Aug. 20, 2008
Head coach Tom Saxton’s Michigan State women’s soccer squad enters the 2008 season optimistic, yet hungry to improve. After starting last season strong with a 5-2-1 record, MSU suffered a rash of injuries and close losses to finish 7-10-2.
Heading into the 2008 campaign, the team’s got a new, “unfinished business” attitude, coupled with the depth to compete in the Big Ten this season.
“We need our newer players to mesh quickly with the veterans,” Saxton said. “We may be a younger team now, but what we have is a core group of veterans that is dissatisfied with how things finished the last two years. We fell just short in several close matches, and everyone in this program is very hungry to get back into the Big Ten race.”
The Spartans return seven starters and 19 letterwinners from last year’s team, while adding a 10-player recruiting class that was ranked 19th in the nation by Soccer Buzz. Michigan State returns 66% of its scoring output from last year and should be a tough team to stop in the offensive third of the field.
“This may be our best attacking team ever, and it’s important that we get the most out of that,” Saxton said. “We had a stretch last year where we didn’t score a lot of goals, and I think we have the weapons to avoid that stretch this year.”
No area on the field is more dynamic than the forward position. Headlining the group is junior Lauren Hill, who has led the team in scoring each of the past two seasons. MSU also returns sophomore Cara Freeman, who added nine points and started every match as a true freshman.
Hill, who captured Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors in 2006, has scored 18 points in each of her first two years at MSU. She is quick and explosive enough to beat her defenders, and can finish once she gets near the goal.
Freeman finished her first collegiate season as the team’s leader with five assists while finishing second with 43 shots. Now with a season under her belt, she is primed to show the form that made her Illinois Player of the Year as a high school senior.
Another veteran forward who will see minutes is senior Lauren Carter. The Rochester Hills, Mich., native has appeared in 28 career matches and provides MSU with speed and experience.
The Spartans have also added two freshmen forwards Laura Heyboer and Sarah Stern to the mix. Heyboer was ranked as the No. 3 prep forward in the nation and led her high school team to four straight state championships. She finished as Michigan’s all-time high school leader in points, and finished second in state history in goals scored. Stern is a versatile athlete that can play anywhere on the field for the Spartans.
Michigan State returns six midfielders, including three players who started more than 10 matches last season. The Spartans also welcome four newcomers to the midfield fold.
Senior Kristi Timar and junior Lauren Sinacola are two mainstays in the Spartan midfield. Timar, a former Miss Soccer in Michigan, has scored 15 career points and has made 35 career starts during her first three seasons.
Sinacola battled through various injuries last season to finish with five points, including a two-goal effort in MSU’s home opener against Syracuse. Affectionately known on the team as “Smurf,” Sinacola has been one of the team’s best attack midfielders the past two seasons.
Juniors Megan Brown and Kate Rehor also saw a lot of playing time last year and both figure to be in the midfield mix this season. Brown, a very intelligent player, appeared in all 19 matches in 2007 and had two assists.
Rehor started 12 matches last season and has proved to be a versatile and important player to the Spartans’ success.
Senior Hannah Ferenchick, in her second season since transferring from Michigan, and redshirt sophomore Kelsey Tait figure to add depth and energy to the midfield corps. Tait appeared in four matches last season.
Michigan State’s four midfield newcomers are talented playmakers who all have a chance to become key players at MSU. The group includes Hannah Peterson, Megan Pines, Mikki Dennis and Taylor Miller.
Like the midfield, the Spartan backline may also see a lot of different faces see action this season. One sure thing is that seniors Kelley Amormino and Michelle Telebar will see playing time early and will be counted on as team leaders.
Amormino has appeared in 59 contests (28 starts) as a Spartan, while Telebar has played in 46 matches and has started at least 10 times in each of the past two seasons.
Sophomore Samantha Cook came on strong during her freshman season last year, playing her way into the starting lineup in the latter portion of the season. The Grand Haven, Mich., native started seven times last season.
Also, redshirt sophomore Jennifer Ulmer and sophomore Carly Foguth each have shown potential to crack the lineup. However, Saxton says perhaps no player made more of a leap in the offseason than sophomore Courtney Shegos.
In addition, the Spartans will get help from two newcomers, Katelin Chaklos and Jackie Accurso.
If any of Michigan State’s 2008 opponents need a goalkeeper, Saxton has plenty of capable netminders. Michigan State enters the season with seven goalkeepers on the roster.
Headlining the group is redshirt junior Lindsey Wrege. The Portage, Mich., native appeared in four matches last season, compiling a 2-0-0 record in 270 minutes of netminding. She is the most experienced goalkeeper on the squad.
A trio of returning keepers - Danielle Petri, Ashley Crandall and Demi Bruck - will all be in the hunt for playing time opportunities as well. Freshmen Ashley Swartz and Jill Flietstra also provide depth. Also on the roster is Oakland transfer Elizabeth Watza.