Young Panthers Look To Continue Winning Ways In 2013
Head coach Greg Henschel

Head coach Greg Henschel

Aug 20, 2013

MILWAUKEE - Heading into the 2012 season, there were plenty of questions surrounding the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's soccer program. The team graduated three of its top-10 goal scores in program history, including perennial All-American Sarah Hagen, who finished her four-year career as one of the top scorers in NCAA Division-I history. In addition to the new faces on the field, the Panthers also had a new face on the sideline in head coach Greg Henschel.

The result? UWM answered all of those questions without skipping much of a beat, winning its 13th-consecutive Horizon League Championship and earning its fifth-straight berth to the NCAA Tournament.

"We had a great group of seniors last year and we were able to continue the great culture of Milwaukee women's soccer," Henschel said. "I was glad that we were able to keep the conference title streak alive. I know that is something on our players' mind and that's one of our goals again this year, obviously."

With an impressive first year under his belt, Henschel is excited to get back on the field and pick things up right where he left off last year.

Milwaukee again will have to deal with some key loses due to graduation. For the second-straight year the Panthers will move on without the Horizon League Player of the Year. Helen Steinhauser was a stalwart in the midfield and netted back-to-back game winners for UWM during conference play to help propel the team to another league title. Also departing from last year's squad are; keeper Jamie Forbes, who played every minute in goal last season, a solid midfielder in Demi Price and a fifth-year senior in Sammy Vovos who scored four goals last year after missing two seasons from injuries.

 

 

Henschel knows the loss of those seniors will be felt but is confident this year's team will fill those holes and push for another conference championship.

"The team is doing a fantastic job and working hard, and I feel really good about the direction we're heading and the effort to pursue our goal to retain the Horizon League title," Henschel said. "As long as we work as hard as we can, when it's time to relax and play I think we will represent Panther soccer really well, no matter what the outcome of the season is. I think we'll represent the Panther foundation, the women's soccer foundation and this program's history really well this year."

With four vacated spots up for grabs, there will be a healthy competition for who will step up. Taking aim to replace those seniors' roles will be quite a few freshmen, thirteen of them to be exact.

"It's no secret that we're a young team this year. We have 13 freshmen out of 27 players," Henschel said. "The newcomers I think are really moving forward quickly. We need the young players to catch up and aspire to what our veteran players bring to the field and we all need to get to the level our opponents bring to the field. I like where everyone is headed and I think we're moving in a good direction."

Forwards
With a shadow cast over the forward position by the aforementioned 2011 senior class, the 2012 group went out on a mission. Milwaukee netted 26 goals on the season, second in the league by only two goals. However, UWM achieved their tally in two less games, giving them a goals-per-game average of 1.44, the highest in the league.

Now, the 2013 group is out to make its own mark. All-Horizon League First-Team member Kelly Lewers scored three times last year and assisted on six others and figures to be even stronger heading into just her junior year.

"Kelly has returned really fit this year and I'm really excited about her potential," Henschel said. "She had a great spring and it was a tough year on her I think last fall. She had an injury in the early part of last season that really had a devastating effect on our front line. She's shown a lot of strength in sticking to it and just continuing to work really, really hard and I'm excited about her potential this year."

Classmate and fellow forward Krissy Dorre was also honored by the league at the end of last season, earning second-team honors after leading the conference in goals (seven) and points (17). Not bad for someone who missed the first five games of the season due to injury.

Dorre had a flare for the dramatic, as well, registering the game-winner three times last year. The first came when she scored twice in a win over in-state rival Green Bay. The next two came on even bigger stages, finding the back of the net in double overtime of both Horizon League Tournament games. That marks just the 16th time a Panther has scored game-winning goals in back-to-back games, but Dorre becomes the first to do so in overtime or double-overtime contests.

"Krissy is going to be a big part of this group," Henschel said. "I think everyone is aware of her potential to compete and score goals for us and we're looking forward to seeing her continue to strive for that potential."

Melanie Coderre is the lone senior figuring to see minutes at the forward position. The fourth-year player will provide some balance and leadership to the group. After scoring 96 goals as a prep standout in Illinois, she looks to finish her career on a high note.

Junior Morgan LaPlant can play both forward and midfield, tallying two goals on just 10 shots as a freshman. The 2011 Gatorade Wisconsin Player of the Year adds a burst of speed and figures to be in the mix this year.

Also joining the attack is a group of newcomers who will look to make an immediate impact. Maria Stephans and Taylor Swittel both redshirted last year and should push for time. Callie O'Donnell also returns after appearing in six games as a freshman a season ago, making one start and assisting once.

"Maria joins the forward group this year. We're really looking to have her make an impact, though she might find herself in the midfield, as well. I think she's on a great path," Henschel said. "In addition to that, Mel Coderre is in her senior year in our front line and we'll look to her to provide some leadership, passion and commitment in what she does up there. And we've got a couple young players; we're looking at Taylor Swittel for that front line and Callie O'Donnell has given us a good offensive push right behind her. So, hopefully offensively we'll find some goals this season."

Midfield
Milwaukee's midfield has traditionally been one of its strong suits, as proven by Steinhauser winning player of the year honors from that spot last year. Her departure, in addition to Price's, leaves two open spots in the lineup. That has made for a great competition throughout the spring season and carrying over into camp.

"The competition at midfield is probably just something everyone is going to have to come to terms with. The level of competition in that group is so high, everyone will have to be willing to take that challenge on in the midfield and raise their game to find minutes," Henschel said. "Bottom line, finding minutes is going to be a real dog fight in there and I think that is a strength of our group. I look forward to seeing our players compete for their time and I think it will result in a positive and healthy transition onto the match field from our training setting."

