Coming into the 2017-2018 season, more than 50 percent of the Islanders soccer team was freshmen. This reinvigoration of new faces and players helped propel the team to its best record since the program debuted in 2013.
Among the historic freshmen class was pre-nursing major and Islander midfielder Mariah Ramon. The Arizona native led the team in assists in her first season on the Island University. Ramon said her position lends itself to setting up others to succeed.
“As a midfielder, we’re always looking for the attacking players to get at the end of your balls,” Ramon said. “I’ve always been better at assisting than finishing and scoring the goals. It’s what I do.”
Ironically, Ramon registered the first goal of the season for the team and her first collegiate goal against Texas State University. For Ramon, that goal meant a little something more.
“It was really exciting,” Ramon said. “A lot of my former club players were on the other team. So getting to do that in front of them was really cool.”
One of 15 freshmen on the Islanders roster, Ramon and her fellow lowerclassmen had to adjust quickly to the collegiate game and its competition.
“College soccer is a lot faster, the girls are stronger and it’s more aggressive,” Ramon said.
The speed of the college game translated into how Ramon and her fellow freshmen adjusted.
“We had to learn fast and transition really fast,” freshman forward Emily Keoughan said. “More than other freshmen because our whole team is pretty much freshmen. We didn’t have a lot of time.”
Keoughan said having supportive teammates like Ramon helped acquaint her with the rigors of college athletics.
“She’s [Mariah] really supportive and positive,” Keoughan said. “I’ve never heard her say anything negative to anyone. She’s always giving out little compliments.”
Ramon may have picked up those positive teammate characteristics growing up. She comes from a soccer family. Her Dad coaches soccer and her younger brother also plays. Soccer wasn’t her sport of choice early on, but eventually she came around.
“It’s surrounded my family for as long as I can remember,” Ramon said. “I did a lot of sports when I was younger. At first I didn’t like soccer, but I stayed with it and ended up loving it.”
As members of a very young team, the newcomers looked to their upperclassmen for advice and both on and off the field.
“The older players really helped us transition into college soccer,” Ramon said. “They’re always supporting us and giving advice.”
On a team where freshmen outnumber seniors three to one, as is the case for the 2017-2018 Islanders, the new arrivals had to quickly find their place in the system.
“I think a lot of the freshmen have stepped up this year. You can’t really tell they’re freshmen,” Ramon said. “They play like they’ve been doing this.”
One area that Ramon hasn’t needed to do much adjusting is in the classroom. The pre-nursing major said she has more time to devote to her studies with a more open schedule than she had in high school.
“I have a lot of off-time that I can use to study, then we practice at night,” Ramon said. “So I use the daytime to focus on school and practice at night.”
The rest of the time she’s not in class or on the field, Ramon enjoys reading and staying active by going for runs.
Having such a young core is a positive sign for the Islanders, these 15 freshmen will have time to play and mature together for several years. If they won more games than any group in program history their freshmen season, then the sky is the limit for the ladies in blue and green.
The team finished the year with a record of 6-9-3 following a first round conference tournament loss to top-seeded Lamar University. Ramon finished the season with a team high three assists on the season, accounting for 18 percent of all assists for the team. She also finished with one goal on the year, the tying the fastest goal scored by a freshman in school history.
For the time being, the team will begin preparing for their off-season workouts and getting ready for the 2018-2019 season. The Islanders will look to build off the milestones set in the 2017-2018 season.