Once again, Coach Middendorf is optimistic for the upcoming 2009 soccer campaign. The women's soccer team is looking to improve on their outstanding 9-2-1 conference record and 12-7-1 overall mark from the 2008 season. "We had a special and exciting 2008 season. I really appreciated watching the team develop and have conference success. Our young team gained a tremendous amount of experience, especially during conference play. We learned just how critical each conference game is. A few bounces one way or the other and I feel we could have won the conference."
The "rookies" from the past couple of seasons have now become experienced veterans. The Falcons will return 9 of their starters from 2008 including Mary Ryan, a junior all-conference goalkeeper, Rachel Kleba, a junior all-conference defender, Abby Hoeflich, a junior all-conference midfielder, and Becky Ott, a junior all-conference forward. "We certainly have experience and talent at each position this season. The key will be finding the pieces that work best around these players."
Our first order of business will be to solidify our defense. "During pre-season camp we'll be looking for as many options as possible. Organization and the dynamic between the defensive 4 will be keys to our success." In addition to Kleba, the Falcons return a strong group of defenders including two-year starter Gabrielle Rabenhorst, Alyssa Ciesielczyk who started last season as a freshmen, and Morgan Rood who appeared in many matches in 2008 as a freshmen. "We're looking for a freshman or two to challenge for playing time and provide some options in the back. I think we'll have a few candidates and hopefully some surprises."
Tending the net will be Ryan, although 3 other goalkeepers will be challenging for time. "We have 2 talented freshmen goalkeepers behind Mary that very well could play at any given time." Freshmen Samantha Anacker (Parker H.S. - Janesville, WI) and Katie Sommers (Living Word H.S. - West Bend, WI) will provide youth and solidify the falcons' goalkeeping core.
The central midfield position poses the most question marks for the coaching staff entering the 2009 season. CUW graduated Tracy Pollack who has been a mainstay in the midfield for the past two seasons. "Tracy has really been our rock the past two seasons. We need someone to assume this role." Kayla Racklyeft, a senior midfielder will be the leading candidate for this role. "Kayla has struggled with injuries over the off-season, but I'm confident that she'll be in form once the season begins. She scored and helped create some outstanding goals last season and we need that type of performance again this season."
Several players will compete for playing time in the middle including sophomore Renee Hecker and several freshmen recruits. "Renee had a great off-season and is one of the most competitive players on our team. Her hard work and competitiveness certainly transfers to the field - we're looking for great things from her this season." The core of the recruiting efforts for this season was found at this position, notably Kelly Bolli (Palmyra-Eagle H.S. - Eagle, WI), Chelsea Driver (Lutheran H.S. - Greenwood, IN), Hannah Spika (Horlick H.S. - Racine, WI), and Lauren Straehler (Kettle Moraine H.S. - Pewaukee, WI). "All four have been all-conference performers in high school and have played at a high club level. They will certainly challenge for playing time and potentially starting positions at center midfield or possibly another position this season."
The outside midfield position has become a strength over the past few years. Last season was no exception and they look to continue this trend for the 2009 season. The Falcons will return all three players who rotated the starting positions last season - Hoeflich, Casey Pulver, and Cathy Palese. In addition, Kelly Wittenberg returns after a quality freshman season and Middendorf welcomes back Kelly Paszek into the rotation. "This is a solid group of players - all are talented and athletic. I'm not quite sure how playing time will be distributed, but all will contribute significantly and provide valuable options for the coaching staff."
There are few questions for the women's soccer team at the forward position this season. Becky Ott and Emily Waldorf will return as the duo up top. "These two are fun to watch and coach. They are dynamic and have a great chemistry between them. Becky is one of the most athletic players to have ever played here and Emily was a blessing to our program last season when she transferred in. Having played together for a season, hopefully they can pick up where they left off last season." Depth at the forward position at this point include sophomore Kelly Sippel and freshmen recruit Hannah Brehmer (Chugiak H.S. - Eagle River, AK). "Both Kelly and Hannah are both quite talented and will provide different options for us as we rotate time among the four of them. We need somebody to score, and both are capable."
As the 2009 campaign nears, Coach Middendorf and the players are excited to get started. The combination of veteran experience and young talent should certainly mesh for an exciting season. "We're athletic and talented. It'll be fun to coach and watch how we develop as a team. I think we've compiled a group of players that should contend for the conference championship and an NCAA tournament appearance."
CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY WISCONSIN