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Andy Thoma will lead the Huskies defense, but it will be as much for his attacking as his defending.
2014 Positional Previews: Defense
Release: 08/26/2014
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SEATTLE – A year after finishing 16-2-4 and advancing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, the Dawgs will open play this week at Gonzaga. In preparation of the opener, will take a look at the depth charts as it previews each position group. Tuesday, it will be the defense.

There may be no stronger position group around the country than the goalkeeping situation at Washington. Returning for a fifth year is senior Spencer Richey, who has already been named to the MAC Herman Trophy Watch List. Richey broke his leg just four games into the 2013 season and earned a medical redshirt. An All-Pac-12 Team honoree in 2012, Richey is arguably the most talented goalkeeper in the country, but will be fighting for the full-time starter job with incumbent Ryan Herman. Herman took over for Richey last season and led the Dawgs to their best season in program history. He finished with eight shutouts and a goals against average of just 0.83 in leading the Dawgs to the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With two proven starters, it appears the players will split time in the early part of the season with the potential of one winning the job as the season progresses. Third-stringer Auden Schilder is a rapidly developing goalkeeper that is a capable starter, but is stuck on the bench for now. He’ll be a future starter for the Dawgs and earned valuable experience last season as the backup when Richey was hurt.

Clark on the Goalkeepers: “I think we are fortunate enough to have the best goalkeeper situation in the country. Two proven starters that will battle each other in a positive way to see who comes out as our game-time guy. I think they will share minutes. Spencer is obviously a fifth-year guy who is looked at as one of the best goalies in the country. Ryan led us to our best season in program history. It is hard to argue against either one and I think we will ride them both through the course of the year. The beauty is we showed our third goalie, Auden, got a lot of experience last year when Spencer went down. He is one that is going to be great in the future. I feel pretty solid overall.”

The back four is the only unit the Dawgs suffered significant losses from last year’s squad. All-America center back Taylor Peay is now playing for the Portland Timbers of MLS, while right back Michael Harris was also lost to graduation. Despite the losses, the Dawgs return an experienced backline that should be able to step up and replicate a defense that allowed just 17 goals in 22 games. The defense begins with left back Andy Thoma who returns for his senior season. Thoma is a key for the Dawgs defensively, but also attacking up the left flank. His pace and skill coming forward will be just as important as his defending on the left side. In the middle, Justin Schmidt returns to a central role alongside Michael Gallagher who takes over for Peay after playing mostly holding midfield a year ago. Schmidt is a redshirt sophomore, but takes in the role as vocal leader along the backline and is also dangerous coming forward on set pieces. Gallagher is excellent with the ball at his feet, but also big enough play in the air. Garrett Jackson is also in the mix at center back as a freshman and could step in, particularly if Gallagher is needed in the midfield. At right back, Charlie Ranahan seems to have taken the job as a fifth-year senior. A veteran of the Husky squad, Ranahan is a tough and smart player that will complete a sturdy back four. Jose Ocampo is coming off an injury, but could push Ranahan for minutes at right back, his natural position. Freshman Justin Fiddes is also in the mix as a bit of a Thoma clone on the left side. He is one of the fastest Huskies and will be an impact player when given a chance, but may be stuck behind one of the best left backs in the country for now. Finally, Luke Hauswirth gives the Dawgs a center back of the future that could also slide over to right back.

Clark on the Defenders: “On defense, we are probably led by our left-back Andy Thoma who is a fourth-year senior and has played since his freshman year. He has great experience and is an attacking fullback. He will give us solidarity to that group. Inside him, Michael Gallagher and Justin Schmidt have played back there and have a lot of games under their belt. They are both going into their junior year, even though it is Schmidt’s redshirt sophomore year. They are both older guys with a good bit of experience. At right-back, fifth year senior Charlie Ranahan looks to be the guy who has taken the job. Again, an older guy, very experienced and has played a lot of positions but has settled into right-back. Pushing him will be Jose Ocampo, who broke his foot and is still getting back to health. But once he gets back to health he will push for that job also. Garret Jackson enrolled early and looks ready to play when needed as a center back. He is very good and has gotten probably ten games under his belt at UW already. If needed, he is ready to go. The other defenders, Justin Fiddes, is capable of playing, but will have a tough battle in front of him with Thoma, but if needed he is ready to go. Luke Hauswirth is a backup central defender who can also play right-back in a pinch.”

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