2012 Women's Soccer Team Preview
News Release Date:
Monday, September 3, 2012
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that Amy Hasson has left some huge shoes to fill on the Whitman College women’s soccer team. Just take a look at last year’s stat sheet.
Hasson, who graduated last spring, led the Missionaries in practically every offensive category while earning first-team all-Northwest Conference honors for the second time in her four-year career at Whitman. Hasson topped the Missionaries in total points (35), goals scored (15), shots (93) and shots on goal (44). She also led her team with four game-winning goals and was second on the team in assists with five.
But when you listen to Heather Cato, who begins her third season as the Missionaries’ head coach, you get the feeling she’s just as concerned with rebuilding her team on the defensive end of the field as she is worried about where this year’s goals will come from. “We lost seven seniors to graduation,” Cato said. “And we lost three of our four starting defenders — Libby Watkins, Kate Potter and Claire Westcott.
“Last year, we graduated just two seniors from my first team,” Cato added. “So losing seven strong seniors this year is a big hit. They were the unity of our team and it’s a huge core of players to try and replace.”
The other three seniors who are being missed this fall are Marisol Franzeca and Taylor Chock, a pair of mid-fielders, and Lauren Brougham, one of the Missionaries’ top two goaltenders during last year’s 8-10-2 campaign that also saw Whitman post a 6-8-2 mark in NWC play.
Cato’s first Whitman team finished 6-11-2 and 4-10-2. So it appears that the former University of Arkansas soccer star has the program headed in the right direction.
“The first year, it was just getting to know the players and their styles of play,” Cato recollected. “The second year was developing my coaching philosophy. This year we have had a year to figure it out, and I think we have made huge strides in our play.”
A lot of it has to do with simple physical fitness, an area that seemed to be lacking when Cato took over the program. “This year is the first year that I feel like we have come into camp fit and ready to play as opposed to half the team fit and worrying about trying to get everyone else fit to play,” the coach said.
It’s also important, she said, that for the first time in three years everyone appears to be headed in the same direction.
“We’re playing more as a unit now,” Cato said. “It’s 11 players, 23 actually, coming together rather than 11 individuals. Everyone is at least on the same chapter now and we are trying to put the pages together.
“We have 23 on our roster, and everyone — even the new players — is starting to understand what we’re trying to accomplish. And that comes from the mentality of our upperclassmen — our seniors and juniors.”
And it’s not as if the Missionaries are short on either experience or talent.
Seniors Erin Flannery (Corvallis, Ore.) and Jaclyn Rudd (Seattle Prep) were second-team all-NWC selections as juniors. And juniors Hallie Swan (Bainbridge Island, Wash.) and MacKenzie Hughes (Woodinville, Wash.) were honorable mention all-conference a year ago.
Flannery, the team’s only returning starting defender, missed most of her freshman year with injuries but has been fixture at the defensive end of the field ever since.
“She didn’t play a lot of minutes that first year,” Cato said of Flannery. “But she’s been a huge factor on our defensive line the past two seasons.”
Rudd returns for her third season as a starting mid-fielder. She and Flannery are also serving as the team’s co-captains, a role Rudd has handled since her sophomore year.
“This will be our third year working together,” Cato said of Rudd. “She understands where we are trying to go as a program and the importance of getting the team behind it. She is what I call the core of our team.”
Swan is back for her third season as a starting mid-fielder, where she and Rudd have played together for the last two years.
“Hallie has the skill set and understands the game so well,” Cato said of Swan. “She and Jaclyn know each other so well, and that is going to be a strength for us.
“We are solid and stacked at that position,” Cato added. “Besides goalkeeper, it’s the most competitive spot on the roster.”
Hughes is another talented mid-fielder, Cato noted.
“MacKenzie came in as a freshman and was sick for the first half of the season,” Cato said. “But since the second half of her freshman year, she hasn’t slowed down or stopped performing. She continues to step up her level of play. She is a competitor who is going to be a huge contributor for us on the outside.”
The other seniors on the roster are outside mid-fielder Julianne Masser (Boise, Idaho), center-fielders Marisa Poorboy (Coeur d’Alene High, Hayden, Idaho) and Misha Evertz (Highland Park High, St. Paul, Minn.), and goaltender Kelsey Houghton (Cleveland High, Portland).
“Julianne stepped into her role as a sophomore and is beginning to understand it and is playing really well,” Cato said of Masser. “As a sophomore and junior she split time because I sub my mid-fielders more than anybody else because they have to run a lot. But she was a consistent role player.
“I played Marisa and Misha as forwards last year, but this year they will be center mid-fielders. They didn’t get as many minutes as they would have liked last year, but they have stepped up their play knowing that this is their senior year. They are really competing for spots.”
Hallie Swan, left
Cato noted that Poorboy and Masser were the team’s top two scorers as sophomores with five goals each. Poorboy scored two goals as a junior to share fourth place on the team behind Hasson (15), Rudd (4) and Swan (3).
