Milwaukee Looking To Continue Success In 2007
MILWAUKEE, Wis. (Aug. 23, 2007) - The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's soccer team will complete its 2007 preseason campaign this weekend with a pair of exhibition matches, including nationally-ranked Illinois Sunday.
Before taking on the No. 20 Fighting Illini, the Panthers will first host a team of UWM alumni Friday night at Engelmann Field. Some of the players expected to be in attendance are Josha Krueger, whose No. 22 is one of two retired by the team, and Cammy Polson, the second-leading scorer in team history.
Illinois is coming off a season in which it advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament and finished ranked No. 14 in the nation. The Illini return nine starters from last season, including their top two scorers in Ella Masar (9g, 9a - 27 pts) and Chichi Nweke (8, 4 - 20).
The Panthers opened the 2007 preseason last Sunday with a 3-0 win at Illinois State. Sophomore Erin Kreuser picked up the game-winner in the firsthalf and sophomore Kate Megna and freshman Nicole Sperl each tallied second-half scores to lead the way.
Milwaukee opens the regular season Friday, Aug. 31, against Indiana State. The match, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at Engelmann Field, is the first game of the 2007 Milwaukee Cup. The Panthers will then host Washington Sunday at 2 p.m. to round out the tournament.
2007 Women's Soccer Season Preview
The Milwaukee women's soccer team is coming off the two most successful seasons in school history and does not plan to rest on its laurels.
Eight starters and the top six scorers from last season's NCAA Tournament team highlight the players back this season. That list includes all-league first team players in junior goalkeeper Erin Kane and junior midfielder Sarah Teegarden. The duo are among six returning players that earned league honors in 2006.
The Panthers also add to the mix a 10-player recruiting class that was tabbed as the best in the league by Soccer Buzz Magazine.
"The biggest challenge will be clarifying people's roles and fitting everyone together," Moynihan said. "We have to build an understanding on the individual level that contributes to the team. We'll go through periods in the beginning of searching with so many new faces. That's why it is good to have so many strong people returning."
Senior Amanda Winn (8 assists) and sophomore Louise Vraney (6 goals, 14 points) were named to the league's second team after leading the team in assists and points. Vraney was also named to the all-newcomer team alongside sophomores Kate Megna and Erin Kreuser.
Teegarden, Winn, Megna and Kreuser made the bulk of the starts in the midfield last season, while Kane has started 41-of-44 team games in net over her first two seasons.
Vraney is back up top, while senior Joanna Severson and freshman Kayla DeJardin bookend a relatively new defense. One area that was hit hard was that heralded back line. Last year's central defenders, Ginny Graczyk and Taylor Powell, started all 22 games alongside each other, playing nearly every minute together. Both are gone to graduation, but Moynihan should have no trouble fielding another strong defensive corps in front of Kane. An influx of talented freshmen, coupled with veteran leadership, has him fairly confident in his revamped back line.
"Last year we had a group that I thought could compete with anyone," Moynihan said. "This year, you add 10 quality players to that."
Backing her up will be redshirt freshman Leslie Deebach. She sat out last season after recovering from an injury suffered as a senior in high school. She had a standout prep career at Woodbury High School in Minnesota, with 50 shutouts and a scant 0.38 GAA. She led the team to the state title game each year and two state titles.
"We're in great shape in goal," Moynihan said. "Erin has had great success and proven her capabilities there. Leslie gained valuable experience in the spring coming off a redshirt year and by playing with the Minnesota Lightning of the W-League. We are expecting her to come in and, as good as Erin has been, push her a bit. The competition will make both of them better and give us good depth."
"Our defense faces the most uncertainty, despite defenders returning," Moynihan said. "We have more experience with our outside backs than our center backs. We graduated one central defender that played every minute of every game in her career and another that played almost every minute for us last year."
Severson and DeJardin return this season in outside defender roles they held in 2006. Severson started all 22 games on the left side and was second on the team in minutes played. She also tallied three goals, including a pair of game-winners. DeJardin played all 22 games and made 15 starts on the right side.
"Jo and Kayla were very steady last year and logged a lot of minutes," Moynihan said. "Jo was one of our most consistent performers and Kayla kept getting stronger and stronger last season. She made a lot of progress as the season went on."
Senior Claire Pignet could emerge as a starter in a central role after playing primarily on the right side as a junior. She split time with DeJardin and made one start among 18 appearances. While bringing senior leadership to the role, the majority of her collegiate experience has been on the outside.
"Claire's got a phenomenal work rate, a team mentality and leadership qualities that make her valuable in the back," Moynihan said.
