The long wait ends Saturday. Six-year head women’s soccer Ted Zingman has been patiently anticipating his team’s season opener September 1 at Minnesota-Morris. He want to find out if his first impressions are right when his team takes the field at 4:00 p.m.
“This is the deepest team we have had since I’ve been here. We’re coming off a very good season,” he said. “I’m excited to get the season under way.”
It may be a tough act to top.
In 2011, the Pipers tied a school record for overall victories (10) , finished with an above .500 record in the MIAC (5-4-2), led the league in scoring with 37 goals and had their goaltender (Liz Stock) end up as a First Team COSIDA Academic All-American, barely missing the playoffs.
With nine of their top 12 pointgetters returning from a year ago, optimism was understandably high when the Pipers reported to Paterson Field for training camp August 17. Veteran team or not, however, the Pipers know they have to prove themselves all over again in 2012.
“The advantage of having so many players back is things may start to jell a little quicker than in years past,” Zingman said. “That’s a good thing because it’s a quick preseason (two weeks) before we begin playing games. I hope the learning curve is a little shorter this year.”
19 players who saw action for last year’s 10-5-3 team return. The clear offensive leader is sophomore Aileen Scheibner (Woodbury, Minn.). As a first-year player, she led the Pipers in nearly every offensive category, including goals (12), points (29, tied for the league lead), shots (43) and game winning tallies (4). She was named a Player Of The Week on one occasion and earned a place on the All-Conference team. By the end of last season, she was also drawing special interest from nearly every HU foe. “I would expect her to get a lot of attention this year,” Zingman said. “But a lot of her success last year was due to our solid team effort. If we achieve that again, she’ll get her chance to score goals.”
The Pipers led the MIAC a year ago with 37 goals scored. But to reach one of their 2012 goals – earning a spot in the 2012 MIAC playoffs – they don’t necessarily have to repeat that feat. “Our philosophy is a good defense turns into a good offense,” Zingman said. “The first priority is always to protect your end.”
Scheibner figures to help on offense again from juniors Heather Hollinger (Las Vegas, Nev.), who had four goals last year (pictured at right) and Brienne Garside (Broomfield, Colo.), who had three and was second on the team in assists with five. Jordan Sammons (So., Apple Valley, Minn.) is a speedster who added three as well last year.
The midfield and defensive corps also returns mainly intact. Four of them – Hannah Plagman (So., Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Alyssa Koulentis (Jr., Gresham, Ore.), Corinne Henning (Jr., St. Paul, Minn.) and Tania Russell (Eagan, Minn.) – played in all 18 games last year. “This is the first year that we have significant continuity,” Zingman said. “It’s by far the largest group of returnees we’ve had. We’ll have a very competitive practice environment. But nobody is guaranteed a job.” There are spots open for returnees such as Kristen Berry (So., Vancouver, Wash.) who was hobbled by injury and only saw action in a dozen games. She’s healthy this year and Zingman is anxious to see if she can help the mix.
Four of the five first-year players expected to be in camp also play in this area. One who may step up early is midfielder Caroline Exarhos (Richland, Wash.), a first team All State choice. But Zingman is looking for all the newcomers to contribute to the 2012 Pipers.
“What I am hoping for is that we can use a lot of players at Morris,” Zingman said. “I’m looking for us to be organized and disciplined on offense and defense.”
The most notable change from 2011 will be in goal. Erin Urbanowicz (So., Gresham, Ore.) played 367 minutes last year and allowed just four goals. She split several games with Stock (including half of a 4-0 shutout against the Cougars last year) before the latter became the no. 1 tender. She will battle with Molly Jacobs (Jr., Portland, Ore.) , who started four games in 2010 and played in three last year in what is being termed as an open competition.
“Erin is a little taller and probably has more of a physical presence while Molly is very strong with good technique,” Zingman said. “Fortunately, they both know what college soccer is all about.”
Saturday’s game is the first of four non-conference games HU will play before opening MIAC play on the road against one of the teams expected to battle for the top spot in the league (Concordia). Three of those four games will be away from Paterson Field. (The lone home game is September 5 against Wis-River Falls.) Zingman is hoping a veteran team will be able to deal with the distractions and concentrate on making the next step – gaining entrance to the MIAC playoffs.
“We were in the hunt for a playoff spot until the final game of the season last year,” he said. “That was very satisfying but we have a long ways to go. We can’t live off that this year.”