2012 WWU Women's Soccer Preview
Aug. 12, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - If, as the saying goes, defense wins championships, it might be a great year for the Western Washington University women's soccer team.
The Vikings were 15-5-3 a year ago and finished third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with a 9-4-1 mark. They allowed just 11 goals, and goalkeeper Jamie Arthurs (Richland) posted a 0.55 goals-against average and tied a school record with 11 shutouts.
Arthurs, now a senior, is back, one of eight returning players who started at least eight games in 2011. And WWU coach Travis Connell (10th year, 102-55-19), who need four wins to tie for the school's all-time lead in victories, says defense will be a centerpiece for the Vikings in 2012.
"We've graduated some important players, but we learned a lot in the spring," said Connell. "We will be strong defensively. We're well-organized and athletic. We have players who played a lot last season and have gelled together well."
Arthurs was a first-team all-GNAC pick last season, and enters the season with a scoreless streak of 476 minutes. She has 23 career shutouts and a career GAA of 0.69, both of which rank second in school history.
"A lot starts with Jamie's leadership and talent," Connell said. "She has experience as a fifth-year senior, she might be the most athletic player on the team, and she's driven, she tasted the NCAA tournament once and wants that experience again."
In front of Arthurs is a back line that all saw extensive action last season, led by junior Brina Sych (Vancouver/Union), an honorable mention all-GNAC selection last year. Sych notched four goals and two assists for 10 points, the most of any returnee. Her primary position is right back, but she has the versatility to play almost anywhere on the field.
"Brina is a very important player," said Connell. "She plays within her capabilities and doesn't make mistakes. She's a great weapon, she can play anywhere on the field, and even at right back, she's an attacking threat."
Sophomore Katherine Miccile (Kent/Kentlake), who started 15 games last year and had one assist, returns at left back, while junior Kayla Russ (Puyallup/Bellarmine Prep) and sophomore Brianna Jones (Bonney Lake) return at center back. Russ started nine games last season after making 12 starts as a freshman, and Jones started 12 contests last season in her freshman year, getting three assists.
There's also depth in the defense. Junior Diana Pollock (Bellevue/Eastlake) and junior Melinda Hunsaker (Vancouver/Columbia River) provide experience at the outside slots, and promising freshmen Chelsea Jackson (Surrey, B.C/Fraser Heights) and Kamryn Barney (Snohomish) could see early action at center back.
"We have great athletes in the back," said Connell. "Our returning players have all started, so we have good experience, and we also have good depth."
In the midfield, sophomore Kim Cooper (Bellingham) returns after earning honorable mention all-GNAC status as a freshman. Junior Ashton Griffen (Duvall/Cedarcrest) also figures to start after seeing action in 14 games last year. In front of them, senior Joana Houplin (Olympia) returns as the attacking midfielder after having two goals and tying for the team lead with four assists last year, but is recovering from minor knee surgery.
"Joana is a very technical, attack-minded player," Connell said. "She's also very dangerous on set pieces. I'm anxious to get her healthy, we need her to be dangerous."
"We're pretty set for the next few years in the midfield," said Connell. "We should be able to do more in possession and how we attack teams because we've gotten better there."
Up front, junior Kristin Maris (Issaquah) returns as the primary target forward. She has scored four goals each of the last two seasons. She leads a front line of versatile players who could be used in a variety of ways.
Sophomore Taylor Abrass (Mercer Island), who figures to start on the right, had a goal and two assists last year, and junior Anna Geldenhuys (Bellevue/Sammamish) can play either wide or in the middle. Freshmen Ruth Peredo (Boise, ID/Timberline), a transfer from Boise State University, and Catherine Miles (Anacortes) could also see time in the three forward spots.
"I think we'll be more creative in possession and creating opportunities," said Connell. "Last year, we got chances out of forcing mistakes and countering. Now we'll be able to create them through possession and breaking defenses down."
Connell said if the Vikings are to win the GNAC or gain one of the six spots in the West Regional of the NCAA Division II tournament, feats not accomplished since 2008, the key will be their performance in tight games.
"We need to turn some draws into wins, and that comes down to the little things," Connell said. "We need to do more of the little things correctly; that wins conference championships and gets tournament berths."
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