2016 Season Preview: WSOC
Aug. 17, 2016
With 10 of its 11 goal scorers from last season and eight of 11 starters returning, there is plenty of optimism within the Marquette University women’s soccer program as the 2016 is set to begin Friday at Nebraska.
“It’s the most balanced roster we’ve had in a long time and we want to have a successful season all around,” head coach Markus Roeders said. “The 10 seniors want to come full circle to just a few years ago when they came in as freshmen. Their first season was in 2013, the first year of the (reconfigured) BIG EAST, when we won the regular season title, the conference tournament and went to the NCAAs. I think they are ambitious and focused enough that it is where they want to get back to as the ultimate goal.”
This year’s group of 10 seniors includes seven who earned a number of starting assignments in 2015 and eight if one includes redshirt senior Darian Powell, who will still has a year of eligibility remaining.
Seniors Morgan Proffitt and Liz Bartels return as MU’s most experienced players in 2016 and both received major preseason accolades on the strength of their respective career resumes. Proffitt, who played with the United States Under-23 Women’s National Team this summer, was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List and was also honored as the BIG EAST Conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
“Morgan is one of the top players in the country and a MAC Hermann Trophy nominee, which puts her among the nation’s elite,” Roeders said. “I think she has a bright future beyond this year as a future pro, it just depends on where things fall for her. She is going to play a huge role for our team this year and the success that she has will translate to our team’s success. She is in some ways the heart and soul of our team, but she’s also just one of many that have to step up.”
Proffitt started last season on defense but transitioned into the midfield, where she played this summer for the U.S. WNT. Her 5-foot-10 fame and physical style allow her to be a threat in the air and help her patrol the area in front of MU’s defenders. The Columbus, Indiana native started every game as a true freshman in 2013 as Marquette captured the BIG EAST crown, and has played in all 63 games in her career.
Behind Proffitt, the Golden Eagles’ defensive unit has a number of players who started a good portion of last season despite the loss of All-BIG EAST and all-region performer Jacie Jermier. Erin Holland scored two goals in 2015 and assisted on a pair, while starting 16 of the 17 matches in which she played after fighting her way back from an injury that cut her 2014 campaign short.
She is expected to hold down a center back position alongside junior Madison Dunker, who made 14 starts last season. Cali Pyzdrowski and Kirsten Timmer each had nine starting assignments in 2015, but it was sophomores Leah Celarek and Allison Jacobson who started in the back with Dunker and Holland during MU’s exhibition opener.
“Erin Holland is an experienced center back for us, provides tremendous leadership and a great voice with energy and excitement,” Roeders said. “She has to play a big part of our defensive unit. Our core group in the back line is pretty good with all the other experienced players like Cali Pyzdrowski, Kirsten Timmer, Madison Dunker.
“Initially we will be sorting it out looking at experience, but we will have to rely on who brings consistency every day. We are going to have to win some games 1-0, 2-1, so our defense is going to have to be really good.”
In net, freshman Maddy Henry looks to have the upper hand over sophomore keeper Sloane Carlson who was forced into action last season at LSU and Milwaukee after since-graduated senior Amanda Engle received a red card while playing a ball against the Tigers in September. Henry made nine saves in her collegiate debut against Wisconsin in MU’s exhibition opener, exhibiting the poise that made her one of the top prep goalkeepers in the country during her high school career in Nebraska.
“Maddy is a little more polished and experienced from what she has done in youth soccer,” Roeders said of the pair. “She is someone who can step in and help us right away. Sloane did her part last year and she proved herself to an extent. Maddy has a different set of tools as far as how she played the position and what she brings to our team.”
Offensively the Golden Eagles return 93 percent of their goal scoring from 2015, including five players who notched at least three goals, among those leading scorer Darian Powell. Powell came on late in the season, scoring four of her seven markers in MU’s final three regular season games to earn All-BIG EAST Second Team honors and help the Golden Eagles solidify their spot in the BIG EAST Championship.
Powell led MU in scoring in each of the last two campaigns with seven goals apiece, and has been working her way back from injury during the offseason.
“Darian was our leading goal scorer last year but she didn’t contribute much in the spring because of injury issues, so she’s getting back to where we need her to be,” Roeders said. “We might not have her right from the beginning, but she’s on a good track and in a good spot. Once she is full go it is going to be a matter of channeling her because she is ready to roll. She is excited, pumped up and eager to make a statement.”
The aforementioned Bartels has been a consistent contributor for Marquette over her career, posting double-digit point totals in each of her three seasons and helping to create scoring opportunities for MU’s offense. She started up top for Marquette in its exhibition contest and figures to allow Roeders some versatility with his lineup.
“Liz played in that attacking center-mid role the last few years and some of it will come with how we are going to set ourselves up,” Roeders said of where the Omaha native will play in 2016. “We know how dangerous she is one-on-one, how much she can open space up and set other players up. I don’t think she is that offensive force where she can score 10 goals, but if she’s not directly involved she does help others.”
Fellow seniors Molly Pfeiffer and Ashley Handwork each scored a trio of goals in 2015 and provide different skills that allow them to help MU’s attack in various ways. Other players were also able to contribute offensively last season and some new faces will help as well.
“Molly is definitely a force in the air so headers are definitely somewhere that she will be in the mix, Roeders said “Meegan Johnston going into her senior year really wants to make a statement as do Eli Beard and Hailey VanDerLeest who dealt with injuries last year but could make an impact. Jamie Kutey really learned last year that there is an adjustment from scoring at a youth and high school level and then trying to do the same consistently at the college level. So, I think she is going to be more polished. I am excited to see what Caroline Fink can do being a year older and the same with Carrie Madden because she has come a long way.”
Fink started all but one game in the midfield for Marquette last season, while Carrie Madden joined Bartels up top in the exhibition opener and got her head on a number of crosses that generated good looks. Kutey has been slowed during the preseason but earned BIG EAST All-Freshman recognition in 2016, while Andee Nelson and Alyssa Devine each also saw action against the Badgers.
Heading into the regular season opener on Friday in Bartels’ and Henry’s native Nebraska, Roeders is confident that the non-conference schedule ahead will prepare the Golden Eagles for BIG EAST Conference play and a chance for a postseason run.
“I think we have a great schedule that will challenge us in different ways,” Roeders said. “Hopefully we can peak at the end of the year and make some noise in the postseason. We have some great competition that we are going to play against. There’s a good number of games on the road in the beginning and those will be all good and challenging matches. We want to play those games because they help us with our overall setup for postseason play. The best players want to measure themselves against great teams and they want to have great players around them.”
Keep up with the Marquette women’s soccer program all season long through social media by following on Twitter (@MUWomensSoccer) and Instagram (@MarquetteWSOC) and ‘liking’ on Facebook (/MUWomensSoccer).
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