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With a squad of experienced players and an impressive freshman class, the Lakeland College women's soccer team is optimistic headed into this season.
The Muskies take the pitch in their home and season opener on Friday, Sept. 2, and second-year head coach Tony Pierce is enthusiastic about this year's team.
"From top to bottom, the team is solid," said Pierce. "We have a nice group of freshmen who give us an added dimension of speed along with our returners' distributing abilities."
The Muskies begin their season under the leadership of seniors Kristi Borts (Milwaukee), Dana Schmidt (Menasha) and Lindsay Rogers (Sheboygan). The three combined for 27 goals last fall, including a team-high 10 goals from Borts and Rogers. The trio will help lead a young squad that hopes to make a post-season appearance in the Northern Athletics Conference tournament.
Lakeland has been selected to finish 10th in the NAC preseason coaches' poll after compiling a 4-8 conference record last season, 5-14 in overall play. The team struggled with low numbers and ill-timed injuries, but hopes to make this season successful.
"Last season we finished on a positive note in the sense that we did better than the year before," said Pierce. "The quality of the freshman class will make a big difference this season, as well as in the future."
The Muskies' midfield is poised to be one of the strongest spots as Borts and Schmidt take the reins. The two have tremendous attacking and distributing skills, while also helping out defensively.
"Dana and Kristi will lead the midfield and will also be responsible for organizing and building the offense," Pierce said.
Sophomore Liz Pritzl also returns to the midfield, but could spend time on the Muskies' defense as well. Pritzl is a versatile player who gives Lakeland an edge with her speed and play-making abilities. The Cedar-Grove native netted three goals and started in all 19 games last season.
Lakeland will add new faces to its midfield with freshmen Krystina Cook (Des Plaines, Ill), Stephanie Rock (Niagara) and Jamie Meixensperger (Fond du Lac).
"All three attack with pace well," said Pierce. "Their speed will help us immensely, especially if we can take advantage of counter attacks. Jamie has a real knack for scoring and places the ball well. I think our freshmen midfielders will complement the play of our upperclassmen."
Rogers will lead Lakeland's attack at the forward position. The Sheboygan, Wis., native has recorded 29 career goals, including 17 her freshman year.
"Lindsay again should be one of our top scorers," Pierce said. "Last year she was isolated by our opponent's defense so it was harder for her to score. With a new formation and an attacking midfield, she should find herself with more opportunities to score."
Joining Rogers up top is sophomore Monica Santelli. The Pleasant Prairie, Wis., native returns following an early season-ending injury last fall. Santelli will take on a different role this season after spending a couple of games on defense last fall.
"Monica is going to surprise a lot of teams," said Pierce. "She goes hard and wants to score. I think Monica and Lindsay (Rogers) play off of each other well, which should lead to some good combinations."
Leading Lakeland's defense is sophomore goalkeeper Ashley Sarbacker. She returns as the team's starting goalie after a standout freshman season that saw her record 151 saves en route to All-Freshman and second team All-NAC accolades. The Middleton, Wis., native will organize the defense as Lakeland fills in the defensive void left by graduation.
"Ashley is an incredible goalkeeper," said Pierce. "Her role this year will be organizing the defense and having a vocal presence on the field."
Joining Sarbacker on the defensive side is sophomore Kelsey Fulmer (Winneconne), who will help fill in the role of central defender, along with freshman Taylor Jahnke (Howards Grove). Last season, Fulmer provided the defense with a physical presence and the Muskies are looking for her return to that role this season.
"Kelsey is great in the back," said Pierce. "She has made improvements to her foot work and still gives us that physical edge. Taylor offers an impressive skill set that will allow us to start our attack in the back."
Sophomore Lindsay Biter (Shermans Dale, Pa.) and freshmen Gretchen Fulmer (Winneconne) and Katelyn Streeter (Oakfield) will round out the Muskies' defense. Biter and Streeter should fill in at the left and right side positions, respectively, while Fulmer looks to take on a more central role.
"All three of our new defenders are hard-nosed, tough players," said Pierce. "Gretchen brings a lot of added energy to the field, while Lindsay and Streeter bring quickness."
The Muskies face a competitive conference and nonconference schedule. The home and season opener is Friday, Sept. 2, at 4:30 p.m. against St. Norbert College. The Green Knights went 8-9-1 last season, including a 6-3 mark in Midwest Conference play.
Lakeland rounds out the holiday weekend with a match against Martin Luther College on Saturday, Sept. 3, at 1 p.m. Conference play begins shortly after with a road trip to Alverno College on Sept. 6. The team takes on powerhouses Dominican University and Aurora University on Oct. 8 and 15, respectively.
The final home game is slated for Oct. 26 against the NAC's third-picked Edgewood College. The conference tournament begins Oct. 29.
"It's imperative that we stay healthy," said Pierce. "The girls are ready to play and are going to be a fun team to watch."
To see what else head coach Tony Pierce said about the season click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdC1bclUDqo