As the 2014 season barrels toward the University of Toledo women’s soccer team, all the questions that come with being a young team apply to the Rockets.
How will the inexperienced players fit together? Can they hold possession? Will they be able to finish in the 18-yard box? Can they own the defensive third?
The concerns for 14th-year coach Brad Evans, at least before Friday’s opener against Detroit, are broad.
“I’m worried about all of it,” Evans said with a grin.
Of UT’s 26 listed players, 17 are freshmen or sophomores, and Evans said up to six freshmen could be playing at any given time.
Two injuries and Isabella Echeverri’s call-up to train with Colombia’s national team have thinned Toledo’s midfield, and the nonconference schedule does few favors for the Rockets. There are road games against No. 7 Michigan and No. 16 Notre Dame, to say nothing of back-to-back-to-back home games against Xavier, Pittsburgh, and Ohio State.
Evans said he wants to see his team learn from early-season challenges because all of his players will be needed by the time Mid-American Conference play hits.
“Pretty much everybody’s going to have a role to play. And I like that,” Evans said. “I think it keeps the kids fresher and more motivated because it’s not a 14-player team.”
Toledo has made four NCAA tournament appearances in the past eight seasons, but the Rockets missed the eight-team MAC tournament for the first time in nine years in 2013.
Even though this team isn’t expected to contend for another MAC title, Evans said Toledo’s maturation this year will be crucial for its future.
“What matters is that we progress from last year. That's the most important thing,” Evans said. “We know how to build a championship team, but we’re not there right now, so we have to get better.”
UT STARTS “VICTORY DAY”: Toledo is holding its first “Victory Day” from 5-7 p.m. Saturday at the Glass Bowl. Area students with cognitive or physical impairments are invited to participate in game-day activities, during which they will be partnered with a Rockets football player.
Toledo Public Schools is co-hosting the event.
TENNIS SCHEDULE SET: Toledo announced its schedule this week, highlighted by two fall tournaments in the area. The Rockets travel to Bowling Green on Sept. 19 and host their own tournament Oct. 3.
Dual team play doesn’t begin until January.