2009 Women's Soccer Preview: Muskies look to break away from the pack
Athletics - posted on 9/1/2009
While Lakeland women's soccer coach Dave Madsen may only have 13 players this season, he feels he has the right group of girls.
"We have good senior leadership," Madsen said. "They've been in the program for four years and they know the expectations. They work hard and they have a good understanding of what we're trying to do. We'll have some younger players step up in this area, but we have a strong core of senior leaders.
"Our chemistry overall is better as a group. The group is a little stronger and closer together."
The Muskies have finished the previous two Northern Athletic Conference seasons with a 6-6 record and have tied for seventh the past two seasons, one spot away from qualifying for the NAC Tournament. Selected to finish seventh again this season in the 2009 NAC preseason coaches poll, Madsen understands a different style of play may be required to reach the conference tournament.
"We've been working hard to adapt our style of play to keep control of the game so we can control the ball better," said Madsen. "Scoring goals earlier will help by allowing us to control the tempo of the game later on. It's something we need to focus on in terms of how we play. We've made some good strides in thinking ahead of the play to keep possession in key areas of the field in order to make teams adjust to our style of play."
The Muskies return a solid group of forwards this season. Sophomore Lindsay Rogers brings back the most offensive firepower, having scored a team-high 17 goals in 19 games last season. She will be joined by senior forwards Gina Weiss and Jaime Wichman, who will each be expected to score this season, and sophomore newcomer Rebecca Wagner, who will see her time increase as gains experience.
"Lindsay had a lot of goals last year and I expect her to continue that this season," said Madsen. "We'll need her to create or score goals often this season.
"Jaime has a lot of progress this past year after scoring a couple of times last season. She's starting to understand how we want her to play, and it is going help her contribute this year. I see her tossing in a few goals this season, and her effort will determine that this year.
"Gina has been pretty good with her combination play. She holds on to the ball and can finish when she has the opportunity, so I see her adding some goals this season."
The Muskies' strongest position on the pitch this season could very well prove to be its midfielders. Sophomore Kristina Borts led the squad with eight assists last season and also pitched in six goals. With seniors Jessica Hopfinger and Celine Elzinga and freshman Celia Klemstein joining the mix at midfield, this is a group that could prove to hold the Muskies together this season.
"Kristina is creative on the ball and handles the ball well," Madsen said. "She has good vision with her passing and is a good ball striker. I see a lot of our plays flowing through her and her play leading toward a lot of goals.
"I wasn't sure how things were going to go with Jessica coming back from injury this season, but she seems really fit and has been working hard this preseason and is focused on what she wants to do. She's good from serving from wide, but has also improved her combination play, and I think that is something she can add this year."
Defense will be a mix of old and new players to the position. Autumn Gaylor returns after a strong freshman season, while shifting positions are junior Maria Santelli and sophomore Dana Schmidt, who played forward and midfield last season, respectively. Freshman Cheyenne Mohr factors to gain playing time as the season progresses.
"Autumn is going to be central for our defense," Madsen said. "She covers a lot of ground and tracks the ball well. I see her being the pillar of our defense this season.
"Maria is a good ball-handler and she knows where she needs to be on the field, and while there might be a little adaptation period for her at the beginning of the season, she has looked good so far.
"Dana is a fierce tackler and doesn't like to see people get chances to score. Her tenacity is great, and when she wins the ball she has the skills she needs to make a cutting pass up the field."
Junior Whitney England will be in goal for the Muskies this season, and Madsen is impressed with the improvement he's seen in camp so far.
"Whitney has developed in reading the game a lot more from last year," Madsen said. "She's making saves that last year she wasn't getting to."
The Muskies open their 2009 non-conference schedule today with a home contest against Northland Baptist. They spend Labor Day weekend in Decorah, Iowa, at the Luther Labor Day Classic, with matches against Nebraska Wesleyan and host Luther.
After another road game at Elmhurst, the Muskies open their NAC slate at Benedictine on Saturday, Sept. 12, and won't return home until the following Saturday when they face Concordia Chicago on Sept. 19.
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