Hawks forging new identity under new coach

Quincy University junior Mo Rooney is moving from center midfielder to center back to help solidify a defense that lost three starters and its goalkeeper to graduation. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley
Michael Kipley 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 28, 2018 12:55 am

QUINCY -- A wealth of experience, on the field and on the bench, gave the Quincy University women's soccer program an unmistakable identity last season.

That's no longer the case.

"Now you look at us, and you see a bunch of hard workers who are really going to try to get the job done no matter what," junior defender Mo Rooney said. "Some people might look at us and think we're not going to be the best, but we're definitely going to be the grittiest and the most hard-working. And we're going to do whatever it takes for the person next to us."

It's a new identity the Hawks have embraced.

"It's different," Rooney said. "But it's cool."

Quincy is in its first season under Marc Hager, hired in December to be the program's third head coach in 36 years. The first game is at 4 p.m. Thursday against Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, Mo. Only three full-time starters return from the team that went 17-4-1, won the Great Lakes Valley Conference regular-season title and returned to the NCAA Tournament.

Several others saw extensive playing time, and senior forward Abby Pulliam and junior midfielder Alex Severino have returned after sustaining season-ending knee injuries last year.

That's why the Hawks are No. 11 in the United Soccer Coaches national poll and were picked to finish second in the GLVC behind McKendree despite the graduation of 10 seniors and Dave Musso leaving after 12 seasons as the head coach to take over the Lindenwood program.

"I like the mentality," said Hager, a St. Louis native who previously served as an assistant coact at McKendree. "They were all taught the right way, and they are all players who are versatile and can fit into whatever system we need to be in to win. They're willing to do whatever I ask, which has been really nice.

"We had a talk at the beginning of the season that the way they were successful last season is not going to work. They have to be different and adapt."

In some circumstances, that means changing positions.

Rooney started 21 of 22 games last season as a center midfielder, but Hager has moved her to a center back to solidify the defense. Her vocal leadership, ability to hold the play and distribute the ball made her a logical choice to slide back, but it's still a work in progress. She's never played defense at any level before.

"Each day is a little better," Rooney said. "Each day, we do stuff at practice, and the coaches say they can see it transform on the field."

Other players will be shifting, too, to find the right mix and chemistry.

"If you want to be on the field, you might have to play different positions," senior forward Cassidy Foley said. "I've had conversations with (Hager) and said I want to be on the field, so throw me wherever you need. Everyone is buying in like that."

Foley is expected to join Pulliam and sophomore Maddie Bauer up top to form a dynamite attack. The Quincy Notre Dame graduate had five goals and three assists last season.

"The girls we have back like to play fast, like to keep the ball a little and like to counter," Foley said. "Countering is one of my favorite things to do, and that's one of our strengths."

Pulliam played in six games last fall before injuring her knee. A three-year starter, she has 18 goals and eight assists in her career and scored three times in preseason scrimmages. Bauer, who had three goals and four assists last season, also scored in an exhibition.

"It makes us feel really comfortable," Rooney said of the front line. "If something does go wrong, we know they have our backs."

It also takes pressure off younger defenders like sophomore Sydney Gorman and freshman goalkeeper Emilee Autry. That doesn't mean the expectations for them are different. The Hawks expect to be competitive, and they expect the younger players to contribute.

"We're going to go about things differently," Hager said. "But this group has plenty of talent and plenty of know-how to get things done."

At a glance

Coach: Marc Hager (0-0 at QU, first season).

2017 record: 17-4-1 (13-1 Great Lakes Valley Conference).

Returning starters: F Cassidy Foley, Sr.; MF Mo Rooney, Jr.; D Gabby Orlando, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: F Abby Pulliam, Sr.; F Maddie Bauer, Soph.; MF Alex Severino, Jr.; MF Mary Maloney, Soph.; MF Baylee Smith, Jr.; F/D Allison Diekmann, Sr.; F Riley Hayes, Soph.

New faces: GK Emilee Autry, Fr.; D/MF Sydney Gorman, Soph.; D Luz Corona, Jr.; F Stephanie Estrada, Fr.; F Grace Hilbing, Fr.

Key losses: F Mackenzie Rief, MF Katie Heiligenstein, D Bailey Greubel, D Allison Birke, D Natalie Quisenberry, D Maddy Kuhlenberg, GK Megan Swanson.

Schedule: Aug. 30 at Southwest Baptist, 4 p.m.; Sept. 2 vs. Davenport, 11 a.m.; Sept. 7 vs. Wisconsin-Parkside in Indianapolis, 6:30 p.m.; Sept. 9 vs. Ferris State in Indianapolis, 11 a.m.; Sept. 14 at Rockhurst, 5 p.m.; Sept. 16 vs. Missouri S&T, noon; Sept. 21 vs. Lewis, 5 p.m.; Sept. 23 vs. Truman State, noon; Sept. 28 at Bellarmine, 2:55 p.m.; Sept. 30 at Indianapolis, 11 a.m.; Oct. 5 vs. Southern Indiana, 5 p.m.; Oct. 7 vs. McKendree, noon; Oct. 12 at Willia Jewell, 5 p.m.; Oct. 14 at Drury, noon; Oct. 19 vs. Maryville, 5 p.m.; Oct. 21 at Missouri-St. Louis, noon; Oct. 24 at Illinois-Springfield, 7:30 p.m.