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Friedrich's playmaking has SLU soccer on a roll

Friedrich's playmaking has SLU soccer on a roll

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SLU's Hannah Friedrich

St. Louis University midfielder Hannah Friedrich, a sophomore from Hazelwood West, leads the team with 10 goals and has seven game-winning goals. (Photo courtesy of St. Louis University)

In four years as a varsity starter at Hazelwood West, Hannah Friedrich scored 108 goals, a school record, and she never doubted her ability to do so.

Arriving at St. Louis University, the 5-foot-2 midfielder figured that would change, but she emerged from her first two seasons on a pace to break the SLU career record for goals.

“She’s the first real, true goal scorer we’ve had in the program,” coach Katie Shields said in the preseason.

However, something changed when the Billikens’ COVID-delayed season started in February. There were fewer goals from Friedrich and more for everyone else.

With two games remaining in the regular season, the junior leads the country with 12 assists and has scored only two goals. And it’s all worked in the team’s favor as SLU enters Thursday night’s home game against Dayton at 7 p.m. ranked No. 20 with an 11-1 record.

“Through all my years of playing my first thought is scoring,” Friedrich said. “This year is definitely different. I’m still thinking about scoring, but if I have a chance to pass to someone for a wide-open shot, I’m going to do that.”

Friedrich scored in SLU’s second game and then went nine without hitting the back of the net. Instead, she has assisted seven teammates on goals and has piled up eight in the last five wins.

Opposing defenses have adjusted to some of her tendencies and placed more focus on stopping one of the team’s few returning scoring threats. But they have yet to solve her playmaking ability and might have underestimated the depth of SLU’s offense.

“She’s playing in the same place, and she’s had a lot of good quality chances,” Shields said. “But she has grown in her game and her passing ability, so she’s creating. I’ve told her she’s doing something harder and more necessary for the team, which is creating chances.”

Although a shortened junior season could keep Friedrich from reaching the top of some of SLU’s career lists before she graduates, she is going to make a run.

She is tied for sixth with 24 goals, fourth in assists with 26, fifth in points with 74 and first in game-winning goals with 12. She has done it all in 58 career games, which is nowhere near the SLU top 10.

“That’s crazy to me because I never thought about things like that,” she said. “I knew after last year for goals I was up there, but I didn’t have as many assists. This year it’s all I’m getting.”

Friedrich bemoaned her tendency to hit the crossbar with shots this season. She said it has become a bit of a team joke that scoring just isn’t her thing this season.

She had 11 goals and eight assists as a freshman and 11 and six as a sophomore. So, it’s not like she wasn’t sharing the ball.

Friedrich noted one particular spot on the field where opponents have reduced her shots. She has found other methods to generate offense from her spot playing outside instead of in the middle, where she played in high school.

“I think they’re pushing me more outside instead of forcing me into the middle,” she said. “It brings different opportunities. My game plan is to take it inside and cross it because we have so many runners in the box.”

Even with Friedrich’s scoring down, SLU is tied for 14{sup}th{/sup} in the country with an average of 2.5 goals per game. The Billikens have only been shut out once, that being in a 1-0 overtime loss to No. 18 Oklahoma State.

One of the keys to the offense has been the ability to score on set pieces, including corner kicks, and Friedrich has made those situations dangerous.

“She’s the best we’ve had in that role,” Shields said. “I think she’s the best tactically of our attackers, and she always turns teams over and picks up a ton of loose balls. She’s really good at reading the game.”

The Billikens are undefeated in the Atlantic 10 and can clinch the home field for next week’s conference tournament, which will include only four teams, if they can beat Dayton on Thursday and Sunday in the regular-season finale.

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