MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon alum Alexa Skal, now a sophomore at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, went from dominating at the top of the formation for the Yellow Jackets, to now doing the same for the Cougars.
Skal started playing soccer early in grade school, but gave it up early. She returned to the pitch after a couple years away and played with boys on a Mount Vernon Sting team from fifth grade to the start of high school.
“When you play with boys, it’s just a different style and I think that’s helped me a lot,” Skal said. “It’s more aggressive. They’re just so fast and a lot of them were really technical so it was a lot of using a lot of moves to get around them, more so than just passing.”
The Cougar turned her skills from the youth program to the pitch for the Jackets. She noted that her teams for Mount Vernon High School were rather inexperienced and not as competitive, but that did not stop her from bettering her skills and working to better her team.
“For me, it was a lot of go to practice and then work on stuff that I need to after,” Skal said. “It was more just, work on my skill individually and then incorporate my teammates in the game as much as I possibly could.”
While a Jacket, Skal was a four-time letter winner and was named First-Team All-Ohio Cardinal Conference, earned a coaches award and was nominated for JJ Huddle Goal of the Year.
Despite the success for MVHS, Skal said there was a bit of a learning curve when she moved from high school to the collegiate ranks, especially coming in as a freshman.
“The big thing for me switching last year was the amount of runs I had to make,” Skal said. “I had to make a lot of runs down-line and I would drop back some. I had never been used to that. It was always just kick the ball up and then go get it, but we didn’t do that last year.”
Skal did not allow the inexperience plague her first season. She started in 17 of the 18 games she played in, notching five goals and three assists as a freshman. She took 51 shots, with 29 of those coming on frame and earned All Crossroads League honorable mention.
Skal stepped up her game this fall for MVNU. Through 18 games, in which the Cougars have gone 11-4-3, she has recorded a team-high 13 goals, as well as three assists. She upped her shots on goal to 31 this year and has almost tripled her goals on less total shots (50).
“The only reason that I have been so successful is my team this year,” Skal said. “They’ve played great crosses in. Coach has worked a lot with us on shooting drills this year.”
The sophomore proved that she has settled in to her role in the Cougar lineup with her recent efforts against Goshen College Oct. 20. She netted a hat trick, all within the first 11 minutes of action in a 4-0 win. It was her fifth multi-goal game of the year.
“I think last year was more about figuring out how to fit in and knowing my role,” Skal said. “This year, now that I know my role and I know very well what I need to do and how I need to do it, it’s just the pieces are all fitting together and I’m finishing a lot more of my opportunities.”
Skal will look for more of those opportunities when the Cougars return to the pitch Wednesday for the Crossroads League Tournament as the No. 4 seed. MVNU hosts No. 5 Taylor at 3 p.m.