Capital women's soccer season preview
The Capital University women’s soccer team won’t rest on its laurels in 2012 following one of the best seasons in program history one year ago.
Instead, the defending Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament champion Crusaders, who reached the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in school history, are looking for more.
“We lost some of our top scorers, but a number of us have had a taste of success with what happened last year,” junior co-captain Michelle Geiger said. “Now we’re hungry for more. Anything less than what we accomplished last season is a step backwards.”
After a 1-5 start to last season, the Crusaders concluded the regular season on an 8-2-2 tear, carrying their momentum into the conference tournament, where they won three straight to take the title. Capital then defeated Alma (Mich.) by a 1-0 margin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before falling against eventual national runner-up Wheaton (Ill.) to finish the year at 13-8-2, including a 10-1-1 mark against OAC teams.
“During the first half of the season, we were getting used to (new coach) Chris (Kouns) and his vision … we weren’t sure how to do things yet,” senior co-captain Danielle Irwin said. “Then we started to click in our positions and connections between players.”
Despite the loss of six seniors from the 2011 team, including OAC Midfielder of the Year Tara Zimmer and OAC Forward of the Year Kaylee Phillips, Capital returns six starters, including 2011 OAC Goalkeeper of the Year Maggie Donnellan and second team All-OAC selection Hilary Ells. The Crusaders were recently tabbed third in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, where they also collected one first-place vote.
Irwin expects a number of new leaders to emerge during the preseason as the team begins its second year under Kouns, whose free-flowing style focuses on player decision making and understanding why something is happening on the field.
“There are a number of key people who will spread the word of our mission and are focused on accomplishing our goals,” Irwin said. “Our freshmen will have a chance to step in and fill in the blanks.”
After wrapping up the preseason with a scrimmage this Saturday at Bernlohr Stadium against Ohio Christian, the Crusaders open the regular season on Aug. 31 at Earlham. Capital begins its home slate on Sept. 3 against 2011 NCAA qualifier Thomas More before hosting the Fort Rapids Invitational on Sept. 7-9.
Other feature matches of the non-conference schedule include matches against No. 18 Case Western Reserve (Sept. 22) and at Hanover (Sept. 24), another 2011 NCAA qualifier. The Crusaders begin the rigorous OAC schedule on Sept. 29 at John Carroll, the team it beat last year to win the OAC Tournament championship.
“We need to mentally come together at the point of OACs,” Geiger said. “Last year we had a team meeting about what OAC play is all about. Our practices and non-conference games prepare us for the OAC.”
See below for a personnel breakdown of the 2012 Capital University women’s soccer team.
Ells (Grandview Heights, Ohio) and fifth-year senior Natalie Fiorelli (Pickerington, Ohio) look to lead the Crusader offense, which led the OAC in points, goals and assists in league matches only a season ago.
A junior, Ells is the team’s top returning scorer after posting 10 goals and two assists for 22 points, placing among the top six in the conference in goals per game and points per game. In addition to her all-conference honor, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) selected Ells to the Capital One Academic All-District VII second team.
Fiorelli, who scored the game-winning goal in the team’s NCAA first round victory, tallied nine goals and two assists for 20 points, good for fourth on the team. She also earned Academic All-OAC honors for the second time in her career.
Seniors Alexa Bosanac (Strongsville, Ohio), Kate Connell (Drexel Hill, Pa.) and junior Holly Phillips (Bellbrook, Ohio) also return as offensive contributors. Connell and Phillips tallied identical stat lines with one goal and two assists apiece, while Bosanac finished with one goal and one assist in 2011.
Jessica Cermelj (Westerville, Ohio) is the team’s lone returning sophomore in the midfield. She played in three games last season.
A host of first-year players will compete playing time in the midfield and at forward, including Jamie Murray (West Palm Beach, Fla.), Maura Fortino (Philadelphia, Pa.), Alyssa Goodnight (Atlanta, Ind.), Kim Hoerauf (Worthington, Ohio), Allison Mervau (Micanopy, Fla.), Caitlin McCullough (North Bend, Ore.), Rachael Wintering (Lewis Center, Ohio) and Megan Tolnar (New Albany, Ohio).
All four starters return to the Capital defense. However, Geiger, who started all 23 matches last season, isn’t expected to play in 2012 due to an arm injury.
Irwin is a two-time All-OAC honorable mention pick. She totaled one goal last season and started all 20 contests she competed in.
Juniors Lauren Roy (Toledo, Ohio) and Corey McClellan (Columbus, Ohio) join Irwin as returning starters. Roy recorded two goals for four points, while McClellan appeared in all 23 games a season ago.
Other returners to the defense include juniors Livvy Hein (Columbus, Ohio), Katie Freshour (North Canton, Ohio), Madison Palmer (Spring Arbor, Mich.), sophomores Carly Pries (Hilliard, Ohio), Ashley Weethee (Hilliard, Ohio), Sam Wentz (Haddon Heights, N.J.) and Maggie Sullivan (Cincinnati, Ohio). Hein appeared in 18 matches, while Freshour and Palmer combined to play in 20 contests in 2011.
Freshmen hoping for a spot on defense include Morgan Austin (Jeromesville, Ohio), Ashleigh Schmittle (Amherst, Ohio) and Lauren Lustri (Canton, Ohio).
Donnellan, a junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, finished ninth in the nation last season in goalkeeper minutes and tied for the conference lead with eight shutouts. Overall, she is a two-time All-OAC honoree and is a favorite to repeat as the league’s best goalkeeper in 2012.
Junior Melanie Graeff (Bellbrook, Ohio) started one match and appeared in three overall last season. She made eight saves in just over 122 minutes of action.
Junior Kelsey Kaiser (Upper Arlington, Ohio) is the only other goalkeeper on the roster, and will also compete for time behind Donnellan.