After strong finish to uncertain season, App State women’s soccer falls in Sun Belt quarterfinals

App+State+senior+midfielder+and+leading+scorer+Mary+Perkins+makes+a+play+during+the+Mountaineers%27+1-0+loss+to+Georgia+Southern+Oct.+11+in+Boone.

Hiatt Ellis

App State senior midfielder and leading scorer Mary Perkins makes a play during the Mountaineers’ 1-0 loss to Georgia Southern Oct. 11 in Boone.

Joey Magnani, Reporter

In a season unlike any other, App State women’s soccer found a way to turn uncertainty into motivation, winning two out of their last three regular season games and taking down UL Monroe in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament before falling to Arkansas State in the quarterfinals Nov. 4.

“I can’t even tell you how many people said, ‘There is just no way you will even play this season,’ so it was just a lot of pushing through and telling ourselves ‘OK, but if there is a way, how are we prepared and how are we going to be ready to roll with the punches?’” said senior midfielder Mary Perkins.

Perkins missed five games this season due to COVID-19 contact tracing, but still scored two goals and assisted another in their win against Georgia Southern. Perkins’ two goals on the season led the team, while freshman Izzi Wood, junior Drew Hallum, sophomore Olivia Cohen, sophomore Lindey Poff and senior Tess Cairney notched one goal each.

Head coach Sarah Strickland is in her 11th year with the Mountaineers. Perkins and Cairney described her coaching style as “supportive,” crediting much of their success to the family environment she creates for the team. 

Although their focus was on a family environment centered around support for each other, Strickland was proud of how they were able to “flip the switch” and treat each game like a business trip. Strickland said she challenged them at the beginning of the season to emphasize improvement and growing each day, and was pleased with how the players responded.

“Each game they have gotten better, and competed, and put together another piece of the puzzle. To have so many young kids on the field and to see how quickly they adapt and implement what we are telling them, I think it is awesome,” said Strickland.

The lineup varies from game to game, but they typically start eight underclassmen; most of the team are freshmen and sophomores, so some younger players had to take on leadership roles. Because of this, they developed a leadership team with players from each grade level.

“We are the ones who step up and say things when they need to be said. It is a huge part of our team and I think it has really helped us to grow this season,” said goalkeeper Kerry Eagleston, who is part of the leadership team.

Eagleston received Preseason All-Conference honors and has totaled 53 saves and posted five clean sheets on the year, which is tied for second in the Sun Belt.

After capping off their untraditional regular season with a win over Coastal Carolina on Senior Day, App State carried their momentum into the Sun Belt Conference tournament, beating fifth-seeded UL Monroe 2-1 in overtime of the first round. The Mountaineers fell to number one seed Arkansas State in the second round 1-0.