By Ty Schadt, Sports Editor
There’s something that all teams feel towards the beginning of a season, regardless of the previous year’s outcome, who is still on the roster or what strength of schedule lays on the horizon. It’s something that can dissipate quickly but reemerge after an incredible victory, or something that can be a constant source of motivation that disappears after a stunning upset. Quite simply, it’s hope.
Of course, how each team will perform is anyone’s best guess. Perhaps the only people with extra insight are the coaches themselves. So, in an effort to generate excitement moving into their respective seasons, RSC volleyball and soccer coaches were polled on who they thought to be the conference’s top teams. Judging by the outcome, it’s safe to say Asbury has the respect of their rivals.
After a stellar 2016 campaign, the Eagles’ volleyball team comes in fourth place out of the RSC’s ten teams. Star middle blocker Kayla Morlan is back for her senior year after leading the team in kills last season. The Eagles prospered during RSC competition last year, posting a 12-4 conference record, despite losing in the conference championship. On the defensive end, the Eagles took a hit this offseason. Carly Butler, far and away the team leader in digs last year, graduated. Those are certainly some big shoes to fill, but should the team continue to grow and develop, you can’t count them out of anything. It seems as though the fourth-place projection should be attainable, if not surpassable.
Women’s Soccer: #2
Asbury’s women’s soccer team comes in second place out of the ten in their division. However, they have something no other team in the RSC has. Reigning RSC Offensive Player of the Year Emily Hubbuch is back for her junior season after scoring 15 goals last year. Their 10-6-3 record was due in part to tremendous offensive and defensive efforts. The Eagles averaged two goals a game and only allowed an average of one. It’s hard to spell out a simpler formula for victory than that. If Asbury can perform to the same standards this season, they should have no problem living up to the lofty projection.
Men’s Soccer: #4
After a 11-8-1 season followed by elimination in the conference semifinals, the men’s soccer team finds themselves projected as the fourth best RSC team. Perhaps the greatest success of their 2016 season was how their selfless play turned into outstanding offense. They were seventh in the NAIA D1 in assists per game, averaging nearly three. That, in turn, translated into three and a half goals per game, a mark that was eighth best in the NAIA D1. Better yet, the fact that the Eagles are returning many players suggests those averages will remain consistent through this season. Forward Noah Welch is returning for his sophomore year, having led the team in goals last season with 16 and landed a spot on the all RSC first team. Midfielder Austin Baker is coming off a successful sophomore year which yielded him an all RSC first team spot as well. All things considered, it isn’t hard to imagine the Eagles having a successful 2017 campaign.
Of course, none of these marks are etched in stone. There are many stories to be written, but it’s fun to speculate. It shall be interesting to see how the ball bounces for each team this fall.