Aug. 20, 2008
The Boilermakers pushed their program to the edge of greatness in 2007. Winners of 20 matches, Purdue walked away with the Big Ten Tournament Championship, set a multitude of records and earned various postseason honors. The team accomplished everything on its checklist except claiming a national title, which it could have won if not for the season-ending injuries suffered by Jill Sarbaugh and Parrissa Eyorokon.
Purdue prospered in the veterans’ absence and continued to battle adversity as well as it had all season. The same team that shutout No. 1 Portland with only 10 women on the field showed no signs of panic when Sarbaugh went down against Illinois or when Eyorokon was taken out against Northwestern. At season’s close, the Boilermakers were winning as many games through mental toughness as they were on sheer talent.
Purdue’s inspired play in both the psychological and physical sense has raised the bar significantly for each club that dons the Old Gold and Black in subsequent seasons. Instead of being compared with 2003, future Boilermakers will be judged on the success of 2007. And no one team is going to have it tougher than the one assembled for 2008, which must be asking itself, “Where can we go from here?”
There’s no question the 2008 Boilermakers will be hard pressed to match the triumphs of their predecessors, but the harder it gets, the harder they’ll try. And this upcoming season is going to be a challenge. Gone are the 13 seniors, seven starters, and the comfort of playing 12 or more home matches in one season. Now, the Boilermakers will have to play half of their 20 games on the road, including six in-conference, and they will be doing it with a new-look midfield and defensive line.
“The spring provided us with some insight as to what players can hold down certain positions, but there are still a lot of holes to fill entering this fall – we didn’t have to worry about filling any holes last year that’s for certain,” head coach Rob Klatte said.
The midfield is completely depleted following the graduations of Shauna Stapleton, Kalie Grambeau and Jordyn Shaffer. In their place could be veterans Katie Becker and Roya Akhavain, or a combination of several incoming freshmen. There also remains the possibility that Purdue plays this season with four midfielders instead of three.
The back line will be anchored by Jessica Stellhorn, who is coming off a stellar rookie campaign in which she was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and voted to several postseason all-region and all-conference teams. Additionally, Stellhorn poured in seven points on one goal and five assists, which could make her a strong candidate to fill in at midfield.
“Jessica needs to rebound from having received all those awards and demonstrate that she is that same player who played consistently well at a high level last season,” Klatte said. “We also will want to see if she’s ready to take on more responsibilities and move to midfield if necessary.”
The front line, however, is set up perfectly with Jessica Okoroafo, Felicia Schroeder and Loredana Riverso all coming back in good health. This trio combined for 72 points on 27 goals and 18 assists in 2007 as Purdue set season records in nearly every offensive category.
“Oak is preparing herself for a fantastic season,” Klatte said. “She’s been one of our most consistent and dangerous performers since she arrived three years ago. Even last season, when she wasn’t scoring many goals in non-conference, she was still delivering a number of assists. I think she recognizes herself as this year’s go-to player and is ready to put the team on her back.”
The Boilermakers have a great goalkeeper in Jenny Bradfisch and another in Carianne Betts, who according to Klatte can, “push for playing time and do the job just as well when necessary.” Bradfisch, however, was one of 2007’s top goalkeepers, posting six shutouts and a 0.49 goals-against average.
The 2008 version of Purdue soccer takes the field for the first time this season on Friday, Aug. 22, at Kansas. Purdue’s first Big Ten match is Sept. 26, at Northwestern.