Eagles seek to defend title behind All-Ohioan Souder

J. Patrick Eaken

Last year, Eastwood girls soccer stunned Northwest Ohio when first team All-Ohio forward McKenna Souder and a group of freshmen joined with a strong contingent of upperclassmen to lead the Eagles to a 19-2 season.
        That included four tournament wins, a streak that led to a Division III regional semifinal appearance, where the Eagles were taken down by Liberty-Benton, 2-0. The L-B Eagles, who gave Eastwood both of their losses, finished 19-1-1 and lost to state semifinalist Archbold, 1-0, in the regional final. All three teams were state ranked by season’s end.
        Eastwood outscored opponents 110-19. The Eagles also won a Northern Buckeye Conference championship, finishing a perfect 10-0 in coach Megan Rutherford’s ninth season.
        Rutherford, who is 94-40-16 for her career at Eastwood, was the District Coach of the Year and Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press COY.
        That does not mean that repeating as league champion will be easy, especially when several other schools had plenty of young talent last year, too.
        “Our league is always difficult,” Rutherford said. “We have a lot of talented players and talented coaches in our league. We are always right up there in the mix with Woodmore, Genoa, and Lake.
        “An added challenge is having to play everyone twice. We should be right up there fighting for first place again this season. Our league is very competitive. We are fortunate to play in such a competitive league as it helps prepare us for the postseason tournament.”
        Souder returns with several talented classmates for their sophomore year, and there are still plenty of upperclassmen to lead the way. In all, Rutherford has 12 returning lettermen.
        “We have a lot of competitors on our team,” Rutherford said. “They are young and they hate to lose. We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of goal scorers, we have great defenders and we have a great goalie.
        “They hold themselves to a very high standard and really go at each other in practices. We have a lot of depth this season. They are really fun to coach because they come to each practice ready and willing to get better every day.”
        Souder, the All-Press and District Player of the Year and NBC Co-Player of the Year, led the team with 33 goals and 13 assists.
        Souder broke the record for goals scored in a single season by four goals and tied the school record for goals scored in a single game with five. She broke the school record for most points in a single season with 79. The previous record was 68.
        All of these records were previously held by Rutherford when she played at Eastwood, who says she “couldn't be happier for her.”
        Rutherford added, “Defenders couldn’t handle her speed, her foot skills, and her finishing abilities. She would have to beat multiple defenders to try to create shots for herself towards the end of the season when teams started to know who she was and what she could do.
        “She is a great team player and she works hard even when she does not have the ball. She gets excited for her team and teammates successes. She is such a joy to coach,” Rutherford continued.
        “She is also a humble player. She doesn't play arrogant, she truly wants the best for her teammates and her team and she will do whatever she can to help the team win. I am so excited to see how the rest of her high school career unfolds.”
        Joining Souder will be senior Raegan Stewart, a first team All-NBC and honorable mention all-district choice and four key sophomores — first team All-NBC selection Sydney Ameling, second team all-league pick Aubrey Haas, and honorable mention All-NBC choices Kaylynn Simon and Mikayla Hoelter.
        The fact that her team remains young bodes well for the program’s future, too, but the Eagles are not looking past this year right now.
        “We are a very young team,” Rutherford said. “We have 23 underclassmen out of 30 total rostered players. We are so young we only four to five players that have their drivers license. I don’t view this as much of a weakness though because our underclassmen don’t play young.
        “They are ready and willing to take on the pressure of big games. They are very cerebral players and soak up information quickly. Our upperclassmen are also doing a great job of making these young players feel at home. They know they belong and are ready to contribute.”


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