By Steve Cox, Sports Information Director
Meghan Groos arrived on the Bridgewater campus four years ago as a bit of an unknown.
She will leave with her name etched at the top of the record books as the program's all-time leader in assists.
Groos moved to Warren County during her junior year in high school. When she decided to attend Bridgewater she knew little about the college or the women'soccer program.
"Being new to the area, I didn't know a whole lot about any of the area colleges," Groos said. "It was very late in process when I decided to attend Bridgewater. It was pretty close to home and I thought I would be able to play soccer. I wasn't recruited. I was a walk-on."
When Groos arrived for soccer tryouts, the team was starting over with a new coach (current head coach Mike Van Horn) and there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the program.
"Most of my coaches up to that point had been men, so for me, it was not very different," Groos recalled. "For some of the returning players, I think it was a big adjustment. The intensity that Coach Van Horn brings and expects was different. That year was a tough adjustment for some on the team.
"But, once you play for Coach you realize how dedicated he is to the game and how passionate he is. He's always behind us. He believes in us 100 percent and that's a good feeling."
The first year under Van Horn's guidance the Eagles won six games. The next year, with an influx of new talent, the program began to take off. During Groos' sophomore year, the Eagles won a program record 13 games. A year later, Van Horn challenged the team with a brutal non-conference schedule that paid dividends against the tough ODAC foes. Bridgewater finished 9-8-1 overall, but the Eagles were 8-3 in the conference and hosted an ODAC tournament first-round game for the first time ever.
"Last year playing against a lot of ranked teams showed us just what it took to be a great team," Groos said. "You can say how good you are, but you have to go out on the field and do it. We came to the reality that we weren't quite at that level, but we also realized we had the potential to get there."
This season has been more of the same for Groos and her teammates as the Eagles continue to move closer to the top of the ODAC.
The Eagles enter the ODAC tournament with a 13-4-1 overall record and an 8-3 record in the ODAC. The Eagles once again host a tournament first round game and strangely enough the Eagles are staring at the exact same scenario as a year ago.
Last year, the Eagles travelled to Washington and Lee needing a victory in the final conference game of the regular season to host a first-round tournament. The Eagles knocked off the Generals 1-0, and their opponent in the first-round was none other than W&L. The Generals then came to Bridgewater and took a 2-1 victory to end the Eagles' season.
A week ago the Eagles hosted W&L with the winner guaranteed a first-round home game. Bridgewater took a 3-0 victory and this week they will host the Generals again in the first round.
This time the Eagles are looking for a different outcome.
"None of us who played in that game last year want to relive that feeling," Gross said. "We've talked to the freshmen on this year's team about what happened last year and I think they're ready. If we can win, it's another step forward for the team. We've never been to the semifinals."
Groos believes a quick start Saturday will be the key.
"We know W&L is going to come here ready to play," Groos said. "They had allowed just three goals all season and we were able to get three in one game. We know they are going to bring a different level of intensity and we're going to have to bring that same intensity. It's going to come down to which team wants it more. I think the team that gets that first goal Saturday will have a big advantage."
Regardless of Saturday's outcome, Groos and fellow seniors Jessica Palmer, Anna Wright, Jessica Wampler, Cari Hensley and Shauna Manovich will end their careers knowing they helped build the foundation for a successful program.
"To be able to say that we were a big part of turning the program around will be special," Groos admitted. "The first year we won six games and now we are ranked in the region for the first time. It took a while for people to notice, but now I think other teams realize that Bridgewater has a pretty good soccer team."
Groos will also be paying attention to the program in the future.
"We've gotten better every year I've been here," Groos said. "And every year Coach brings in talented new players to add to the program. I'm excited to see where the team goes in the future."