Soccer misses postseason for first time since 2014

Junior forward Lexi Pelafas strikes the ball into the back of the net for the second score of the match on Oct. 5 at the CMU Soccer Complex.

The 2017 season was a roller coaster for Central Michigan women’s soccer.

CMU finished 8-8-3 on the season and 3-6-2 in Mid-American Conference play, missing the postseason for the first time since 2014.

“It burns knowing we could be playing in a MAC championship,” junior forward Lexi Pelafas said. “We didn’t make it happen and that’s what it comes down to.”

From Pelafas breaking a school record for career goals scored, to a winless road record in MAC play, the Chippewas experienced it all. 

“I’m proud of the team in how we responded after the hole was created in the MAC season,” head coach Peter McGahey said. “We ended three or four points short of the playoffs, which is not OK in the sense that our expectations were to go further.”

While the Chippewas’ playoff expectations failed, the response to different circumstances throughout the season impressed McGahey.

“The way seasons unfold and how things unwound, overall, I’m proud,” McGahey said. “The outcome is not what we wanted. I think you’re always reminded as a coach to look at yourself first as a leader of the team.

“As a leader of a team, you think ‘do we focus at the right time, are we recognizing our strengths as a team consistently, and are we being reminded of the small details that differentiate between a win, loss, and tie?’ It’s the way to stay true to your identity.”

On Oct. 26, seniors McKay Matheson, Jamie Rademacher, Savannah Beetcher, Lauren Sherry and Sweeney walked on the pitch for the last time. The seniors are a special group to McGahey, as they were the first players he recruited to CMU when he arrived in 2013.

“To see them come full circle is pretty special,” McGahey said. “It will always be a group that believed in the program. They believed in Central Michigan and our mission as a coaching staff.”

Sweeney understands this season is a step in the process for the Chippewas. Along with other graduating seniors, she said she will continue to inspire her teammates even though her time on the field is over.

“We’ve always been talked to about the process,” Sweeney said. “You never think it’s going to happen to you until one day you wake up and it’s over. So, do everything you can while you still have the time.”

Pelafas holds two of the top three single-season scoring records for the Chippewas. She scored 16 goals in 2016 to claim the No. 1 spot and 13 goals in 2017 to take the No. 3 spot.

McGahey believes she is shooting to break her own record.

“Her accomplishment this season and the legacy she’s writing will be inspiring as she builds on the first three chapters in a four-chapter book,” McGahey said. “It will be exciting for our team and fans.”

The 2018 MAC championship game is less than a year away and the Chippewas will be gunning for the title.

“It’s going to take a whole team,” Pelafas said. “Everyone needs to be invested and it starts right now. Not just saying it, but doing it.”