Outlook Bright for Muskie Soccer
Athletics - posted on 8/15/2005
While no one will question how big of a loss Amanda Smith is to the Lakeland program, this year's team features several young players ready to step up and take a bigger role. LMC honorable mention senior Ann Lehecka (McHenry Ill./Grant), junior Tracy Bins (New Franklin/Green Bay Preble), and sophomore Marie Reynolds (Fond du Lac/North Fondy) will now have to shoulder the load left by Smith's departure. Last year, the Muskies had 10 underclassmen on a team of 15 players. Based on that statistic alone, Lakeland is poised to stay near the top of the LMC for the foreseeable future.
Offense Defense Schedule 2004 Recap
Key Losses: Amanda Smith (midfield/forward, 33 goals-5 assists-71 points, two-time LMC MVP)
"Obviously we're going to have to adjust the way we play," Colwell said. "She makes you look good. Even in the times when you make a mistake, she still found ways to score goals. We played a lot through her because of the type of player she was. We're going to have to change our way of attack."
Returnees for this season: Ann Lehecka (forward, McHenry Ill./Grant); Briana Plautz (defense, Green Bay/New Lutheran); Susan Webb (midfield, Mosinee/Newman); Nicki Willes (midfield, Neenah/Neenah); Tracy Bins (midfield/forward, New Franken/Green Bay Preble); Allyce Maus (defense/midfield, Green Bay/West); Alli Weiss (goalkeeper, New Berlin/Eisenhower); Lorine Weiss (midfield, Salem/Wilmot); Laura Engel (defense, Appleton/West); Kelly Hopfinger (midfield, Hustisford/Hustisford); Marie Reynolds (forward, Fond du Lac/ North Fondy); Elisa Waltz (midfield, Oakfield/Oakfield)
Incoming freshmen: Ana Carlson (midfield, Kiel/Kiel); Amy Christenson (forward, Dodgeville/Dodgeville); Jacqui Drexler (defense/midfield, Appleton/Appleton East); Ashley Falkenthal (defense, Hustisford/Hustisford); Jennifer Graff (defense/midfield, Kiel/Kiel); Becky Kottke (goalie, Fond du Lac/Oakfield); Danielle Ristow (midfield/defense, Kiel/Kiel); Maggie Short (defense/midfield, Green Bay/Preble); Megan Stock (midfield/defense, Libertyville Ill./Libertyville)
This year's recruiting centered on midfield and defensive players, and the incoming class will challenge for playing time this season. Maggie Short (Green Bay/Green Bay Preble) is one of the players who will have the opportunity to come in and work her way into the rotation, possibly a starting role.
"We have Jacqui Drexler, who I think can come in and really step up in a midfield or defender role for us," said Colwell. "She is really pretty versatile, and as a freshman I think the key is really being able to adapt to different situations as a player. Midfield-wise, we have Maggie Short that provides a lot of skill and a lot of speed and is somebody that has a chance to be in the rotation and definitely has a chance to be in the starting rotation.
"Amy Christenson scored some goals in her high school career and is someone that I think can stick it in the back of the net for us."
Colwell is looking to Reynolds and Lehecka to lead the production in order for the offense to be successful this season.
"Marie Reynolds struggled early on getting to know the game as a freshman," Colwell said. "She played practically every game and every minute up top for us, and Ann Lehecka played up top for us as well. Those two will probably be our most dominant forwards."
Offense is going to be the biggest question going into this season, as Colwell will watch closely early to see what other players step up offensively. Laura Engel, a member of the LMC All-Rookie team, started every game last season as a freshman. Despite being listed as a defensive player, Engel was second on the team last year in assists and is expected to help feed the ball to the forwards once again.
"Laura Engel started for us every game last year and she is starting to figure it out," says Colwell. "She'll end up starting for us. She'll be in mix for time at the outside mid. She knows where to be and what to do and that's something you need."
Defense and Goalkeeping:
It appears that this year's program is built around the defensive side of the ball. Briana Plautz, the team captain and a returning first team all-LMC honoree, will lead the defense once again during her senior campaign.
"Our key defender is Briana Plautz," Colwell said. "I think she is a top defender in the conference and has been since her freshman year. She is the anchor back there for us. If we've got her back there, we've got a chance. We also have Kelly Hopfinger, who last year was a freshman, but we're going to expect a lot from her in a more defensive mid role this year. She is somebody that I feel can really step up for us as well."
The netminder this year will once again be Alli Weiss (New Berlin/Eisenhower). She has shown flashes of being one of the best keepers in the conference and the team is looking for her to prove that this season. Last year Weiss was the lone keeper, but this season she will have someone coming up behind her looking for playing time in true freshman Becky Kottke (Fond du Lac/Oakfield).
"I think this is a year where Alli can step up," Colwell said. "She has been kind of up and down while she was learning the game. Last year we didn't have anyone there to really push her, and now Alli knows somebody is coming in and she has been working really hard this summer. I think we can expect some really good things. At times she can be brilliant and at others she knows she hasn't performed to the capability that she knows she has. As a junior, this is the year she really shines and steps up. She has the ability to really be one of the top keepers in the conference and hopefully she'll put it together this year."
Early in the season, the Muskies will travel to Ohio to play in a tournament that features Marietta College. Colwell hopes that playing in a tournament-style event early in the season will help prepare the team for the conference tournament later in the season. The remainder of the non-conference schedule features home games against Augustana, Aurora and Rockford, while Lakeland will travel to face St. Norbert, Mt. Mary and Ripon. Edgewood and Concordia (Wis.) are the two of the other top programs in the LMC, and Lakeland plays them back-to-back on the road.
"The early season tournament format that will be nice preparation for us," Colwell said. "It is back-to-back games and will be nice leading into the season. When we return we're going to play Augustana and at St. Norbert, and those are two very strong teams. I think our non-conference schedule is very strong. There is a stretch there of about five games that will get us ready for our conference games. Every year we try to have a really solid early season to kind of lead us into conference play. In the conference, we play at Edgewood and at Concordia and it's between the three of us. Lakeland, Concordia and Edgewood, that's the way it was last year. Concordia won it last year and they played Edgewood in the final, and it's up to us to win it again. It's unfortunate that we play them both on the road, but that's how it goes. There are other teams that have improved during the off-season, and there are other traditionally tough teams, but Edgewood and Concordia are the two big focal points for us. Wisconsin Lutheran, Marian and Dominican are very solid teams."
2004 Recap: 12-8 (.600) overall; 6-1 (.857) Lake Michigan Conference
Last year, the Muskies soccer team finished second in the conference, the latest chapter in a string of recent success that has established Lakeland as an upper tier LMC program. Lakeland's only conference loss came to eventual conference champion Concordia in a disappointing 1-0 home loss.
Amanda Smith closed out one of the best careers by a Lakeland athlete in recent memory, finishing the season with 33 goals, the most in the nation, and leaving her name in numerous categories in the Lakeland record book. The rest of the team was fairly young and there was a learning process, but the experience gained will prove to be invaluable for the future of the Lakeland program.
"Last year we were a pretty young team, we just had one senior, Amanda Smith, who was our leading scorer and leading goal scorer in the nation," said head coach Marc Colwell. "Trying to replace her will be extremely tough."
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