First-year Rachel Sauder (Lyndhurst, Va./Stuarts Draft) is making her mark on the soccer field, and not just because of her cleats. The midfielder jump-started Eastern Mennonite University in both of their wins last week, accounting for two goals and two assists.

In Saturday’s key win at Randolph College, Sauder broke open a scoreless game with a goal 1:48 into the second half, triggering a 4-1 win. In the win at Hollins University, she started the day with a cross to assist on a goal just 16 seconds into play. Sauder scored EMU’s third goal and assisted on another.

She added yet another assist for the Royals’ lone goal in a 1-0 win at Guilford College to wrap up the regular season, and heads into the postseason tied for sixth in the ODAC with six assists.

“It was exciting to get some more wins,” Sauder said after the late-season games. “It felt good to get some wins and play well together.”

The transition from high school to college soccer has been fairly smooth for Sauder.

“It hasn’t been too terrible,” she said. “It was a little different at first just because you’re playing with 30 new people, but once I got used to my teammates it wasn’t too difficult.”

Sauder prepared for her first season of collegiate soccer with a good deal of off-season training, including summer running and pickup soccer. As for the rest of college, she is learning on her feet.

“So it’s definitely a lot harder than high school academically, and you have to learn to manage your time,” she added. “So that was a bit stressful for a while.”

Sauder is keeping herself busy with 18 credit hours.

“But it’s been good. I’ve really been enjoying college,” Sauder said. “I feel like you’re kind of more on your own, so it’s nice to take that step.”

Sauder is currently exploring different areas of study, centered around the STEM fields.

“Right now I’m an engineering major, but I’m actually switching it,” Sauder said. “I’m not entirely sure what I want to do. I’m going to take some chemistry classes and see if I like that a little more.”

Sauder’s years on EMU’s turf are just getting started, and she has hopes and goals for the future of the women’s soccer team.

“I’d really like to be one of those teams that they’re like, ‘oh, they’re really good,’ you know, like one of the Bridgewaters or the Roanokes or the Lynchburgs,” Sauder said. “So that’d be really cool to see.”

She also enjoys the community surrounding soccer.

“The girls are all super nice,” Sauder said. “So I’d really like to continue that same team chemistry through all four years.”

Coach Ted Erickson has noticed how his first year player has seamlessly joined that chemistry, both on the field and off it.

“Sauder has come in and added a consistent piece to our midfield,” said Coach Erickson. “She visually sees the game well and can help develop an attack for our offensive chances. As the season has progressed, outside of being a strong player, she has really come in and complimented the other incoming players and they together have enhanced our team culture.”

Sauder first got into soccer because her older brother played.

“When I was little, I kind of just did a lot of the stuff he did. So I played rec soccer when I was little and just kept playing,” Sauder said.

But she didn’t stop there.

“I played varsity basketball all four years of high school, along with soccer,” she added.

When she has free time, Sauder likes to take art classes.

“I like hiking, too,” she said. “Just doing stuff outside.”

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