Wright State women’s soccer team poised for breakthrough season

Wright State women’s soccer coach Pat Ferguson makes it a priority to scour area high schools for talent. He’ll also pursue prospects from distant locales — senior star Niki Romero hails from Las Vegas — but Ferguson never wants to miss on an impact recruit from the Raiders’ backyard.

Thirteen of 31 players on the roster are homegrown, including several stalwarts. Junior forward Aaliyah Patten of Fairborn was an All-Horizon League pick last year. Senior midfielder Sarah Colvin of Tipp City is a two-year starter and has scored one of the team’s four goals this year. And junior forward Kayla Shrubb of Piqua is in her first year as a starter after transferring from Indiana State and also has a goal.

Junior forward Brinna Price of Tipp and freshman forward Brittney Petrosky of Beavercreek are getting extensive playing time, too.

“We really seek out some of those kids who maybe got overlooked, that maybe local colleges passed on or didn’t want take the time to go and watch them play at certain events. And I think a lot of those local kids really want to be at Wright State,” said Ferguson, in his 12th year.

“From a recruiting standpoint, we’re not interested in getting the best players, we want the right players. And we want kids who want to be part of the program.”

Ferguson has a connection with top area players because of his ties with the Ohio Galaxies FC. He coaches three teams and is the director of girls player development for the club, which trains at the Athletes in Action facility in Xenia and draws from the Dayton and Cincinnati areas.

Wright State is an attractive option for many of them. Patten was intrigued by the school because her siblings went there.

“A lot of those local kids have grown up and said, ‘That’s where I want to go and where I want to be,’ ” Ferguson said. “It’s a good thing because being part of the program is special for them.”

The Raiders are 2-2 and are coming off a 2-1 win Sunday at Miami. Though they were only picked fifth out of 10 in the conference preseason poll, they could be poised for a breakthrough.

They returned 90 percent of their scoring from 2016 and nine of 12 players who started at least 11 games.

“Our senior class is just a really good class, not only in terms of talent — we have some special players in that class, of course — but in terms of leadership and their willingness to do whatever it takes to ensure our collective success. I’ve told them I’ve never had a really good team that overachieves unless we have a good senior class. That’s helped a lot,” Ferguson said.

The freshman class has been a surprise. Petrosky was expected to redshirt but was too good to keep out of the lineup.

“We’ve gotten some minutes out of kids we really didn’t expect,” Ferguson said.

The Raiders finished 6-11-2 overall and 4-4-1 in the league last year, but seven opponents reached the NCAA tournament. The schedule this year doesn’t look much easier — after hosting St. Bonaventure on Thursday, they play on the road Monday against national runner-up West Virginia — but Ferguson likes a rugged lineup of non-league opponents.

“Everything we do out of conference is just a preparation to try to get us ready for the conference,” he said. “We’re challenging the kids. And, hopefully, that’s going to bode well for the season.”

The winner of the Horizon League tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. The Raiders’ goal is to play in the event for the first time since three straight appearances in 1998, ’99 and 2000.

“We could go 17-0, but if we don’t get to the NCAA tournament, those seniors and juniors are going to be sorely disappointed,” Ferguson said. “In the league, we feel we’re, if not better than everybody, then at least as good as everybody. That’s something within our grasp.”

Golf: The Raiders have a new coach in Brian Arlinghaus, who was an assistant the last two years. He has a good nucleus returning but will have to replace Ryan Wenzler, who was co-Horizon League player of the year last season.

If golf is 90 percent mental, as many instructors believe, then the Raiders are in good hands. Arlinghaus works with athletes of all ages on their mental approach as the owner of Cincinnati Sports Psychology.

Wright State opens the fall season Tuesday and Wednesday in Crusader Collegiate in Chester, Ind., which is hosted by Valparaiso.

Cross-country: Wright State’s first meet is at the Queen City Invitational in West Chester on Saturday. Both the men’s and women’s teams return a second-team all-league selection from last year: Nathan Brown, a sophomore from Covington, and Aurora Turner, a junior from Beavercreek.

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