Aug. 15, 2012
With a strong returning group and an incoming class ready to immediately contribute, Air Force women’s soccer has big aspirations for the 2012 season.
Air Force returns 16 letterwinners including eight players with starting experience off the 2011 squad, which went 6-10-3 and a fifth-place finish in the Mountain West Conference. In addition, the Falcons welcome 11 talented newcomers that will look to fill in the gaps left by a graduating 2011 senior class that featured a trio of four-year starters and a three-year starter.
Gone is the senior class, which featured four-time all-conference honoree in Bridgett Murphy and two-time team captain in midfielder Krystin Shanklin. The Falcons also lost two starters in their backfield in co-captains Cassie Wilson and Meagan Eissele.
The Falcons are confident they will have more than enough firepower returning, led by a strong senior class and emerging junior and sophomore core. The Falcons return three of their top four scorers from last season, including sophomore midfielder McKenna Fox and senior forward Stephanie Patterson. Air Force returns junior Kelly Stambaugh and sophomore Hannah Schwartz in goal. The duo combined to start 18 of 19 matches for the Falcons last season.
Head Coach Larry Friend took a moment from preparing for the upcoming season to talk about his 2012 team.
Q : How is the team coming together during preseason practices?
A: Our returners have come back fit and in shape for this season. Our upperclassmen have done a good job of quickly getting the freshmen integrated into the program and allowing them to compete right away.
The season is starting much quicker for us than usual. Our practice time has been a little limited with Basic Cadet Training (BCT) being pushed back a week this year. In addition, the NCAA approved an earlier start to the season so we’re trying to get the team to gel in a shorter time frame, so that’s been a little difficult.
Q: Will it be tough replacing the veteran graduating class of 2012?
A: Without a doubt. We will miss the class of 2012. They provided a lot of leadership and will be hard to replace.
Q: What areas do you see as team strengths this season?
A: Our team personality emerged during the Spring and we’re encouraged about that. Our team strength this year is our team cohesion. They are a resilient group. They are determined to get better and have the belief that they can do it. The motto this year is O.N.E. ...Resilient, Determined, Belief.
Q: Although you still haven’t played a match, are there areas you see for improvement?
A: There is always room for improvement. We’re using a lot more video during practices and this has enabled us to teach more tactical awareness in a way they can see. The coaching staff would also like to see more improvement on the defensive end.
Q: What will it take for the Falcons to have success in 2012?
A: We want to be in a good position to be in every game this year and maintain our focus for the entire match.
Q: What are the team goals for this season?
A: We are shooting for a winning season and a berth into the Mountain West Tournament.
Q: Tell us about this year’s seniors?
A: We have a solid group of seniors. They’re committed to the challenge of a successful season. Kim Koeppen will anchor our defense and we look for Stephanie Patterson to have a breakout senior season on offense. Eryn Avjian will play both defender and forward for us this season and Sophia Lockerby has the chance to seize more control in the middle with the graduation of Krystin Shanklin. Charity Blanton returns to the team after taking her junior year off to focus on academics. She will add depth to our goalkeeping group.
Q: How is the junior class?
A: The junior class is a very talented group of soccer players. Leah Bratt has been a two-year starter for us and we look for her to show continued improvement. Kelly Stambaugh has been a solid presence in goal for us the past two years and she is being challenged to improve. Loren Catchpole is looking to shake off some injuries early in her career and will be looking to play more minutes in the backfield. Kaleigh Moses has also been a two-year starter in the middle for us. Megan Dozier and Ariel Saltin give us two proven and capable scorers up top.
Q: And the sophomores?
A: The sophomore class also showed they have some talent last year and should be much improved with a year of collegiate experience under their belts. McKenna Fox had one of the best scoring seasons by a Falcon in recent years and will look to keep it up. Tory Gullo will move to the midfield this year and Felicia Sturgeon gives us added depth in the middle. Kylie Williamson started 16 games in the backfield for us and Hannah Schwartz also saw action in goal for us last season. Jackie Jacobs is also a new addition at midfield.
Q: How are the freshmen coming along?
A: We have what we feel is another strong and talented freshman class. They’re just coming from BCT, so we’ve only seen them a couple times at practice. But envision several making immediate impacts. The 2012 freshman class consists of forward Allie Baumgarten, forward Rebecca Beasley, defender Shannon Boler, midfielder Katie Case, defender Christy Cooper, midfielder Sarah Falvey, MF/F Bailee Harnett, goalkeeper Becky Murphy, forward Ally Swift and MF/F Asia Williams.
Q: Thoughts on this year’s schedule?
A: We have a very challenging schedule. One of the toughest we’ve ever had. We’re going to have to rise up to the challenge.