Air Force Women's Soccer 2013 Preview

    Senior team co-captain Leah Bratt.
    Senior team co-captain Leah Bratt.

    Aug 21, 2013

    Air Force women’s soccer kicks-off its 22nd season Aug. 23 against Montana. Featuring one of the youngest teams in program history, the 2013 Falcons will be learning on the fly.

    Head coach Larry Friend, in his fifth year at the helm, will lean on his 13 returning letterwinners as the 12 newcomers get accustomed to DIv. I soccer. The Falcons are coming off a 5-9-3 season in 2012 and return six starters to the pitch.

    Despite the loss of five starters and several letterwinners from 2012, the Falcons return several key players. Air Force features three seniors with three years of starting experience, in goalkeeper Kelly Stambaugh and midfielders Leah Bratt and Kaleigh Moses. In addition, Team Co-Defensive MVPs senior Loren Catchpole and junior Kyle Williamson return. Also returning, is senior forward Megan Dozier, who led the team in assists a season ago, to bolster the Falcon offense.

    A talented freshman group, including an emerging sophomore class, will be called upon to fill out the lineup for AFA. With just weeks to prepare for the season, Friend and his Fledgling Falcons will have a quick learning curve as they enter 2013.

    Friend took a moment from preparing for the upcoming season to talk about his 2013 team.

    Q: How has the team looked so far in preseason practices?

    A: The practices have been very high-energy. We’ve played with great focus which has allowed us to train in a very competitive and productive environment.


     

     

    Q: This is one of the youngest teams in program history. How do you get these youngsters prepared to compete at the Div. I level with such a short time to prepare?

    A: Assistant coaches Kiha Sutta and Robin Grossman have worked with these freshmen since they were in high school to ensure they were set to come here and we’re excited for this group. This rookie class features quality players that come from strong club programs. With their club background, our freshmen come to the Academy with a high knowledge of the game. That has allowed them to pick up our concepts quickly and progress towards our first game of the season.

    Q: Despite having such a young team, you still have a solid core of upperclassmen. Is there added responsibility for them to help guide this young team?

    A: The biggest challenge for our upperclassmen has been to embrace the challenge of leading the younger players. With half the team being freshmen, our juniors and seniors have to lead, teach and hold the youngsters accountable much more so than in seasons’ past.

    Q: Who are your team captains?

    A: Seniors Leah Bratt and Loren Catchpole are our team captains. They’ve been leading our team since January. They bring enthusiasm and commitment to the program in addition to excellent leadership.

    Q: What are your expectations of the senior class?

    A: Our five seniors have been through it all, considering the adversity you have to overcome when attending an institution such as the Air Force Academy, both on and off the field. We need them to be leaders both on and off the field. We also expect them to have a significant impact on the field.

    Kelly Stambaugh ranks amongst our top three in nearly every goalkeeping category and has been a strong three-year starter for us. Our defense has the lowest goals allowed average in school history over the past three years with Kelly. Megan Dozier is a smart player that has the unique ability to be in the right place at the right time off the ball. Leah Bratt is the engine of our team and battles the entire 90 minutes for us. Kaleigh Moses is a technically strong player for us. She is willing to take risks offensively and we will need more of that. Loren Catchpole is the leader of our backfield. She’s come back strong from an ACL injury early in her career and posted an excellent junior season for us.

    Q: How about the junior class?

    A: It’s a small class, but a very passionate class. We lost a bunch of players from this group, whom decided to pursue other opportunities, such as missions and studying abroad. But the juniors we have are dedicated and striving to make us better.

    Hannah Schwartz is an incredible athlete and one of the strongest athletes to come through our program. She’s recently had surgery and we look for her to get back as soon as possible. Jackie Jacobs has been a strong contributor for our team. She hasn’t seen game action yet, but is an inspiring example to the team every day. Kyle Williamson has played solid defense for us since her freshman year. She’s entering her third year as a starter and we expect her to be a big presence for our defense.

    Q: Your sophomore class features five players. Are you expecting this group to step up after seeing a lot of time as freshmen?

    A: This group has to play like they’re upperclassmen. We need them to show significant improvement from their freshman seasons. They’ve set a great example by competing every practice and have also been strong mentors to our freshmen.

    Q: How does this freshman class stack up talent-wise to incoming classes in the past? Will they be seeing immediate action?

    A: This is one of our stronger freshman classes. With freshmen making up 12 of our 25 players, we expect them to contribute immediately. Like I mentioned earlier, their strong club backgrounds will make their transition to this level a lot smoother.

    Q: How will the Mountain West as a conference be with the influx of several new women’s soccer programs?

    A: Our conference was ranked seventh out of 32 conferences last year. With a couple strong programs joining our conference, we should at least be at the same level, if not rise more, in conference strength.

    Q: What will the Falcons have to do to have a successful season in 2013.

    A: We have been fit, organized and disciplined over the last four years. Our defenses have posted the second, third and fourth best goals against averages in our Div. I era. We now just need to be effective on the offensive aspects of the game. In addition, we need to maintain our energy as we enter October and conference competition.

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