Soccer Relying on Pair of Seniors to Lead Youthful Roster

Sep 6, 2016

Tonia Parisi and Angela Black
Credit Morehead State Athletics

Unlike most of their teammates, Tonia Parisi and Angela Black know what it's like to win a conference championship and play in the NCAA Tournament.

They are the only seniors on the Morehead State roster, and they are joined by just two juniors (Tayler Stivers and Ashley Huffine).

Parisi and Black hope that, by sharing their knowledge and experience, they can help lead a young Eagles team back to the promised land.

"Three years ago we won our conference championship, and us four are the only ones that experienced that," Parisi said.

"So I guess that helps, too, talking to the younger girls, because we know what it feels like. And we want them to have that same feeling. I mean, it's a great feeling. It's probably one of the greatest feelings you'll ever have."

Morehead State (1-2) is in the midst of a nine-game string of non-conference games that serve as a prelude to Ohio Valley Conference play. Friday, the Eagles will play host to Evansville at 6 p.m.

Black, a 5-foot-4 sport management major from St. Louis, has found it necessary to change her game this season.

As a forward, she led MSU with 46 shots last season. She scored 14 goals and nine assists over her first three seasons.

But the Eagles graduated their entire back line last season, so Black has moved to defense. She has quickly come to realize that she needs to lead a young team by talking much more than she has in the past.

"I think Trip (Rogers), our assistant, mentioned (being vocal) to me a little bit," Black said.

"And I'm like 'yeah, you're right, I probably need to talk more.' And I'm playing defense, so I have to talk even more than I would at forward. Because I have to work with the back line rather than just kind of doing my own thing."

Parisi, a midfielder and MSU's shortest player at 5-1, is an exercise science major from the Chicago suburb of Addison, Ill. She says the young ones on the team fire questions "left and right."

"It's a good thing for them to learn, and I think they're learning a lot," Parisi said. "I'm just glad to be here and help them out and kind of teach them the ropes."

The questions often are simple, such as what to do during a particular drill.                                

"I think when you're a freshman you kind of just think way too much, and some of the easiest drills just seem kind of difficult," Parisi said.

"But they ask questions and they get the hang of things, and we're there to help them out."

Through three matches, freshman Ashley Ritchie leads the offense with two goals and seven shots.

Goalkeeping duties have been split among freshmen Caitlynn Mason and Eva Ýr Helgadóttir, and sophomore Michelle Washburn.

Parisi sees the young team making steady improvement.

"Compared to our first exhibition game against Louisville, we've made huge steps," she said.

"Illinois, we lost 2-0 but we played very well. Then, Bowling Green, we came out and we got a win. Unfortunately, that didn't happen against NKU, but we're making steps little-by-little and we have all this time before conference to do well. I think we're taking steps in the right direction."

Black agrees.

She's also impressed with the talent displayed by the younger players.

"Even though we're really young, still, as freshmen, these girls are really good," Black said.

"I think that as they get older through their college career they'll get better, and even through the season. ... These girls are still better than some girls that have been playing for four or five years."

Parisi says the baby Eagles play with heart and put in the necessary hard work.

Black adds that it is a realistic goal for MSU to win an OVC title and gain an NCAA berth. Then, she'd like to see the Eagles take things one more step than they did in 2013 by winning an NCAA match.

"I want to win another championship. I want to get another ring," Black said. "So I see that as a high possibility for this year."

(story provided by Morehead State Athletics)