SEASON OPENER: Pacific Lutheran's women's soccer team will open its 2012 campaign at home on Friday, Sept. 7, against Trinity Lutheran College from Everett, Wash. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. on PLU's new synthetic turf East Field.
LISTEN LIVE: Most PLU women's soccer home matches and some road contests can be heard on the internet by going to www.golutes.com, clicking on the Listen Live button on the right, and then clicking on the appropriate link. Veteran play-by-play announcer Landyn Rookard will be joined this year by color commentator Surafel Wodajo in bringing you the action.
STARTING FRESH: The Lutes are planning to leave last season's 4-13-1 finish behind them and push forward with several new faces, led by first year head coach Seth Spidahl. The 2012 roster features 14 freshman and several returners who will bring experience and energy to put the Lutes in the mix against multiple conference foes.
SEASON PREVIEW: Target No. 1 for the 2012 Pacific Lutheran women's soccer team is put behind the recent past that saw the Lutes win less than 30 percent of their games over the past five seasons. In fact, PLU hasn't had a winning campaign since the 2006 team went 11-7-2. That five-year stretch is history, and 2012 is a new season.
"We've got a quote on our team board by Lou Holtz that says, 'The Good Lord put eyes in the front of your head rather than the back so you can see where you are going rather than where you've been.' That has been our motto right from the start," Spidahl said, noting that the players "have been excited about the change." The coaching staff has emphasized fitness, cohesion and tactical awareness throughout preseason. The next step, Spidahl emphasizes, is putting those elements into a game situation. "We have a lot of character tests, a lot of adversity, to go through yet," he said, "such as in back-to-back games, losing the first game, how do we come back in the second game. We have the 24-hour rule. We can think about it for 24 hours, and then we have to move on." To that end, Spidahl is happy with the leadership provided by tri-captains Granlund, Boyle and Rasmussen.
Pacific Lutheran has several key veterans on the defensive third of the pitch, including center backs Mariah Rasmussen, Brenna Sussman and Emma Wayerski. Rasmussen, a junior, has started in 35 matches over the past two seasons and is described as a "rock" in central defense by Spidahl. Sophomores Wayerski and Sussman both had injury-shortened frosh seasons, though they did gain experience as Wayerski had 12 starts and Sussman six. Wayerski, unfortunately, has been slowed by preseason injury issues, while Sussman has "looked good" in scrimmages, says Spidahl. Junior outside defender Kristi D'Allessandro is one of the team's most fit players and fills the bill as an overlapping threat who can also get back quickly into defense. Freshman Kailey Lyman looks to be the other outside defender, though she can also slot into the midfield. Also seeking to receive crucial minutes this season are freshmen Nicoya Benham-Marin, Jennifer Brus and Leah Dedominces.
The midfield maestros for Pacific Lutheran feature seniors Erica Boyle, who was second on the team with two goals and one assist last year, Mimi Granlund, who netted one goal and had one assist, and sophomore Blake Warner, who led the 2011 team with five assists. Granlund has been plagued with a leg injury the past couple seasons and looks to stay healthy to compete in her final year. Joining the senior duo in the middle are returning juniors Alex Murray and Taryn Dee, along with sophomore Hannah Bush and Ashlie Thompson. Murray saw action in all 18 matches last season and found the goal once. at 5-feet, 10-inches tall, she will provide a great target in the box for set pieces. Newcomer Maria Diel was expected to see plenty of time in the center of the park, but a knee injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage will sideline her for the campaign.
PLU struggled to find its offensive touch last season, scoring only 12 goals in 18 total matches, ranking them last in the Northwest Conference. Junior forward Samantha Benner will take on a significant piece of the attack after seeing time in all 18 games in 2011. Joining Benner in the attack will be a group of young players, including freshmen Lauren Larson, Jamie Hoffman, Kelsi Woods and Hanna Zielke. Another player seeking time up front will be sophomore Kelsey Wyre.
Three goalkeepers will compete for time between the pipes this season as lone returner Laurie Reddy, who recently suffered a knee injury, will compete with freshmen Marisa Gonzalez and Lauren Higgins for regular starting duty. Laurie Reddy started six matches while also seeing action in a seventh game in 2011, recording a 3-3-0 record and a 1.60 overall goals against average.
NWC OPENER, RIVALRY RENEWED: Pacific Lutheran will open conference play on the road on Thursday, Sept. 13, against cross-town Tacoma rival and NWC power University of Puget Sound. The Loggers come in as the defending conference champions from a season ago and were picked by coaches to with their 11th straight title. Propelled by a blistering offensive attack, UPS lead all NWC schools with 38 total goals least season.
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