

Additionally, Bodnar agreed that he had challenges of his own by saying, "Getting to know the competition, learning the fields and learning the environments is going to be tough. We're on the road a lot this year, so we are going to have to do our research but I see this as a good thing. We are embracing the unknowns."

Eastern has a tough schedule lined up for this year with only six of 18 games taking place at home. Eastern has several tough non-conference games against teams like Fresno State, Seattle and Hawaii. The Eagles also face Idaho twice this year. Idaho was ranked ninth in this year preseason coach's poll.

With a healthy mix of returning veterans and exciting newcomers, fans of EWU Soccer have a lot to look forward to in 2014.

The season kicks off against Gonzaga on Thursday, Aug. 14th in Spokane, Wash.

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