By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal
A position change has unlocked the playmaking ability of Saugus High graduate Hannah Bahr and led to the best start of her career.
Bahr, a senior on The Master’s University women’s soccer team, has recorded three assists through TMU’s first three games, a mark that already represents a career high. She says a big reason for the uptick in production was her move from center midfielder to what head coach Curtis Lewis calls the “false nine” position – basically, a mix of a forward and an offensive center mid.
The Mustangs host Marymount California University at 4 p.m. on Tuesday at TMU before No. 21 Kansas Wesleyan University comes to town Saturday at 11 a.m. And Bahr figures to remain in the middle of the action more than at any other point in her career.
“I like playing the false nine because … I (can) drop back and get the ball in space and be able to turn and connect with the forwards,” said Bahr, a member of The Signal’s All-SCV girls soccer team as a Saugus senior in 2016. “It’s been super great to have that opportunity to get the ball and get space to see the field and find the forwards’ feet or feed them an over-the-top ball.”
Through her first three seasons at Master’s, Bahr totaled one assist, a number that, at least in part, can be attributed to adjusting to Lewis’ system. The Mustangs utilize the center midfield position differently than Bahr was used to with her club teams. She struggled to find a consistent rhythm. Now, Lewis says he sees Bahr having more fun. “I see a smile on her face,” he said.
Bahr believes her new position has allowed her to play with more freedom.
“I definitely feel more comfortable because I’m able to use my mind and find little spots to get the ball and give it back: do some give-and-go’s with defenders and outside midfielders,” she said.
With Bahr’s ability, Lewis expects to see more than just assists over the course of the season as the Mustangs seek to return to the NAIA national tournament after a one-year hiatus. Master’s (2-1) opened the year narrowly outside the NAIA Top 25, but early wins over Southern Oregon University and Benedictine University at Mesa have the team trending in the right direction. TMU’s lone loss came at No. 10 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Ariz.) last week – a 1-0 defeat.
“We’re expecting some goals out of her. She has a really good shot. Even though she’s 5-foot-nothing, she strikes the ball well,” said Lewis, who also praised Bahr’s passing ability and soccer IQ.
As part of a double-header Saturday, the Mustang men’s soccer team will follow the women’s game with a 1:30 start. TMU’s men are also facing Kansas Wesleyan, which holds a No. 18 NAIA ranking on the men’s side.
Women’s volleyball heads to Missouri
TMU women’s volleyball will fly to Missouri this week to take on the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked NAIA teams in the country.
Master’s – which is off to a 3-2 start and ranked No. 15 in the country – will play No. 1 Park University (Mo.) on Friday and No. 2 Columbia College (Mo.) on Saturday morning. William Woods University (Mo.) and Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) will round out the docket for the Hampton Inn Classic in Columbia, Missouri.
Hart grad Madi Fay, a Master’s junior who has split time between setter and opposite hitter this season, believes her team is making the trip with a different mindset than in past seasons when it also attended the tournament.
“I think (we have) a lot more confidence,” she said. “The last couple of years, we kind of went into it saying, ‘We’ll see what happens. This is a learning experience.’ Where now we’re saying, ‘OK, let’s see what we can do. Let’s beat these teams.'”
For more information on Master’s Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.