By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University soccer team came in with a new attitude and confidence heading into the start of the 2016 season.
The Penguins have a new head coach in Fabio Boateng. He previously coached at Mississippi Valley State University.
After finishing with a 7-11 record last season, the players are excited to play for the new coaching staff. Boateng is offensive-minded and made it a point of emphasis to improve the YSU offense.
The Penguins struggled to score goals in 2015. YSU scored 16 goals in 18 games last season, but were only able to muster five goals in the final eight games of the season. Boateng has experimented with different combinations of players in the preseason to find players that complement the system.
“The good thing is we have most of our offensive players back. In our scrimmage against Canisius [University] we didn’t have four or five of them,” Boateng said. “We have them back today. [We’re] trying different combinations.
“Our goal is to score goals. If we don’t score, then we’ll never win. Defensively, we look very strong. If we could generate something going forward…that is the goal. We think that we’re not there yet, but we’re close.”
YSU has added Ernestina Abambila and Shani Jefferson, transfers from Mississippi Valley State. Abambila, a midfielder, and Jefferson, a defender, transferred after Boateng took the job as the head coach.
The players and staff have been impressed with the roles the transfers have taken since transferring to YSU and the success they’ve had in the preseason. The players have looked to Abambila and Jefferson for advice while trying to learn the different sets.
“We didn’t know the coaches that well, obviously, they came in January or February. We have two in Shani and Ernestina that both know Fabio,” Sophie McFarland, junior, said. “It’s comforting to know that they got along with him well, and they had confidence in him. I think, in that aspect, it was a lot of change that we were scared of, and they helped us not only understand the set better, but also understand that we should have confidence in Fabio.”
Marissa Martin, junior, said the players have improved over the summer, and the younger players that were forced to play last season have ‘stepped up’ heading into the new season.
“A lot of the freshman from last year have really stepped up. I know Alison Green has really done well,” Martin said. “She was a freshman forward last year, and she is a sophomore, and she’s really picked up her game. Same with the defenders, Paige Thompson and Sara Magno, they’ve all stepped up, and they’ve definitely improved over the summer.”
The players have seen a change in the team’s personality since the new coaching staff took over. The players are practicing harder and showing more energy during the preseason.
“I think we’ve worked on our hard work and intensity. I feel like we’re not going to give up goals late, because we’re tired or because we don’t try. I feel like our work effort has increased a lot,” Martin said.
YSU won the season opener on August 19 after beating Robert Morris University 1-0. Junior Kyler Lum scored the game-winning goal in the 62nd minute. Goalie Katie Montgomery played all 90 minutes and recorded six saves in the shutout.
The Penguins will play the second game of the season at the University of Central Michigan on Friday. The game is set to start at 6 p.m.