New Look Panthers Remain Poised To Attack
Aug. 9, 2012
With a host of new faces on the bench and the sideline, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's soccer team will look to its four-player senior class to lead the team in 2012.
First-year head coach Greg Henschel is ecstatic to have seniors Helen Steinhauser, Jamie Forbes, Demi Price and Sammy Vovos leading the squad on the field as he ushers in his own era of Panther soccer.
"Those four, as a new coach coming into this program and looking at the senior group from last year, I don't think I could be happier or feel more privileged to have this group bridge the gap," Henschel said. "[They have] great personality, great work ethic and are all very good soccer players."
From top to bottom, the team knows it has its work cut out for it. The 2011 Panthers finished 19-3 and were ranked as high as No. 9 in the nation. The season culminated in the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament win and third trip to the tourney's second round.
That tournament was the swan song for one of the most highly-decorated senior classes in school history. Led by perennial All-American and one of the top goal-scorers in NCAA Division I history, Sarah Hagen, the class became Milwaukee's first to go to the NCAA Tournament in each of its four years. Aside from the headliner in Hagen, Keara Thompson was the fourth-leading scorer in school history, Makenzie Gillaspie was a four-year starter, Mary Wandolowski was a stalwart on defense since assuming a starting role midway through her freshman campaign and Laurel Ragalie finished in the top-10 in school history for career goals.
"That was a great senior class," Henschel said. "I had the pleasure to meet that group and when you shook hands with them you could sense their presence and the pride they had in what they achieved and worked for."
Also gone is head coach Michael Moynihan, now the head coach at Northwestern. The final in a family legacy that saw a Moynihan head the program for over 20 years beginning in 2011.
But, Henschel is not concerned with what is gone as much as he is confident in what he has on this roster. The team did not lose any non-graduating letterwinners from last season, returns six starters and has a full complement of 12 freshmen to fill in roles around the squad.
"There is a good group of players that have been on the roster the last year or two that are looking to fill up some of those statistics that were left behind," Henschel said. "We are going to have to be sure to be organized defensively and if we are giving up scoring chances, we have to be giving up the right kind of scoring chances that we can deal with. We are going to have to be very cohesive in our efforts defending. The team has always been sound defensively and I think that will be a key."
Dorre joined the team after the 2011 season had started, but worked her way onto the field and into the starting lineup quickly. In 15 games with the team, she scored three goals and had three assists, while showing some technical skill with the ball.
Lewers made an impact early for Milwaukee as a freshman, scoring four goals on the year, including three game-winners. She cracked the starting lineup and went on to make 10 starts over 19 appearances. The 2011 Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year, LaPlant finished her freshman campaign strong. She had two goals and an assist over her last seven appearances, with the assist coming in UWM's NCAA Tournament First Round match.
"Krissy had some very impactful moments (last spring). She is still looking for a foothold to get some consistency in her output, her work rate and her ability to be available for the team," Henschel said. "Kelly showed some truly tremendous moments last spring. She does a lot of things that, at times, go unnoticed. She may not get the final touch for goals, but she does a lot to set up scoring opportunities. We are looking for her to have a great season. Morgan also did a tremendous job [in spring], providing some dynamic runs and speed of play from the wings."
Vovos and Melanie Coderre will also look to make their mark on the forwards after impressing Henschel already.
Vovos returns to the field after having missed the last two seasons with two separate injuries. She will look to rebound to the form she showed in the second half of her true sophomore campaign in 2009, when she scored two goals and assisted on another over the last eight games of the season. Whether or not she's scoring, Henschel is confident that Vovos will make an impact with the young team.
"One of the nice things is having Sammy back here, bridging the gap." Henschel said. "She was originally in last year's senior class and now is a part of this year's senior class. She can really provide some team insight to our group."
Coderre saw extended time in the spring and has appeared in 19 games over her first two years in a Panther uniform. She scored 96 goals as a prep star in Illinois and has worked hard to prove herself at the collegiate level.
"Mel provides a great presence," Henschel said. "Every day I was continually impressed by her work ethic last spring. Through hard work, she really puts herself in position to score goals and has a knack for scoring."
Redshirt freshman Sara Zawacki is also coming off a strong spring campaign, netting a pair of goals. She missed her true redshirt season with an injury, but seems poised to return to the level of play she established as a prep standout in Michigan.
"Our midfield is going to have some really good options," Henschel said. "We'll need a real workman's-like mentality to connect our defensive and attacking efforts. We are really excited about the group of returning midfielders we have."
Steinhauser was an all-league first-team selection last season and is the team's top-returning scorer. She tallied four goals and five assists on the year for 13 points. She has spent time in the midfield and on defense in her career. Early in camp, her role remains undefined, but she has excelled in each role.
"Helen sets the tone for everyone on our roster both with her work ethic and what she asks from the team," Henschel said. "We bounced Helen around in the midfield and on the back line and we will continue to work to decide where we will play her this year."
Price has seen starting action in each of her last two seasons. In 2011, she appeared in 21 games and started five times. She finished with a pair of assists on the season and is another player that should see a strong spring propel her into a more prominent role this season.
"Demi had a great spring." Henschel said. "I enjoyed watching her play and watching her work. She grabbed on to some of the things we wanted from her this spring and was really engaged in that idea. I'm hoping Demi will provide us some good play and great moments."
Holbert was the more offensive of the two, going forward to score four times. She also assisted on three other goals for 11 points. A league all-newcomer team selection, she'll be looked to continue her work as an attacking midfielder.
"We really need a tremendous level of consistency and work ethic from Amy and she showed us that in the spring. Even as a sophomore, we will be relying on her in the midfield," Henschel said. "Kelsey had an unbelievable spring. She is really good on the ball and obviously has tremendous pace. She will pop out of the midfield and provide us with both defending and attacking play."
Younger players that could garner some midfield play early include sophomore Vienna Behnke and redshirt freshman Emma Worthington. Behnke saw action in 11 games as a freshman and picked up a goal and an assist. Worthington, meanwhile, redshirted last year after a standout career at Moundsview High School in Minnesota.
"Vienna had a good, solid spring. She battled some injuries, but she has shown potential to help us in the midfield, as well as in a left-sided role, either at defender or on the wing," Henschel said. "Emma is another player that worked very hard in the spring and, already, has looked like she has worked very hard in the off-season. She has shown some really good moments."
Come back to uwmpanthers.com Friday when we preview the Panthers' defensive efforts in the new season.