Panthers Ready To Defend Their Goal, Championships
Aug. 10, 2012
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's soccer team enters the 2012 season with defense on its mind.
Defending the goal, yes, but, also defending a string of 12-straight Horizon League championships. Success in the former is a good indicator of success in the latter.
Losing two of the top four scorers in school history after last season is enough to overshadow the Milwaukee's defensive efforts. Any success the Panthers have in 2012 will be a combination of replacing the losses on offense, as well as an equally big hole on defense.
"With a large group of newcomers, we are going to have to build off last spring and keep gaining trust in each other," head coach Greg Henschel said. "As long as we keep working to trust each other and communicate well, the other things will take care of themselves. We need to defend well this year and we have a really good goalkeeper that can lead us in that effort in Jamie Forbes. I think that will be a definite key to our season."
Forbes will be the anchor behind a new-look defensive line. Gone are senior starters Mary Wandolowski on the outside and Makenzie Gillaspie at center back. Sophomore Amy Kauffung, who started 17 games as the other outside back position, has also found a permanent home in the midfield.
Fortunately for Henschel, he and his staff have been addressing the defensive issues since the spring season and may have found players ready to step up and start in front of Forbes.
Entering 2011, the back line was a question mark, but one that was solved rather early. This season, Henschel is hoping for a similar reconciliation.
Sophomores Emily Scott and Stephanie Condon return as starters and several other players have stepped up since the end of last season.
Scott started all 22 games at center back, despite playing being a forward coming out of high school. She was a league all-newcomer team selection as she grasped what was asked of her quickly. Condon, a redshirt freshman last season, stepped into an outside back role and allowed Kauffung to be moved into the midfield. Condon went on to start all four post-season games for the Panthers and should hold her spot down in 2012.
"You could tell Emily played center back a lot, but she was just a freshman and you could see she was still getting used to that role in the spring," Henschel said. "We'll look to her to pick up some leadership back there and be more vocal and continue her understanding of the back line and the organization we'll need back there."
Henschel also has an ace in the hole in senior Helen Steinhauser. Like Gillaspie before her, Steinhauser has demonstrated she can be a strong defense influence, but is preferred in the midfield where she can aid the attack.
Some other candidates to step in early are juniors Hannah Kaul and Sara Stern. Kaul began last season as a starting defensive midfielder before finding a niche at center back in the spring. Stern spent her time at forward as a freshman, tallying three goals and two assists, but split time at forward and outside back last season. The bulk of her minutes and both starts did come on defense.
"A player that had a really strong finish to our spring in the back line was Hannah Kaul," Henschel said. "She was a player we moved back and forth between the midfield and back line, but she ended the spring with a pair of really strong matches as a center back. She could provide us with some strong potential there."
Junior Kelsey Kochanowski, sophomore Caity Bestwina and redshirt freshman Lauren Jimenez will make sure that defender spots are earned, as each have done well at outside back over the spring or early preseason. All three redshirted last fall, Kochanowski after a high-scoring career at Division III Alverno College in Milwaukee and Bestwina and Jimenez with injuries.
"We had a really new group in the spring," Henschel said. "Steph Condon, Sara Stern and Caity Bestwina were the three we played at outside back. Lauren Jimenez has returned on the back line and Kelsey Kochanowski is another player we could see there for us. It's a good group of backs, we just need to find the chemistry and piece it together."
Kochanowski brings a physical presence to the position and is strong in the air. Bestwina looked strong in nine appearances as a freshman in 2010. Meanwhile, Jimenez is getting back into shape after missing her last season of prep soccer and first at the collegiate level with an injury.
GOALKEEPER Despite returning an all-region first-team keeper in Forbes, the staff did not hesitate to build some strong depth behind her for this season. Sophomore Natalie Fettinger returns and the duo is joined by freshmen Tailer Roscoe and Paige Lincicum.
"As a coach to a new program, you can't come into a better situation than having a goalkeeper like Jamie Forbes," Henschel said. "Then, to have Natalie, Paige and Tailer--it's pretty fortunate to have goalkeepers of the quality that I have seen in the first couple days. This is a quality group and, to come into this situation, I credit the previous coaches and Dave Madsen for recruiting in two quality freshman goalkeepers for the future."
Forbes was among the national leaders last season with a 0.66 goals against average, .849 save percentage and 11 shutouts. She set a school record with 18 wins and was a force in goal. The Illinois native carried that over into a strong summer campaign with the Chicago Red Stars of the WPSL elite and is poised to keep going for the Panthers this season.
Fettinger appeared in just two games last season, but came up big with a start at Butler. After Forbes suffered a short-term injury in practice at Butler, Fettinger stepped into the starting role against the Bulldogs and , while conceding just one goal in a crucial league win. Overall, she logged 100 minutes and had a 1-0 record and 0.90 GAA.