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Mandy Arnzen (6) fights for the ball against Highpoint in Chessa Field on August 28th, 2016. MATT STARKEY|FOR THE POST

Soccer: Despite massive freshman class, two sophomores stand out

As practice wrapped up, players took their cleats off and filed out of Chessa Field for class, a shower or just to take a nap before their next activity.

However, one player's backpack remained in the bleachers.

Sophomore center back Rianna Reese stood with about a dozen balls scattered around her as assistant coach Debs Brereton gave her instructions and set up dummies about 30 yards down the field.

For the next 45 minutes, Reese lofted passes across the field while looking intensely focused the entire time.

Reese was recently appointed assistant captain of the team in her second year at Ohio; she is taking the responsibility very seriously — just as seriously as she takes all of her duties for the Bobcats.

"I think it shows that I’ve really earned the respect of my teammates," Reese said of being named assistant captain. "And that’s really humbling to know that they trust me to be a leader for them, and that my coaches trust me to be a leader for our team. And it gives me a lot of confidence to be able to step up and play the role of center back this year because that’s a position that has to take a lot of leadership on the field."

It also helps that Reese has a few familiar faces in the back line with her, namely fellow sophomore Mandy Arnzen.

Although Reese and fellow assistant captain Celeste Fushimi-Karns have been able to build a solid partnership as the typical starting center backs, Reese and Arnzen's relationship in the back line is giving Ohio some of the best defensive cover it has had in years. Their personalities seem diametrically opposed. Reese emits a fiery, intense vibe, while Arnzen seems much more fluid in her play and can consistently be seen smiling her way through games — and it suits the Bobcats well.

"She’s so athletic, and she’s the kind of person, like, you know is always focused, but she keeps it lighthearted at the same time," Reese said of Arnzen. "I’m really focused during the whole game and super intense, and sometimes I think that I’m forgetting to have fun ... Mandy is the type of player who reminds you at the end of the day that we’re supposed to be enjoying what we’re doing, and she helps me do that."

Arnzen shares Reese's sympathies and said playing consistently with each other last year really helped build their relationship and an acknowledgement of trust.

"I mean any time you’re playing with your friend, like, you just feel more confident," Arnzen said. "Like freshman year and so far sophomore year, I just know that she has my back and I have her back, and it really helps a lot knowing that she’s next to me."

Their relationship has certainly paid dividends. After a trial by fire last season of both players being thrown into large roles early on, the defense looks settled this season. Ohio gave up 13 goals in its first six games last season. So far it's only gave up eight through the same amount of games this season.

Every loss the Bobcats have incurred has come in overtime, where heavy legs and lethargic minds come into play. Despite that, both players are confident in their team's ability. Reese even had some pretty lofty expectations for the end of the season.

"Well, when I wrote it down in our first meeting of the year, I wanted to win the MAC Tournament and go to an NCAA Tournament game. So that’s the ultimate goal," Reese said.

Given a little more time and some solid competition in conference play, that goal may not be that farfetched.


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