Women’s soccer ranked high in pre-season, looks to build upon strengths

Justin Davidson
Joe Angeles, WU Photo Services

The 11th-ranked Washington University women’s soccer team captured their 2nd consecutive University Athletic Association (UAA) title last year after finishing the season with a program best 17-3-1 record, and hope to continue the trend in the upcoming season.

Afterÿadvancingÿto the NCAA Sectional Finals for the third time in school history, the Bears are already being chosen to win the UAA title once again, according to the Preseason Conference Coaches’ÿPoll.

Nevertheless, the squad has a difficult task ahead of themselves; the loss of key starters due to graduation will make for a tough transition at the start of the season. Fourteen new freshmen faces and one sophomore transfer will be representing the Red-and-Green this season, doing their part to continue the winning trend. In all, the team will haveÿ17 letterwinners and eight starters returning from last year’s squad.

The biggest hole that needs to be filled this season comes from the goalkeeper slot. Following the departure of last year’s starting goalie and co-captain, Charlotte Felber, a new goalie must step up to fill in between the goal posts. Starting all 21 games of the season, Felber allowed a mere ten goals throughout the entire season, making 48 saves and coming away with an impressive .828 save percentage, while tacking on ten shutouts in the effort.

Aside from Felber, the squad also lost co-captain Kara Karnes, Casey Herrforth, and Lindsey Ulkus to graduation. Nevertheless, Head Coach Wendy Dillinger is confident that the team can rebound.

“The team is coping pretty well,” said Dillinger. “Lottie [Felber] is definitely tough to replace, not only for her talent but her leadership on and off the field as well. Right now we have four goalkeepers fighting for the spot, but I trust that we’ll be okay. The team understands what it means to lose our seniors.”

For the rest of the freshmen, they have come into the preseason with their eyes set on contributing to the team as much as they can, and the returning players and coaches are excited about the incoming group.

“The group has been adjusting pretty well,” said Dillinger. “We have a pretty large group, and all of them have jumped in quickly and are raising the level of intensity out on the field. They’re very driven, and I believe that some of them will be able to help out this season and become important players.”

Though she is not sure if there will be any freshmen starters, Dillinger noted freshmen Lauren Mehner, LeAnne Nguyen, Shirley Lane, Caitlin Malone, and Carly Anderson to be the freshmen players, in particular, she can see stepping in and contributing to the team, while the rest of the freshmen batch is close on their heels.

During the preseason, Dillinger and her squad have been looking to improve on all aspects of the game, with a particular emphasis on attacks.

“Improving our attack leads to increased offensive production and goal scoring, which expands on our success,” explained Dillinger. “We just need to focus on winning key games, such as against Emory, Illinois Wesleyan, and Wheaton College to come out even more successful than last season.”

Two of the Bears’ three losses last season came against Emory and Illinois Wesleyan, respectively.

Junior MeghanMarie Fowler-Finn, last year’s leading goal scorer, will be returning with hopes of bringing home a conference championship once again. Fowler-Finn knocked in 11 goals during the season, had four assists, and a team-leading 26 points in 18 games last season. Additionally, she also scored four game winning goals, also a team best.

Fowler-Finn will be taking on captain duties along with fifth year senior Stephanie Ackerman this season. Ackerman, who was redshirted during her freshman year and has one last season of eligibility, will be returning to lead the team to success while she finishes pursuing her degree in ancient studies.

Additionally, Dillinger will look to juniors Talia Bucci and Sara Schroeder to step up and demonstrate the leadership they’re capable of in the offense, while she cites senior Jessie Munger and sophomore Jessica Deneweth to be the anchors in the backfield.

As a team, the Lady Bears were nearly unstoppable as a unit against opponents in 2004. Scoring 50 goals in 370 attempts, their 2.33 goals scored average trampled over their opponents’ 0.51 goals scored average. The squad also outnumbered their opponents in assists by a staggering 33 assists spread, where the Bears capitalized on 42 assists on the season to their opponents’ nine.

Fowler-Finn is optimistic about her team’s capabilities this season.

“We learned a lot last year and even though getting to the Final 8 was great, we wanted to go further. This year we have more depth and our forwards and outside midfielders are getting smarter with the ball,” said Fowler-Finn. “As long as we take what we learn from practice to our games, we’re usually very successful.

The squad starts off their 2005 campaign away against 17th ranked DePauw University and Wheaton College on September 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

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