Freshmen Erin DeYoung and Sarah Talbert could vie for the second central defender position, while Winn may see time at central back. DeYoung was named all-state all four years at Grand Rapids Christian and Moynihan likes her versatility. Meanwhile, Talbert was a two-time all-state first team member at nearby Brookfield Central High School and helped the Lancers to a pair of state titles.
Winn last played in the back regularly as a sophomore, before injuries in the midfield necessitated a move up to midfield.
"Amanda has vocal leadership qualities that we could use in other places," Moynihan said.
Other players that could see time as outside defenders could be freshmen Ellen Phillips and Heather Roadhouse, while fellow rookies Helena Zbilut and Claire Watkins are candidates for central positions. Senior Pam Shipway could also play central defense, while most of her time will likely be spent in the midfield.
Roadhouse is another versatile player that could join Shipway in splitting time between the defense and the midfield. She was a two-time all-area pick at Brookfield Central. Phillips is another all-state player from Michigan, Zbilut was a three-time all-county player and Watkins was named all-area as a senior.
"It's nice that we have a lot of options and they're all different," Moynihan said of his incoming freshmen. "It's just a matter of getting them together and seeing who is most prepared to make the jump to Division I college soccer."
"Teegarden is the type of player that does a lot of things well. She is very good technically, unpredictable with the ball and really wears people out," Moynihan said. "They fade, but she seems to get stronger. She's great at attacking in the air, has an incredible work rate, on and off the ball, and everything she does is with her maximum effort. She is a player that seems to be involved in key moments of the game, the game-deciding moments.
"Amanda is one of our most competitive players. She has that warrior's mentality on the field. She has a great long distance shot, can serve the ball well and has a great vocal presence."
Megna played in all 22 games a year ago and had two goals and four assists on the year. She started 18 games, but was relegated to a reserve role in the NCAA Tournament after separating her shoulder in the league tournament.
"Kate reads the game well enough and she makes a difference in a game with big goals and big assists," Moynihan said. "She is usually involved in the moments that decide games."
Juniors Beth Steuer and Jodi Klagos also factor into the midfielder mix. Steuer rebounded from an injury that limited her time as a freshman to play in all 22 games and finish fourth on the team with four goals and 10 points as a sophomore. Klagos, who saw time as an attacking midfielder and forward last season, missed the last nine games of the season with an injury. She started 20 games as a freshman when she tied for the team lead with five goals and 12 points. Shipway and Roadhouse will likely see the bulk of their time in the midfield, with Roadhouse possibly taking the role of defensive midfielder. Shipway is tops on the team with 63 career matches played, including 30 starts.
Kreuser could abandon her attacking midfielder role for more time at forward, while one player that could take her place is freshman Nicole Sperl. Sperl was a two-time conference player of the year in high school and earned a pair of all-state selections. Freshman Sarah Talbert is another attacking player whose role could be as both an attacking midfielder and forward. She was an NSCAA All-Region player at BCHS, alongside Roadhouse and Nicole Hirsch.
"We return a lot of midfielders. Teegarden and Winn were key for us last year," Moynihan said. "Kate, when she was healthy, had a big impact. Add to that Beth Steuer, Jodi Klagos, who played some as an attacking mid, and Kreuser, another attacking mid. We also add Sarah Talbert, Nicole Sperl and Heather Roadhouse, all three capable of coming in and challenging for a starting spot.
"Early on, we will have a lot of different looks with different faces. We are going to find which groups are producing and working well together. It's nice to have this kind of depth."
Kreuser could flourish as a forward, as she picked up five goals as a rookie. Three of them went for game-winners, while she teamed with Vraney to confound opposing defenses.
A new but familiar face to the forward mix could be sophomore Andrea Wisniewski. Wisniewski played five games last season after missing the majority of the previous two campaigns with injuries. She got those years back with redshirts and could bring a physical element to the forward corps.
Hirsch adds depth to the group, as will the versatile Talbert and DeYoung. Both players could see time anywhere on the field and, despite the likelihood of her playing in the central defense, DeYoung is an accomplished scorer. She tallied 129 goals in her high school career and was the city offensive MVP three times.
One question mark coming in could be freshman Brianne Borgman. Borgman missed her senior season with an injury after all-state years as a sophomore and junior. Her status remains up in the air as she continues to come back from the injury.
The key, Moynihan points out, is team chemistry between the experienced returners and the large incoming freshmen class. The process is helped by the familiarity a lot of the players have with each other. Six incoming freshmen played club soccer together with FC Milwaukee. Meanwhile, all three Michigan products played for the same Grand Valley Soccer Club team.
"Our chemistry was phenomenal last year and I like the personalities of the people coming in," he said. "I can't wait to get started. These players can contribute on the field, but they also understand our philosophy and will have an immediate positive impact on the environment."