Women's Soccer Preview
Aug. 1, 2006
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - A strong, experienced midfield will be the centerpiece for the Western Washington University women's soccer team in the 2006 season.
The Vikings return 13 letter winners from last year's 9-8-2 squad, which had a 6-5-1 mark in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play. Those players combined for 26 of Western's 34 goals in 2005.
"The midfield is definitely one of our strengths, it is one of the strongest midfields in the conference," said Western coach Travis Connell (4th year, 27-28-4). "There's not just quality in our midfield, there's depth, and we'll probably have a situation where some of the midfielders end up in other positions because we have so many quality players there."
The most experienced player in that veteran midfield is senior Katie Weber (Yakima/Eisenhower), who has started all but one game over the last three years and is one of just two three-year letter winners on the team. Weber, a second-team all-GNAC pick, shared the team lead in goals with five, and added one assist for 11 points.
"Katie Weber gives us so much athleticism, and she's super versatile," said Connell. "She can defend the other team's best player, and she can also get forward to score. We ask her to do different things based on the opponent we face, and it's nice to have a weapon like that."
Weber and junior Amanda Font (Federal Way/Decatur), also a second-team all-league selection, enter their third season together as part of the central midfield. Font, who has started every game the last two years, had three goals in 2005.
"She's the anchor of our midfield," Connell said of Font. "We play her in a defensive role, but she still finds a way to score goals. I think she'll also take more of a leadership role this year."
The outside midfielders are led by junior Rosie Zadra (Poulsbo/North Kitsap), who earned second-team all-NSCAA West Region honors last season, scoring four goals and having four assists for 12 points.
"She's the one person every opposing coach will have on their white board," Connell said. "She's great technically, she has amazing pace. Our job is to create matchups to get her the ball and get her space. We've moved her from forward into the midfield so she can run at people more."
Two players who sat out last season after lettering in 2004 will also see time at the outside midfield spots. Junior Katy Nydam (Oak Harbor) had two goals and an assist as a part-time starter in 2004. The other player back is sophomore Rachelle Saletto (Bellingham/Squalicum).
One area where the Vikings expected to have additional experience was at goalkeeper. But senior Teresa Fish (Sr., Monroe), a second-team all-GNAC pick the last three seasons with a school-record 20 shutouts and a second-team all-West Region selection in 2005, will miss the entire campaign with a broken leg suffered last spring.
That leaves the goalkeeping spot to sophomore Whitney Knox (Seattle/Blanchet) and freshman Brittany Martin-Gegax (Everett/Cascade). Knox was the backup a year ago, but saw all her playing time as a forward, scoring two goals.
With the inexperience of the goalkeepers, Connell said having a solid defense is all the more important. Anchoring that defense is sophomore central defender Katie Warner (Burlington/Burlington-Edison), who started all 20 games as a freshman, tallying two goals and demonstrating the poise of a much older player.
"It's rare to have a sophomore with the most experience, but she has it," Connell said of Warner. "We depended on her last year in the back as a freshman. She's calm, she makes great choices, and she can read plays well. She also scored two big goals last year, and we'll do more with her this season on restarts to get her more opportunities."
Another key returnee in the back is outside defender Alyssa Kessler (Portland, OR/Grant), a key reserve last year who shared the team lead in goals with five despite making just two starts. Sophomore Shelby Marcell (Redmond/Eastlake) is the likely starter at the other outside spot.
Senior Molly Soltero (Sammamish/Skyline), a three-year letter winner with 24 career starts, provides experience at outside back. Additional depth comes from redshirt freshman Brynn Regan (Mercer Island) in central defense, and from redshirt freshman Meghan Woodman (Redmond) and freshman Stephanie Janigo (Bellingham) at the outside spots.
Up front, sophomore Kelly Gagne (Kent/Kentwood) was an honorable mention all-GNAC pick last season. She led the team in points with 13, notching four goals and having a team-high five assists.
Behind Gagne are four freshmen - Kelly Irving (Gig Harbor), Lucy Miller (Palisades, CA/Palisades), Samantha Sommer (Sandy, OR) and Claire Morgan (Bellingham). Morgan scored 102 goals in her high-school career despite missing all but five games of her senior season, and Miller had 88 career goals, including 26 as a senior.
Western opens the season with seven straight non-conference games, the first five against California Collegiate Athletic Association schools, before closing the season with 10 of its last 12 contests being GNAC counters. The early-season run against the CCAA could be critical to any post-season hopes.
"How long it takes us to find the right combination is really important," Connell said. "We definitely have the ability, but we have a lot of new people. Once we find the combination, we can be a great team. Four teams earn berths in the West Region tournament in November.
"We also have to fight complacency," Connell said. "We got off to a good start last year, then we got into conference play, and we dropped some games we shouldn't have."
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