Expectations are high for the 2009 women’s soccer season. The squad returns six of the eight top scorers from last season, as well as goaltenders junior Amanda Domeier and sophomore Allie Byron.
Although the Tommies didn’t lose many players to graduation, those they did were major contributors. A trio of graduated defensemen made up by Abbey Krause, Courtney Walior, and Stephanie Paasch were all named MIAC All-Conference in 2008, leaving the Tommies with questions on defense this season.
Although the Tommies have a small incoming freshman class of five and just two transfers, they could be the answer. Freshmen Brittany Cochlan and Rachel Personious are expected to have an immediate impact on defense for the Tommies.
Senior forward Kirsten Moran acknowledges that the graduates will be missed, but has confidence in others to fill the void. “We have a good freshman class with people who are fully capable of being game changing players,” she said. “We have so many people that are capable of stepping up and are transitioning nicely into new positions.”
Senior forward Erin Sprangers is already noticing the impact Cochlan has on the Tommie defense. “Cochlan brings speed and spunk to our defense, and she’s had a great start to the season,” Sprangers said.
Despite most of the roster returning for the Tommies in 2009, the team remains relatively young. Only three seniors, Moran, Sprangers, and midfielder Alison True, will suit up for the Tommies this year.
Sprangers is the offensive firepower for the Tommies, notching 14 goals and five assists on her way to being named MIAC Player of the Year. In 2007, Sprangers led the team with five goals while being named All-Conference. The Tommies expect even more production from Sprangers in her final season as she continues to develop as a player.
Sprangers acknowledges that the strength of Tommie soccer is offense. “We have multiple players who have the capability to get the ball in the back of the net, and that’s exciting having so many girls that can contribute,” she said.
Moran transferred from Division-I Southern Methodist University in Texas and was the second leading scorer for the Tommies in her 2008 debut season. She notched five goals and five assists last season and was named All-Conference.
The final senior for the Tommies, True, has a goal and 12 career assists in her previous three seasons at St.Thomas.
All three are expected to be major leaders and contributors for Sheila McGill, who enters her third season as the Tommies’ coach. McGill has a record of 24-8-6 coming into the season and was named MIAC Coach of the Year in 2008.
Last season McGill’s team finished 14-1-5 and won the MIAC with a 9-0-2 record. To repeat in the highly competitive MIAC, Moran emphasizes teamwork. “We need to work together as a team, and maintain that throughout the entire season,” she said. “Every game is going to be a fight. We need to play even harder than we did last year, because other teams are going to be looking at us in a different way.”
In the MIAC preseason poll, the Tommies were ranked second behind Carleton, although both received six first place votes. The Tommies beat Carleton in 2008, blanking them 2-0 in a home contest. The Tommies were unbeaten in regular season conference play last year, but their season ended in a postseason shootout loss to Loras College.
In addition to the seniors expected to lead the Tommies this season, expectations are high for sophomore midfielder Allie Emch, junior forward Lexie Fisher, sophomore forward Cailee Osterman, and junior defender Hannah Gikling.
To top last year, Sprangers said four key points would be “exposure to ranked teams, constantly pushing ourselves, confidence in ourselves, and experience at the NCAA level.”
Goaltending will be another key to the Tommie’s success. Domeier excelled in 2008, with the best goal against average in the MIAC at 0.47 and the second best save percentage at 88.1%.
The Tommies believe they have the talent to win, and, after last season, experience as well. As defending conference champions, the team will have a target on their backs, but it is well received. The Tommie squad that Moran describes as “tenacious” is ready to defend their MIAC title.
Danny Grimmer can be reached at email@example.com