2009 Preview: Experienced Vikings look to take success even further
Aug. 18, 2009
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Coming off its most successful season in a quarter-century, the Western Washington University women's soccer team is setting its sights even higher in 2009.
The Vikings were 17-3-2 last year, the best mark since having a 38-game winning streak in the mid-1980s, and reached the Far West region final of the NCAA Division II National Tournament. They won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with a 10-0-2 mark.
"Our team has had a lot of success over the last three years," said Western coach Travis Connell (7th season, 70-41-8), who was named National Soccer Coaches Association of America Far West Region and GNAC Coach of the Year. "It will be important to keep our players hungry for more. Our seniors have been to the tournament twice (initially going in 2006), now they want to win it."
It's a fair goal to set. The Vikings were knocked out of the post-season in the round of 16 by a 1-0 overtime loss to eventual national champion and preseason No.1-ranked Seattle Pacific, a team Western had earned a win and a tie against during the regular season.
Regan has been a starter in the back line the last two seasons, earning honorable mention all-GNAC honors in 2007. She anchors a defense that allowed just 16 goals last season.
"Brynn reads the game well, organizes the back and is dominant in the air," said Connell.
Irving had six goals and seven assists last season while earning second-team all-Far West Region honors from both Daktronics and the NSCAA. A three-year starter, she has career totals of 12 goals and 18 assists, with the latter number being fifth-best in school history.
"Kelly Irving is very creative," said Connell. "She can both set up goals and score them."
Morgan had eight goals and seven assists last season to earn first-team all-region honors from Daktronics and second-team recognition from the NSCAA. She had seven goals and 10 assists as a freshman.
"Claire has led our team in points each of her first two years," said Connell. "Her vision and her ability to strike the ball make her incredibly dangerous."
But that group is hardly the end of Western's talent and experience, as the top seven point-getters return. Senior forward Lucy Miller (Pacific Palisades/Palisades) had a team-high 10 goals last season and has 17 for her career. On the other flank, junior forward Molly Shannon (Bellingham) had eight goals last year. Junior Emily Frankland (Sammamish/Skyline) was also frequently used up front and had four goals.
In the midfield, seniors Stephanie Janigo (Bellingham) and Jenny Barton (Boise, ID/Borah) are both three-year letter winners who have started at various points in their career. Senior Kasey Hostetler (Richland/Hanford) made 20 starts last season and can play in midfield or defense.
In fact, the Vikings return a total of 10 players who started at least half the games last season. The only one of that group who is not an upperclassman is sophomore defender Alica Patten (Seattle/Holy Names), who started 15 games last season.
That group doesn't include senior defender Meghan Woodman (Redmond), who has battled injuries the last two years, but was a first-team Daktronics all-region pick in 2006, when she had a team-high eight assists.
"We have a lot of seniors who have played in a lot of big games," said Connell. "That experience is going to be very valuable."
One area where Western will turn to someone new is at goalkeeper, where redshirt freshman Jamie Arthurs (Richland) will be the starter.
The Western schedule will be a tough one. Non-conference games include visits from traditional West Coast powers Chico State and Sonoma State, as well as a trip to UC San Diego. There's also the GNAC home-and-home battle with Seattle Pacific.
"There are a lot of good teams in our conference, but this year will probably be like the last three and come down to us and Seattle Pacific. The games with SPU are the biggest games every year."
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