SEATTLE – The Washington women’s soccer team begins the 2014 season on Friday night, hosting Kentucky at 7 p.m. The Dawgs welcome an NCAA Tournament team from a year ago to begin a season where they hope to get back to the postseason after a one year absence.
Friday’s game is one of just two UW women’s soccer game not available on the Pac-12 Networks this season. For those not able to make it to the Husky Soccer Field, the game will be available via webcast HERE.
The Dawgs have a new look this season with the loss of six seniors that played a prominent role in 2013. Despite the losses, Washington is looking to make up for the lack of experience with a renewed commitment to the team, not to mention the talent to succeed.
“I think we are a lot less experienced as far as college games under our belt, but I don’t think that is going to hurt us,” said head coach Lesle Gallimore. “They are so eager to learn and the chemistry and culture is so team first. We are just more on board with what direction we want to go. If one person is playing and the other is not, they are cheering for each other. This team doesn’t want to play as individuals, they are playing more like a team than they did last fall. Speaking of the returners specifically, they are playing to fill their role on the team, instead of being the best player they can be individually.”
The Huskies finished a disappointing 7-9-4 last season, despite having a strong defense that held opponents to just 17 goals in 20 games. Megan Kufeld returns in goal and the defense in front of her should again be strong with the return of Allyson Brahs, Havana McElvaine and McKenzie Karas, plus the additions of injured players Stine Schoening, Sami Page and freshman Dominique Bond-Flasza.
“We need to be a solid defensive team again like we were last year, but with the addition of knowing how to get forward and score goals, said Gallimore. “We started to create last year, but actually scoring was painful for us. We were better in the spring and were putting some different thoughts in the players’ heads about how to get numbers up front and how to get people on front of the goal. It’s just a mentality and really think we will be a better attacking team than we were last year.”
Washington does return leading scorer Kate Bennett who scored four goals last year. Of the 16 goals scored by the Huskies, 13 were scored by returning players. Jaclyn Softli will get the first crack at being the team’s main striker, but she will be supported by returners Becca Schoales, Chelsea Archer and transfer Miranda Rawlings. Freshmen midfielders Shannon Simon and Kimberly Keever are also expected to make an immediate impact on the offense.
Kentucky comes to Seattle for the first matchup between the schools in women’s soccer. The Wildcats are receiving votes in the NSCAA poll after finishing 14-7-1 last season and falling to eventual national champion UCLA in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have already achieved success on the West Coast this season, defeating No. 11 Portland, 3-1, in an exhibition game last Sunday.
Kentucky returns top scorer Arin Gilliland who notched 12 goals and 10 assists a year ago. She was a MAC Herman Trophy finalist in 2013, while also being named All-SEC and Third Team NSCAA All-American.
The Dawgs face an extremely difficult schedule in 2014 and Kentucky will be the first test. Washington faces 11 opponents that played in last year’s NCAA Tournament, including five during the non-conference season.
Still, Washington has the talent and the togetherness to navigate a tough schedule to return to the NCAA Tournament for the 13th time in Gallimore’s tenure.
“I really like the core of our team and think we have a really good base to build from,” said Gallimore. “We are just going to take it one game at a time. This game against Kentucky is huge for us one a one-game weekend. If we can put our best foot forward, it is going to give us all the confidence in the world for the rest of the season. It’s really all we are focused on.”