Expectations are high for the women’s soccer team as it heads into conference play this weekend. The Wolverines are looking to improve on last season’s third-place Big Ten finish and qualify for their ninth straight NCAA bid. Adding to this season’s expectations is the return of senior midfielder and tri-captain Stephanie Boyles, who was redshirted last season after suffering a torn ACL during summer club competition.

“It was really hard (sitting out last season) when we were lacking leadership,” Boyles said. “It was hard not being able to contribute on the field.”

Though her presence on the field last season may have been missed, Boyles is taking full advantage of her leadership role on this year’s squad and has already made a significant impact.

“I can be out there and contribute,” Boyles said. “I know what (my teammates) are looking for and need. I can lead with more direction.”

Although possessing a commanding authority on the field, Boyles approaches her role as a captain with humility, striving to lead by example.

Coach Debbie Rademacher praised Boyles’s contributions this season.

“She’s doing great,” Rademacher said. “She’s a vocal leader for us. She’s competitive, and the team respects her.”

The contagious energy and positive attitude Boyles exudes off the field makes her teammates’ respect for her easy to understand. Her ability to recognize the difference between criticism and encouragement complements her ability to be a team leader.

The remaining two tri-captains, senior Therese Heaton and junior Katelin Spencer, expanded on the benefits of Boyles’s redefined role.

“She’s is a great leader,” Spencer said. “I’m a junior, so I’m learning from (Boyles and Heaton) and stepping into the role as well.”

As a senior team member, Boyles brings motivation and enthusiasm to the team atmosphere. But her technical skills will also pay off tremendously as the season progresses.

“It’s helpful having that experience and leadership in the middle of the field,” Heaton said. “She can play the ball on a dime. She’s got deadly set pieces that can make or break a game.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit Boyles’s return will bring to the Wolverines this season is the chemistry she shares with her fellow captains. Together, the tri-captains create a cohesive leadership unit, and each individual brings something unique to the team.

“We all bring a different element,” Heaton said. “All three of us balance each other. I’m a competitor, Steph’s organized and energetic, and Katelin’s nurturing.”

Rademacher emphasizes the profound influence the tri-captains will ultimately have on the team’s success this year.

“We expect our captains to lead the team,” Rademacher said. “All three have a lot of energy and are really enthusiastic. They’re the pulse of the team. Our team will do as well as their leadership.”

With Boyles back, this year’s squad and its dynamic team leaders may exceed everyone’s expectations.


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