Women’s soccer: Veteran lineup poised to strike in 2011

| Associate Editor

Upcoming Women’s Soccer Games

Sept. 1
Season opener against Missouri Baptist University at Francis Field.

Sept. 17
The Bears host No. 7 Wheaton College, who defeated Wash. U. 2-0 last season.

Oct. 9
The Red and Green travel to Atlanta, Ga. to face No. 5 Emory University hoping to come home with a big UAA victory.

Oct. 23
The Bears face their third Top-10 team of the season when they travel to Dubuque, Iowa to face No. 8 Loras College.

Nov. 5
Wash. U. closes the season by traveling to face 20th-ranked and defending UAA Champion University of Chicago.

For the Washington University women’s soccer team, 2010 and 2011 could not be any different.

Last season, the Bears fielded just six returning starters en route to an 11-8-2 record, a fourth-place conference finish and a second-round NCAA tournament exit. The fourth-place conference finish broke the Bears’ streak of four consecutive conference titles.

All but one starter from that team have returned, and, with a more experienced lineup, the Bears are expecting a major turnaround in 2011.

“Obviously, it’s a huge flip from last year. Last year we had one senior and we struggled a little bit; all of us were stepping up into roles we weren’t used to,” senior forward Emma Brown said. “We came into this year and…everyone has just been so mature. It’s amazing to have so many different leaders in every position on and off the field, so it’s definitely a nice change.”

Among the 10 returning starters are four seniors and four juniors, but the entire team’s roster is dotted with upperclassmen.

“We think our veteran roster, with…17 juniors and seniors, will just make us a little bit smarter in our preparation each day. I think they know what’s expected of a player inside the locker room with us and inside the women’s soccer family, and we’re just trying to make sure that we prepare day by day,” head coach Jim Conlon said, “and if our juniors and seniors can lead us in the right direction, that will be helpful.”

Senior co-captains Brown and midfielder Lee Ann Felder will be major contributors to the Bears’ success. The two combined for nine goals and 25 points last season, both earning all-conference first team honors. Brown is tied for 10th in program history with 21 career goals.

“Emma Brown and Lee Ann Felder are going to be two [seniors] that we expect to lead us and set the tone for other players on the field from day-to-day habits to in-game management to making sure our team is doing the right thing at the right moments,” Conlon said.

Despite Brown and Felder’s efforts, the offense rarely came together last season. Wash. U. was held scoreless eight times in 2010, but in four of the Bears’ eight total losses, the team allowed just one goal. The team allowed more than two goals in just one game all season.

“If you look at a lot of those games, we had opportunities at various times to score goals or maybe prevent a goal. I think if we all do what’s asked, and we give to the game plan and what we’re trying to do, it will turn out well for us and the results might change,” Conlon said.

Junior goalkeeper Clara Jaques believes the Bears’ will have a much more potent attack this season.

“Offensively, I think we’re looking really strong this year,” she said. “All three [Wash. U.] goalies are feeling even more challenged in practice than in years passed, and we’re very confident in our scoring ability, so we’re excited to see that and display it against opponents.”

Jaques, who posted 0.71 goals against average in 21 games last season, is ready to have another big year. Despite needing knee surgery last March for a torn meniscus, Jaques says that she feels “great” and is prepared for the start of the season.

In the University Athletic Association Preseason Conference Coaches Poll, Wash. U. was picked to finish third, behind No. 5 Emory University and defending conference champion No. 20 University of Chicago.

While the team’s conference schedule is expected to be tough, its non-conference schedule includes matchups with four other teams ranked in the NSCAA Top-25 preseason poll. However, the team insists that it is approaching the schedule game-by-game.

“We’re not looking towards weeks or months from now; we’re looking at our first opponent, trying to go day by day in our growing process and get ready for Missouri Baptist,” Conlon said.

The Bears will open the 2011 season against Missouri Baptist University at home on Thursday and will travel to Bloomington, Ill., this weekend to face Calvin College and Whitworth University.

“[We need to] focus our excited energy into good soccer, the best soccer we can play, and play to our potential. If we can play to our potential, then we’re pretty confident in our chances against pretty much anyone,” Jaques said.

Kickoff against Missouri Baptist is at 7:30 p.m. on Francis Field.

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