Air Force Women's Soccer 2008 Season Outlook
Aug. 11, 2008
The 2008 Air Force women's soccer team will be learning on the fly. With just seven returning upperclassmen, the Falcons will rely heavily on a young team that features eight sophomores and 20 freshmen. Yet despite the lack of veterans, head coach Marty Buckley believes the team is significantly improved from a 2-14-2 season a year ago.
"Our Veteran numbers may be on the smaller side, but they are valuable players that we will heavily rely on," Buckley said. "In addition to our upperclassmen, we brought in what our staff feels as a very strong and talented newcomer group that will make an immediate impact."
The Falcons return six starters and 15 letterwinners off the 2007 squad, including two-time All-Mountain West Conference defender Rachael Emory. In addition, senior team co-captains Kristen Wolverton and Roni Yadlin will be called upon to provide leadership and guidance in developing a young team.
With so many newcomers and untested underclassmen, the Falcons will look capitalize on any advantages they can attain. Buckley hopes that nine of the first ten games being at home (including three exhibition matches) will help acclimate the freshmen to Div. I play. In all, the Falcons will play at home 13 times and go on the road just seven times.
"By getting to play so many home games, we feel that this is an advantage to our team and will help speed up the learning curve for our underclassmen," Buckley said. "We hope that the early slate of home games and the two tournaments midseason will prepare us to be playing our best late into the season when we enter Mountain West Conference play."
A major key towards improved success in 2008 will be a stronger emphasis on goal-scoring, a problem that has plagued Air Force for the past couple of years. In addition to the scoring struggles, the Falcons are looking to improve upon its chances at timely goals, something that has also helped the team elude the win column. Air Force dropped six games by a goal and managed just one multi-goal game a season ago.
"We were so close to capitalizing on our scoring chances last year, but didn't," Buckley said. "We feel we have improved up top with the newcomers bringing in strong skill sets. This will enable us to attack and get more scoring chances. If we are going to be successful, we have to take advantage of our opportunities and we feel that we have the players that can do so."
Here is a quick breakdown of the 2008 Squad.
The Front Line
With the departure of leading scorer Katherine Slogic and Corbin Sanford, the Falcons are looking to several returners and some new faces to plug into starting roles. Junior Susan Finch and sophomore Sarah Horton showed significant improvement during Spring ball and have the inside track to earn starting spots. A slew of newcomers enter Fall practices with opportunities to earn playing time. Incoming freshmen that can play at the striker spot include Sharon Aradine, Kelly Bieber, Bridgette Murphy, Brittany Szewc, Kristin Connell, Stephanie Puzak and Shaina Thompson.
"We'll be young and untested up top, but we have some youngsters that have some talent," Buckley said. "We're looking for some players to step up and earn starting roles as we progress through the preseason practices."
As with the forward positions, the Falcon midfield will be mix of several returners and a group of newcomers. With the losses of 2007 starter Kelsey Yip and three-year letterwinner Kimberly Hale due to knee injuries, several new players look to earn starting roles.
Yadlin will anchor the midfield as a returning starter and sophomore Ali Neptune looks to step into a bigger role after playing a reserve role in 2007. Sophomores Erin Flanigan and Sarah Horton will also earn playing time in the middle. Four freshmen also have the chance to earn some playing time. Kelly Laurent, Heather Watts and Kelly Wert will see time as scoring midfielders and Kalyn Tung and Meghan Martinez will also see time as defensive midfielders.
"We are pretty versatile in the midfield, where we have several players that can play as mid-forwards or mid-defenders," Buckley said. "We just have to find out who can make the plays and go from there. But I am encouraged at the depth we have and feel confident we have the players to get the job done."
Buckley sees the Air Force back line as being the team s' strength. Despite the loss of team captains Rhett Chase and Christin Brodie to graduation, the Falcons return starters Emory and Wolverton. In addition, sophomores Jess Brown, Lyndsey Horn and Shannon Nail saw considerable action as freshmen and will be in the mix for starting slots this fall. Sophomore Krystal Sweitzer and a big group of freshmen-- Meagan Eissele, Laurent, Martinez, Krystin Shanklin, Amber Sikora, Ashley Sikora, Cassie Wilson and Erin Winner--make the Air Force backfield deep and talented for the next few years.
"With the return of Rachael and Kristen, we have two solid returning starters," Buckley said. "In addition, several sophomores saw a lot of playing time and should contribute significantly this year. We have a deep pool of freshmen to work with also so I like our depth and talent in the backfield as well."
Air Force returns all three goalkeepers from a year ago and add two freshmen to the mix. Junior Ashlee Curtis has worked her way into the starting lineup as she finished her sophomore season the starter in front the Falcon net. Depending on how her experiment with playing forward goes, senior Erin Wallace may back up Curtis or possibly work her way back into a starting role. If not, sophomore Elizabeth Smith will backup Curtis and may push for more playing time with a solid Fall. In addition, freshmen Ariana Green and Susan Vanden Dries come to the Academy with strong high school and club credentials.
"We have several options at goalkeeper," Buckley said. "Ashlee has the early nod, but both Erin and Elizabeth will compete for time during fall practices. We also have a pair of solid freshmen who could surprise us."