SEATTLE – Washington women’s soccer is just three days away from the season opener against UCF in Hawaii’s tournament in Honolulu. The Dawgs leave for Paradise on Wednesday, having finished up preseason training and two-a-days.
Big things are expected from the Huskies in 2013 as the team returns much of the talent that made them a NCAA Tournament team in 2012. Among the reasons for potential success this season is the defense. In the first part of the team preview, we’ll take a look at the goalkeeping and defense and how it projects for 2013.
The Dawgs lack experience in goal as last year’s starter Kari Davidson was lost to graduation. Of the four goalkeepers on the roster, only Megan Kufeld has collegiate game experience. The redshirt sophomore played in four games a year ago, including one start, but lacks big game experience. Her talent is less of a concern, however. Head coach Lesle Gallimore believes that Kufeld was good enough to start in the Pac-12 by the end of last season, but was simply stuck behind a senior.
“We feel really comfortable with Megan as a starter,” said Gallimore. “Now, it is just a matter of it all being on her on a day-to-day basis. Game experience at this level is really all she lacks.”
Behind Kufeld, the Dawgs have sophomore Tori Burns and a pair of freshmen in Madi McNamara and Sarah Shimer. All three will be in a battle to be the backup and be ready if anything were to happen to Kufeld. Gallimore explained that outside the opening trip to Hawai’i, the Huskies usually only travel two goalkeepers, so she expects great competition for the backup spot.
“It’s going to be a great competition for that spot, said Gallimore.” However, they know their main job is to push Megan.”
Game experience will not be something that the backline in front of Kufeld lacks. The Dawgs are expected to start four seniors along the back, each who saw significant time last season and throughout their careers. The outside backs are anticipated to be Annie Sittauer on the left and Lindsey Bos on the right, while Molly Boyd and co-captain Stine Schoening will play in the middle.
Both Sittauer and Bos have played a lot of minutes since their freshman year and can both attack out of the back and defend. Gallimore believes they will play a key role in the system Washington will try to play throughout the season.
“Both of those two can get out of the back and attack, but at the same time they are solid defensively,” said Gallimore. “That will be important against some of the great opponents we play.”
In the middle, Boyd and Schoening complement each other nicely. Gallimore calls Schoening more of the vocal leader and organizer with Boyd playing more of the enforcer role.
“They are as solid of center backs as we have had,” said Gallimore. “We are comfortable that our backline will be able to set the tone for our team defensively.”
Behind the group of seniors are a combination of defenders and midfielders that can come back and play along the backline. Gallimore believes the Huskies are two deep at all four spots.
Gallimore mentions a couple options at outside back, including Katey Fawcett who has come on this season with her speed and quick feet making up for her lack of size. Newcomer Havana McElvaine is another option on the left side. She simply lacks the experience with the speed of a collegiate game, but has the tools to succeed. A surprise has been Paige Serwold who has moved from forward to outside back, but already looks the part with great pace and ability to attack from a defensive position.
At center back, McKenzie Karas could see minutes behind the two seniors with her size and ability to win balls in the air. She also will see a lot of time as a holding midfielder as a great ball-winner, but Gallimore sees her as a capable center back if needed.
“McKenzie is someone that we would like to get some experience along the backline,” said Gallimore. “Obviously with four seniors that is somewhere we could potentially need her next year.”
Amanda Perez is another option along the backline. Gallimore sees her more as a creative holding midfielder, but her experience along the back with the Mexican National Team allows yet another option for the Huskies. Finally, Charlee Garcia is a center back that has come on in her second season at UW.
“Charlee came back fitter this season than when she left or at any time during the season last year,” said Gallimore. “She is a good passer and reads the game well. She makes up for what she lacks in pace with smarts and positioning herself well.”
The one loss in defense that Washington will have to overcome is outside back Sami Page who suffered a knee injury during the spring and will be lost for the season.
“It’s unfortunate because Sami was someone vying for a starting position,” said Gallimore. “I think it always good when you have seniors in starting positions to have younger players pushing them. Sami provided that right behind them. The good news is some of the younger players have stepped up, but Sami was someone who was really putting herself in position to earning starting time and significant minutes.”
The depth throughout the Huskies roster is notable, but particularly along the backline with four seniors expected to start. This veteran group with talented younger players pushing for minutes should make life easier for Kufeld as she adapts to her role as starter. Once Kufeld is comfortable, which shouldn’t take long, expect the Huskies to be a difficult team to score upon.