“We’re looking for everyone to provide offense this year,” Cato said. “And Marisa and Misha have been working hard on their individual skills and understanding their position.”
Houghton is playing soccer at Whitman this year for the first time, although she gained extensive experience playing in Cape Town, South Africa, after a successful high school career.
“She kind of got her love for soccer back,” Cato said. “Now she has taken on the goalkeeper role for our team, and it’s great to see her step up and provide another sound competitor.”
Junior Emily Davis (Eagle River, Ark.) is in hot competition with Houghton for playing time in the net. Last year Davis split the goal keeping duties with Brougham and finished the season leading the team in saves with 51.
“It is one of the most competitive positions on the field, and Emily and Kelsey are pushing each other to be better,” Cato said.
Other juniors competing for playing time are Pam London (Shorewood High, Shoreline, Wash.), Kelsey Roehner (Sehome High, Bellingham, Wash.), Sara Sonnenblick (Chadwood School, Manhattan Beach, Calif.) and Taylor Thomas (Inglemoor High, Woodinville, Wash.). London is a converted defender who will play forward this fall, Roehner is an outside mid-fielder, Sonnenblick plays center back and Taylor is working at outside defender.
“Pam has changed her identity completely,” Cato said of London. “She’s working really hard to learn the skills of her new position, and she has come in and been working hard. She’s done a great job so far this preseason.
“Because I change my mids a lot, Kelsey will split time,” the coach added of Roehner. “But she has come in fit and ready to compete, and we will use her when we need a spark for the offense. She has quicks.”
Sonnenblick has been hampered by injuries during her freshman and sophomore seasons.
“What we’re trying to do is get her healthy,” Cato said. “For her size (5-foot-3) she is really good in the air, she can get up for headers. We want to get her into our defensive line, but it starts with fitness.”
Thomas is making the switch from outside defender to central defender and learning on the go.
“We’re looking at her taking on a starting role,” Cato said of Thomas. “Her freshman year we bounced her around to see where she would fit in, and last year she saw quite a bit of game at outside defender.
“She’s offensive minded and likes to go to forward, but she’s a natural defender.”
Sophomore Helen Brown (McLean, Va.) came in as a freshman and started several games at forward, then found herself competing for minutes.
“She’s still trying to understand her position, but she is a huge competitor who works her butt off, which is what we need,” Cato said of Brown. “We’re asking her to continue to play her style of soccer within our system.”
Cato called sophomores Nicolette Carnahan (Jefferson High, Federal Way, Wash.) and Raechel Gano (Sammamish High, Bellevue, Wash.) carbon copies of one another during their freshman seasons.
“You could say the exact same thing about them,” the coach said. “They came in with nagging injuries and we had to get them healthy.
“We started using Nicolette in reserve minutes on the defensive line, and she has great potential, She is fast, smart in the back and a solid defender.
“Rachel has performed higher than I thought she would this year, and we expect her to compete for a starting role at center defender as a sophomore.
Justine Kovak (St. Mary’s Academy, Portland, Ore.) is a center mid-fielder who is “technically very good on the all,” Cato said.
“She helps control the mid-field. And we are looking at her to just help Jaclyn Rudd and the others, and to continue to work on stepping up her game so that every year she improves and our center mid-field position continues to get better.”
Jade Anderson (Claremont, Calif.) came in a year ago as a freshman and was told she needed to develop a better understanding of the game to play in Cato’s system.
“She took that (advice) and ran with it,” Cato said. “She’s a huge worker who doesn’t want to sit on the bench, the kind of player who is self-motivated and intense.
“You can tell she loves it and is passionate about it. She earned a starting position at the end of her freshman year and came to camp this fall determined to claim a starting position. And right now I would say she is in consideration for outside defender or outside mid-fielder.”
Finally, two freshmen, Kelsey Peck (Lincoln High, Portland, Ore.) and Clara Merlino (Holy Names Academy, Seattle) are fighting for staring positions.
“Our center mid-fielder is one of our most competitive positions, and she is one of the reasons,” Cato said of Peck. “She has a solid, strong body and is a strong player in the middle and another great person in the air. She’s technically great on the ball and I look at her to complement our center mid-fielders.
“And Clara Merlino is just a natural soccer player. She understands the game well and is learning to play the forward position the way we are asking her to. She’s a very instinctive player and I don’t want to take that away from her. I want to mould her into our style of play.”
Cato sees passion and competitiveness and improved knowledge as the strengths of this year’s team.
“We are all on the same page going in,” she said. “And as long as we continue to peak and not falter, we should do pretty well. Where I look for improvement is when we lose a game to be resilient and not allow ourselves to go into a losing streak.”
Winning a Northwest Conference championship is the team’s obvious No. 1 goal, Cato said. But above and beyond that, she wants her players and her team to compete regardless of the situation.
“If you have a bad first month and you play yourself out of it, you have to continue to compete and have pride in yourself and give everything you have and leave it all out on the field. If you do that, everything else will take care of itself.”