By Michael Evanko
The Youngstown State University women’s soccer team hasn’t had much success the past three seasons, only winning eight games since 2016. After a rough 2018 season, in which the Penguins only won one game, coach Brian Shrum said the team needs to get on a track before they can be successful.
“I don’t know if we were ever on track last season,” Shrum said. “We’ve never had a winning season in 27 years as a program. People ask me if we’re rebuilding. There is no such thing as rebuilding here; its building,”
This past season’s results are nothing out of the ordinary, according to Shrum.
“The most wins YSU has ever had in a season is eight, and that was in a season where they played a Division III school, and those wins are very superficial,” Shrum said. “In my tenure, we will never play a team outside of Division I,” Shrum said.
Freshman Lauren Dolak led the Penguins in scoring this past season with two goals. Dolak is a two-sport athlete in soccer and track. This is a rarity and a big reason why she decided to come to YSU.
“I chose YSU because it’s close to home, and they gave me an opportunity to play both soccer and track,” Dolak said.
She admitted her own play at the beginning of the season started out slower than she would have liked.
“I played better toward the end of the season,” Dolak said. “The beginning of the season was a little rough for me because I wasn’t playing where I’m used to playing. It’s always hard coming in playing with a new team. Towards the end of the season we all started clicking and it started getting better.”
Shrum noted that Dolak spent a large portion of the season out of her normal position.
“Coming into a team with a lot of new players from various backgrounds, different areas, trying to mesh that all together with girls who are all young [can be difficult],” he said. “Lauren played pretty much the whole season out of position. We tried to use her athletic abilities more than her soccer abilities last year.”
Dolak’s progression in her soccer abilities were neglected at times due to her presence on the track team.
“Lauren has a layoff period, and what she’s doing in a Division I setting is rare,” Shrum said. “There haven’t been many two-sport athletes. So, when we are starting our soccer season, Lauren is still with the track team so she’s in shape, but her soccer technique isn’t getting worked on while she’s away from the team.”
Although the team hasn’t put a lot of victories on the record books, both Dolak and Shrum are happy with the effort the team gave last season.
“The trademark of last year’s group was constantly hearing, ‘It looks like your team never gave up’ from the announcers,” Shrum said. “The papers and other coaches would tell me that we fought hard. In years past, the game would get out of hand because the girls would give up. One goal would go in the net then five more. I never got the sense that last years group gave up.”
Dolak mentioned that the team remained battling in every game.
“There were only two games where the scoring got out of hand, but other than that we were competitive in all the other games,” Dolak said.
The team looks to change its fortunes around with the upcoming season, and Shrum thinks a solution is the girls’ attitudes.
“We have been the doormat of most games we’re in, chalked up as a win for the other team,” he said. “They come here with the mindset that they will win. There is a sense that the kids already feel they are defeated when they step on the field. With last year’s results, that thought was probably resignation in their heads at times.”
Although Dolak was a freshman, she felt very little pressure in her new role.
“I felt some pressure to score goals when I was at forward, but it wasn’t anything too crazy,” Dolak said.
Shrum has some goals for the team that are more than just victories.
“Every year we are trying to win a championship here,” he said. “My goal coming in is to put this program on the map and produce a championship level team. We also want to see the program taken more seriously.”
“The senior class came in with 10 girls and only one is left on the team for various reasons,” Shrum added. “You should see it the other way around where we are graduating six [to] seven girls a year. My goal is to see 75% of our freshman class graduate and remain on the team.”