Michigan State Preview
Aug. 26, 2004
Ask Michigan State head coach Tom Saxton to use one word to describe the upcoming 2004 season and he'll likely give the following response: transition.
Change is not always easy. But in college sports it's a given. Last year's senior class spearheaded a turnaround in MSU soccer that has seen the Spartans win 10 or more games in four straight seasons for the first time since women's soccer became a Big Ten sport in 1994. That stretch also saw MSU make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program's history.
That group of leaders has moved on, and Michigan State must make a transition to a new core of leaders. But although the personnel has changed, the lofty goals that have been recently created for Spartan soccer remain the same. In fact, Michigan State will settle for nothing less than continued success.
In order to take advantage of the team's strengths, Michigan State will look to employ a three-forward attack, compared to the two-forward attack that has been in effect for several seasons. This will maximize the talents of a group of forwards, that while relatively inexperienced, boasts significant depth.
Junior Emma Harris is the most experienced forward and is MSU's leading returning scorer with six goals and five assists in 2003. Besides being a great target and very good with her back to the goal, Harris is adept at scoring clutch goals due to her incredible composure.
Erin Konheim also brings significant experience to the offensive attack, although she spent the past two years in the midfield. A naturally left-sided player, the junior led the Spartans in assists (7) last year and ranked fourth in points (13). Her great 1-v-1 skills should make her a strong asset at forward.
Dana Voorheis is another junior expected to contribute. Although she appeared in just nine games last season, Saxton has faith that she will excel when given the opportunity.
Lauren Zacharski was expected to be an important part of the offense last season, but suffered a season-ending knee injury on her first touch in an exhibition contest. If she can return to form, she should be a big contributor.
Jenee Witherspoon appeared in 19 games as a freshman. Recruited for her ability to score big goals in national competition, Saxton expects her to be among the top point producers. Sophomore Heather Riley is described as a sneaky player with the ability to make spectacular plays.
In addition to the returning players, freshman Breanna Ballard joins the mix on offense. With exceptional speed, her biggest obstacle will be adjusting to the college game.
Any talk about the Spartan midfield must begin with senior Abby Shepherd. A First-Team All-Big Ten and First-Team All-Great Lakes region honoree, she is one of the most talented players in the program's history.
Veterans Ashley Lawson and Adrienne Treado are expected to see significant playing time in the midfield. The two seniors will likely combine with Shepherd to give MSU an all-senior starting midfield.
Junior Linsey Laskowski suffered a knee injury at the end of spring practice. If she is able to return to the lineup, she will be a key contributor.
Redshirt freshman Callie McCarthy will have the opportunity to be one the first Spartans off the bench for the midfield.
Additional depth at midfield will come from three freshmen: Lauren Astry, Kelly Hannon and Maureen Pawlak. Freshmen Katie Hudgins and Deanne Kubas will also provide depth.
Senior Emily Carbott has emerged as the leader of the defense and a potential All-Big Ten defender.
Junior Nina Mastracci will anchor the right side of the defense, although she can play in the middle if necessary. Another junior, Emily Wiegand will play on the left side. In addition to her defensive skills, she is strong in the air and another deadball specialist.
Sophomores Anna Hagel and Katherine Peters both had solid springs and will be given an opportunity to challenge for the fourth starting position. Junior Christine Byrne is new to the Spartan lineup, having played one season at Minnesota. Senior Suzanne Smokevitch is also a contender for playing time after a good spring.
Freshman Erin Doan is viewed as one the most highly touted recruits in the program's history. A McDonald's High School All-American, she brings in a great deal of experience.
Additional depth will come from red-shirt freshman Taryn Lee, who brings exceptional athleticism to the position, and freshman Katie Boyd.
Senior Erin Carlson has been a backup for much of her career due to the talent in front of her. Carlson's strengths lie in her experience and understanding of the position. In addition, she is a good shot stopper.
Redshirt freshman Nicole Galas is hungry after cruising through her first year as the third keeper. Standing 6-feet tall, she has the ability to punt the ball three-quarters of the field, which is a dimension that previous goaltenders have not possessed. Her height also allows her to control all high balls in the box.
While both keepers possess different strengths, Saxton admits that neither one has an edge entering fall practice.