Manchester women's soccer season preview
A culture change continues at Manchester University this fall.
Coach Andy Stout and his staff began the path towards it prior to last fall. Those differences included the lineup and different combinations within it.
Early returns were good with the Spartans posting a winning record in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in 2011. However, according to the fifth-year skipper, everyone is hoping to see more.
“There’d been too much of a sense of entitlement at times in my first three years here,” he said. “Now, we’re focused on hard work.
“I like the make-up of our team this fall,” he added. “There’s a lot of excitement as we look ahead. That being said, a lot depends on how healthy we can stay.”
MU has reason to be optimistic about continuing to advance the culture change. The Black and Gold look to make a move up the conference ranks due to several starters back on both ends of the field including sophomore forward Breanna McLane (Westerville, Ohio) and sophomore goalkeeper Emily Willmann (Montpelier, Ind.).
“We need to get our offense started with strong defensive play in back and have that go vice-versa,” he said. “Both sides should work to help each other the entire 90 minutes.”
McLane tops the forward group as the top returning scorer from last fall where she finished with three goals, four assists and 10 points. Stout also pointed to sophomore Katelyn Barta (Griffith, Ind.), who appeared in three matches during an injury-riddled 2011, and junior Laura Jenkins (Sellersburg, Ind.), who returns to the program after not playing last fall. Jenkins produced strong numbers as a freshman in 2010 with four goals.
“We took a hit (at the forward slot) due to graduation and some players opting not to return,” Stout said. “This is one of the question mark areas going into preseason camp. I think we have new faces that will be able to contribute, but time will tell.”
Moving up field, the midfielder position has a strong nucleus available. Sophomore Sofia Tzortzinis (Ann Arbor, Mich.) started in 17 of 18 matches last year with one goal and an assist to her name, while sophomore Diane McAfee (Fort Wayne, Ind.) played in 16 games with four starts and was a big reason why the Spartans surrendered only 25 goals over the course of the season. The sophomore class also contributes Amber Oster (Waterloo, Ind.) and Amber Kent (Fountaintown, Ind.) to the mix, as the each scored a goal and dished out an assist during large playing time opportunities as freshmen.
“Those players will play a key role to our offense getting more production,” Stout said. “It’s good to have four returners who saw so much playing time as freshmen. They each know what to do.”
Sophomore Adrien Brudvig (Chesterfield, Mich.) and senior Sara Barker (Goshen, Ind.) also saw considerable playing time on the back line. The duo, plus other candidates, works in front of Willmann who finished 2011 with five shutouts and a 1.07 goals-against average in 16 appearances.
“Emily will be among the leaders on defense,” Stout said. “She was one of the top keepers in the league as a freshman, earning second team all-conference honors. I need to credit (assistant coach Brian Knudsen) BT for the amazing improvement she showed from the first to last match. I expect her to continue that improvement.
“Overall, the sophomore class will play a key role in how our season goes,” he added. “They all have experience and will help guide eight freshmen. Among those newcomers are Allison and Bridgette Rowe (La Quinta, Calif.) Bridgette competed in track last spring and was the conference triple jump champion. They both bring good athleticism to the team.”
Stout and his staff feel Manchester can play a role in the HCAC title landscape. A pre-conference slate that includes contests against Trine, Olivet and Benedictine will prepare the Spartans for another tightly-contested league schedule.
“It’s a situation where anyone can beat anyone else on a given day or night in the conference,” he said. “It’ll be tough in each match, as I feel one through six could be interchangeable.”