Kelsey Holbert is one of the returning leaders for Milwaukee's midfield group. The junior is coming off a first-team all-league season where she started all 18 games. In fact, Holbert has now started in 39 of her 40 games as a Panther after an impressive freshman campaign earned her a spot on the league all-newcomer team. Her three goals and five assists out of the midfield were key for UWM's championship run last year, as twice she helped set up the game winner.

Senior Sara Stern will also help anchor the group. The lone senior has found a home in the middle of the field of late after playing up top and scoring three times as a freshman before moving defense as a sophomore. She logged the majority of her minutes at midfield last season, tallying three assists in 17 games.

The last remaining upperclassman in the middle is Vienna Behnke. The junior scored the first goal of the season for Milwaukee a year ago in what proved to be the game-winner over St. Bonaventure. Behnke started 14 total games last year and is likely to be a key factor going forward.

In addition to those three come a host of underclassmen, all of which could see playing time. Emma Worthington saw the field 11 times last year and looked more comfortable as the season wore on. Now a sophomore, Worthington looks to play more of a factor with another year under her belt.

Sky Perna is in the mix after starting twice and playing in 10 matches last year, though she could split time on the defensive side of the ball, as well.

Emma Fatla comes from area powerhouse Grafton where she helped lead her team to the state semifinals her final two years after a runner-up showing as a prep sophomore. After redshirting last year, Fatla looks to bring her soccer skills to the forefront this year.

Abbey Hoerschner, Kelly Manski and Anny West will also compete for time on the field in the deep group. Hoerschner was starting to make an impact last year before an injury forced her to receive a medical redshirt. Manski and West combined to help their high school squads to three state titles between the two of them and look to carry their prep success to the college game.

"We've got some great midfielders," Henschel said. "Between the Sara Sterns and Kelsey Holberts and Emma always gives us a great effort. There are a couple of veteran, older midfielders, but there are some other newcomers coming up. We're really excited about what this group brings to the table."

Defense
Heading into the season, perhaps no group is as set as the Panther defense. UWM returns three of its four from last season's group that only conceded five goals in conference play, one of which came in the final seconds of a double-overtime game.

Senior Hannah Kaul started all 18 games for Milwaukee last year, including playing every minute in 17 of those matches. The Panthers will rely on her veteran leadership and experience this year to help bolster the back line, as she played a key role in seven shutouts last year.

Junior Amy Kauffung played a variety of roles for UWM last season but found herself as part of the back line at season's end, earning All-Horizon League Second-Team honors along the way. She registered two goals and one assist before making the switch to defense where she was part of five shutouts. Playing all but 57 minutes on the season a year ago, Kauffung will be another important piece to the Milwaukee defensive puzzle this season.

Caity Bestwina is the final returning member for this group. The junior started the first 12 games of the season last year before being sidelined with an injury. She battled through, however, returning off the bench in the league tournament and starting in the NCAA Tournament game against Notre Dame.

"That back line, we feel good about that group," Henschel said. "It is a little bit more upperclassmen-established back there, so hopefully some of that veteran leadership and experience will help the young players in between and in front of them play well and we'll start gaining more and more confidence and believing in each other."

Some of the younger players Henschel hopes to see step up include Tatum Smith, Alleina Szydlowski, Rachael Van Keulen and Ashley Burkhardt.

Smith is a strong defender from California. She brings solid technique and real toughness and figures to play a key role this year. Szydlowski is a taller back that also could play a significant role for Milwaukee in 2013 and is joined by Van Keulen as a redshirt from last season.

Burkhardt comes to Milwaukee after a year at UW-Eau Claire. She started all 19 games for the Blugolds as a true freshman in 2012 and helped UWEC to a second-place showing in its conference.

"Between Amy, Hannah and Caity, that's a great three back there. Hopefully Alleina will get cleared (from injury) and Tatum will continue on the positive path that she's on," Henschel said. "We've got some depth back there as well this year. Rachael Van Keulen, Ashley Burkhardt, we've played Sky in the back, so we've got a nice group of players and some depth there on the back line to hopefully get everyone comfortable and feel confident in the rest of the season."

Goalkeepers
For the first time in two years, there is an opening at the keeper position with the departure of Forbes. The 2011 league goalkeeper of the year started an impressive 56 games in her career, including all-but one game over the past two seasons. With Forbes graduated, that opens the door for a trio of hopefuls heading into this year's campaign.

"The goalkeeping position is starting to close I think, but it has been a wide-open position since last year," Henschel said. "Jamie Forbes played every minute of every game for us last year. Jamie was a fantastic goalkeeper and had a great career here so we're excited about the open competition between Tailor Roscoe and Paige Lincicum and Natalie Fettinger. Hopefully `Nat' will provide us some good leadership and Paige and Tailor will grab on to some of that and keep picking up those little moments as young goalkeepers."

Fettinger is the only current Panther to play collegiately between the posts, starting once and playing in two games as a freshman. Now a junior, she hopes will compete for the starting job and bring valuable experience to the group.

Lincicum is a redshirt freshman that hails from Cary, Ill. where she helped her team to a conference title as a senior, posting seven shutouts that season. Lincicum did start in an exhibition match against Michigan State last season and will be in the running for the starting nod this season.

Roscoe also comes off a redshirt freshman year after starting all four years at Kattering High School, where she holds each of her school's single-season goalkeeping records.

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