New Coach, Players Have High Expectations for 2006 Women's Soccer Season
Athletics - posted on 9/6/2006
The women's soccer team has set the bar high this season with 13 players returning from an NCAA-tournament qualifier and a brand new coaching staff.
"I see us being strong competition at the top of the conference," said Dave Madsen, who enters his first season as head coach after a three-year career as the assistant men's and women's coach at UW-Whitewater. "The girls' goal is to get to the NCAA tournament."
The Muskies, who lose just three seniors, are fortunate to return the majority of their starters and an immensely talented freshman class. It's a combination that should help Lakeland challenge for the inaugural Northern Athletics Conference title.
"They have high expectations and are motivated to do well," said Madsen of his players' positive attitudes.
Last fall, Lakeland's only conference loss came early against Edgewood, then the Muskies went undefeated in October and swept through the Lake Michigan Conference tournament in November, earning a trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament with a 2-0 win in the championship game over Dominican University.
Lakeland's stellar season came to an end with a 3-1 loss to host Grinnell College in Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
This year, Madsen has the luxury of having five seniors taking on major leadership roles, which is helping this first-year head coach.
"The seniors have been pulling a lot of weight," Madsen said. "They've been very open-minded. It's been a smooth transition. There are always new adjustments that need to be made, but the girls have been good problem solvers."
Madsen is looking for his seniors to lead the Muskies on the attack, including Ann Lehecka (McHenry, Ill./Grant), who received Honorable Mention All-LMC honors for last year's effort of eight goals, good for second on the team last fall.
Lorine Weiss (senior, Salem/Wilmot Union) is also expected to contribute to the offensive effort, along with her younger sister, Gina Weiss (freshman, Salem/Wilmot Union).
Amy Christenson (Dodgeville/Dodgeville) gives the Muskies another solid presence up top. The sophomore forward enjoyed a successful freshman season last year with five goals and seven assists, earning her LMC All-Rookie Team honors.
The Muskies will rely on their talent at midfield and defense to anchor the squad.
Versatile Tracy Bins (New Franken/Green Bay Preble), an Honorable Mention All-LMC honoree, returns for her senior year with two goals and three assists to her credit from last season.
"Tracy can play almost anywhere," Madsen stated. "I can put her in the back or in the front and feel comfortable."
Other contributors at midfield and defense are juniors Laura Engel (Appleton/West) and Elisa Waltz (Oakfield). Engel netted three goals and added one assist in her first season for the Muskies, and Madsen likes Waltz's approach to the game.
"Laura is a solid returner and has the talent and experience," commented Madsen. "Elisa is a strong player with a no-nonsense attitude. She does what she needs to do to get the job done."
The team will miss the services of last year's defensive standout and vocal captain, Briana Plautz (defense/midfield, 2 goals, 9 assists, 13 points), a four-time First Team All-LMC honoree. However, the back of the Muskies' line will not be lacking in talent with the rest of its defensive leaders returning.
"The team has to find its own way," commented Madsen on the players lost. "We have to rely on each other as a team and not so much on individual play. This is a good group to pick up the slack."
The team has the talent and experience to do so with a good mix of youthful abilities and knowledgeable returnees.
Senior Alli Weiss (New Berlin/Eisenhower), a four-year starter and All-LMC performer, will continue to guard the goal for the squad this season.
Weiss has already left her mark in Lakeland's record books, setting the record for shutouts in a season last year with 14. She also shattered the previous mark of 15 for career shutouts last season with 25 credited to her name and a whole season still left to play.
"Alli provides great leadership from the back," said Madsen. "She can read things early on and help make corrections so they don't develop into dangerous situations."
Helping Weiss keep the net clear will be junior Kelly Hopfinger (Hustisford/Hustisford), senior Allyce Maus (Green Bay/West) and sophomore Maggie Short (Green Bay/Preble).
Hopfinger, who earned Honorable Mention All-LMC for her defensive efforts last season, will likely play sweeper for the Muskies.
"Kelly will be leading out of the back," Madsen stated. "She's very strong and committed in her play."
Maus and Short, a member of the 2005 LMC All-Rookie team who knocked in two goals and recorded three assists last season will see plenty of playing time.
Madsen predicts that several newcomers from a strong recruiting class could challenge for immediate playing time and become impact players. Leslie Oskey (freshman, Howards Grove/Howards Grove) had a good preseason and will see time on the defensive end. Celine Elzinga (freshman, Howards Grove/Howards Grove) and Jessica Hopfinger (freshman, Hustisford/Hustisford), Kelly's younger sister, could challenge for time at the outside midfield positions.
"The entire class is strong," Madsen said. "They all bring quite a bit of skill to the team. Once they get a few games under their belts, they'll fit in just fine."
Overall, Madsen is impressed with his player's individual work ethics in the off-season that are benefiting the entire squad.
"The talent level on the team is very close," he said. "I feel comfortable putting almost anyone out there."
Madsen is optimistic that his team's tough schedule will greatly aid in their preparation for another run at a conference title. Lakeland opens with Greenville College and Blackburn College, both from Illinois, at the Rose Hulman Tournament in Indiana.
"Our schedule is set up pretty well to get us ready for any postseason play, whether it's the NCAA tournament or deep into the conference tournament," Madsen said. "The first tournament will provide us with a good opportunity to play schools from outside our area and gain experience."
Madsen expects Edgewood, Concordia, Wis., and Marian to be some top contenders in the debut season for the NAC.
"I think the top four or five teams in conference will be very challenging," he said. "Our conference schedule is going to be difficult."
Overall, Madsen is pleased with his team's progress as they head into the season-opening tournament.
"The girls are very committed," he said. "They come in every day with the will to work hard. They're focused on what they want to achieve and are working towards getting there. We hope to carry the successes we have had in the past on into this year."
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