New Women's Soccer Coach Ready to Win
August 30, 2010
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Heather Cato expects to hit the ground running in her first season as the women's soccer coach at Whitman College.
Cato, a former standout for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, is thrilled with the roster and recruits she inherited from long-time coach Scott Shields, who shifted gears this fall to direct the men's and women's cross country teams.
"I'm very confident and excited about the season we’re going to have," Cato says. "I didn't know what to expect going into our first training sessions, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised all the way around.
"We have a good core group of returning players and a lot of talent in the first-year class."
Cato is working with a mix of two dozen athletes, which includes two goalkeepers and 11 first-year players.
"Some new coaches come into a situation and spend the first year rebuilding," she says. "That's not the case here at all. The returning players and the program foundation are solid. We can build on it and be successful right from the start."
The Missionaries surrendered five seniors, four of them starters, to graduation last spring with the most notable losses being scoring whiz Corina Gabbert and goalkeeper extraordinaire Courtney Porter. The dearly departed left behind a relatively young roster in which defender Kate Newman and forward Kristin Innes are the only seniors.
| Kristin Innes
| Kate Newman
"This is a very young team, which is good," Cato says. "I'm a new coach and we're going to grow together.
"With the new system I'm using, I've asked everyone to trust me with the way we're going to play. I think we're going to be successful."
With Gabbert hobbled early in the 2009 season and Newman sidelined altogether by injury, Whitman stumbled to a 1-5 start in the Northwest Conference last fall.
But once Gabbert regained her stride and the defense had time to regroup, the Missionaries finished with a flourish, collecting five victories and a draw in its last eight games.
Despite the slow start, Whitman tied for fourth place in the final standings, just one victory out of third place.
Cato is pleased to hear that her players are determined to move up in the standings this fall. "They want to compete for a conference title, and I have no doubt that we're going to be very competitive."
With Gabbert and her 19 senior-season goals fading into the history books, Whitman will feature a more balanced attack this fall, Cato says.
"The plan is to disperse our offense as much as possible and not give opposing defenses the chance to target one or two players," she says. "The fact that we're going to have five or six players who can put the ball into the back of the net is going to create more opportunities and make us more dangerous."
| Jaclyn Rudd
| Amy Hasson
Returning players are doing an excellent job of adapting to Cato's new system, which she describes as offensive-minded and attack-oriented.
"We should be solid in the goal-scoring department," she says. "We have people coming back as well as new players who can help with the offense."
Innes, who was Whitman's second-leading scorer last fall with four goals and five assists, earned a spot on the All-NWC Second Team.
Amy Hasson, a junior and one of the more physical players in the conference, added two goals and eight assists while making the All-NWC First Team. One year earlier, as a college rookie, she had five goals and three assists.
As Hasson continues her role as an attacking midfielder, Innes returns as a forward.
"Amy is very aggressive and her ball control skills are exactly what we need in the middle of the field. Kristin is very good with receiving the ball and then flicking it into open space."
Other returnees in the midfield include sophomores Jaclyn Rudd and Julianne Masser. Rudd started 14 games last season and finished with two goals and two assists. Masser played in 16 games and booted a pair of goals.
| Julianne Masser
| Taylor Chock
"Jaclyn adds a lot to the midfield in that she's technically strong on the ball and has good vision of the field," Cato says. "Julianne is a strong player with good speed."
Juniors Taylor Chock and Marisol Fonzeca, as well as sophomore Stephanie Burk, add to the midfield depth.
Chock, who started all 19 games last season, can play as an "outside midfielder or in the back," Cato says. "Her technical abilities are good and she's strong defensively."
Fonzeca, who started 11 of 19 games, is "very quick and very fit," Cato says. "She has the quickness to play on the outside and the ability to play inside."
Burk, one of the tallest players on the team at 5-foot-8, made it into 16 games last fall.
Newman, a speedy outside back who netted All-NWC Honorable Mention recognition in her first two seasons, joins with juniors Libby Watkins and Kate Potter to give Whitman a good nucleus on defense.
"Libby is solid as our center back," Cato says. "She's good vocally and will be a leader on the defensive side."
| Marisol Fonzeca
| Libby Watkins
Watkins started all 19 games a year ago while Potter missed just a few starts. Claire Westcott, also a junior, played in 13 games, starting eight.
"Claire is back and performing well, although she's been slowed by a health issue and is still working on her game fitness," Cato says.
Sophomore Erin Flannery, who missed most of her first year because of injury, also returns and "looks very fit and strong," Cato says. "Erin is good with the ball, has good vision from the back and can move the ball forward."
Avery Potter, a sophomore from Littleton, Colo., is playing her first college season as part of Whitman's defensive contingent.
"Defense is definitely one area where we aren't lacking in numbers," Cato adds. "Our options in the back might hinge on the type of team we're playing. We can go with players more adept at moving forward or with players whose defensive abilities are more sound."
Sara Sonnenblick (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) and Pamela London (Shoreline, Wash.) are two first-year defenders competing for immediate playing time.
"Both Sara and Pamela are solid," Cato says. "They understand what we're trying to do in the back. They can challenge for starting spots.
| Claire Westcott
| Kate Potter
"We've tried to raise the level of intensity in our practices," she notes. "As a coach I want everyone competing every day for playing time and starting spots.
"What's also good for us is the depth of our roster. Our level of play isn't going to drop regardless of who goes into the game. We can make substitutions and stay strong."
The biggest question mark on defense comes at goalkeeper, a spot that Porter had locked down for most of the past four years while posting 25 career shutouts.
Competing for time are Lauren Brougham, a 5-foot-8 junior, and Emily Davis, a 5-foot-8 first-year keeper from Eagle River, Alaska.
"Both keepers have good size but are different in the way they play," Cato says. "We haven't yet decided on a starter. Both will get opportunities in the non-conference games."
Marisa Poorboy, a sophomore from Hayden, Idaho, playing her first season of college soccer, has caught the eye of coaches in the midfield.
"Marisa is strong with the ball and has the technical abilities to distribute the ball," Cato says. "She can contribute to the offense or drop back and help with the defense."
MacKenzie Hughes, a first-year player from Woodinville, Wash., is in the hunt for playing time as an outside midfielder. "She might be our only left-footed player," Cato says. "She has a lot of speed and is very comfortable playing on the outside."
Other first-year midfielders are Liz Clagett (Seattle, Wash.), Kelsey Roehner (Bellingham, Wash.), Hallie Swan (Bainbridge Island, Wash.) and Taylor Thomas (Woodinville, Wash.).
Misha Evertz, a sophomore from Saint Paul, Minn., is in her first season with the team and another option in the midfield.
| Erin Flannery
| Stephanie Burk
Whitman travels to La Grande, Ore., this Saturday to battle Eastern Oregon University in the first of its three non-conference games.
Fans can get their first look at the Missionaries at 2 p.m Sunday during an intrasquad game at the Whitman Athletic Fields.
The non-conference slate also includes a Sept. 9 game at Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash., and a Saturday, Sept. 11, home date with Northwest Nazarene. That home opener starts at noon.
"The non-conference games are very important to us," Cato says. "We have so many good people who can play in different parts of the field.
"We can use the first games to move players around and see what works best in terms of putting the best combinations on the field."
Whitman plays its first NWC games on the road before hosting Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25-26.
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CONTACT: Dave Holden,
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
email@example.com; (509) 527-5902