Aug. 29, 2007
Purdue's 2007 preseason could not have started better for head coach Rob Klatte. The Boilermakers entered their three-week camp healthy, in shape and game ready.
"I was very pleased with our first day," said Klatte. "Over half our team passed its fitness tests, and everything we worked on during the spring came back to them with ease. This was a great start."
Purdue is returning the most experienced roster in its 10-year history. Eight seniors are projected to start alongside veteran forwards Sylvia Forbes and Jessica Okoroafo, leaving only the goalkeeper position up for grabs.
Sophomore Jenny Bradfisch and freshman Carianne Betts are this year's candidates, and they still have time left to campaign for the starting job.
Bradfisch has regular-season experience. She competed in parts of four matches last year and held the opposition scoreless for close to seventy minutes.
Betts redshirted last season but played a great match on the road at Duke this spring as Bradfisch recovered from injury. The Boilermakers beat the Blue Devils, 3-2, in come-from-behind fashion.
Bradfisch's and Betts' efforts left Klatte with no favorite heading into preseason.
"As (Lauren) Mason's heir apparent, one would think Jenny is the likely starter; however, everything we do as a team is competition based, and we've seen Carianne grow as a player since this spring," said Klatte.
Whichever goalkeeper earns the right to start will have the privilege of playing behind one of the most experienced defenses in the Big Ten: Kira Bilecky, Zarinah Blockton, Kristin Hetzel and Christy Riggle. These four student-athletes have played thousands of minutes together since their freshman year in 2004.
The midfield is also packed with veterans. Jordyn Shaffer is expected to reclaim her job at D-Mid while Shauna Stapleton and Jill Sarbaugh serve as wings.
Forbes, Okoroafo and returning first-team All-Big Ten selection Parrissa Eyorokon give Purdue a balance of speed and power at forward. Forbes possesses one of the team's hardest shots, while Eyorokon is adept at eluding defenders and making the tough shot or pass. Okoroafo's developed skill set has resulted in consecutive invitations to train with the U.S. National U-19 and U-20 clubs.
The senior-laden lineup influenced Klatte's decisions in making the 2007 schedule. The Boilermakers play 2006 NCAA qualifiers Louisville, Kentucky, Washington and Portland through the season's first two weekends in addition to a mid-week contest with an up-and-coming Xavier program. The Musketeers are coached by former Notre Dame assistant Alvin Alexander.
"The schedule certainly kick starts us in the right direction, because if we want to go deep in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, these are the types of teams we'll have to face and defeat," said Klatte. "With this many seniors, we no longer require a two-week period in which we get to know one another."
With an influx of veterans, how can Klatte accommodate a large freshman class with quality minutes?
"We brought in a lot of talented kids, some of whom are going to play a major role for us - maybe not this year - but certainly for next spring," said Klatte. "Their playing time is going to depend a lot on game situations - do we have enough breathing room? I want to try and get everyone in, but we have to play to win."
The Boilermakers open their 20-match season on Friday, Aug. 31 at 5:30 p.m. vs. Kentucky during Day 1 of the Boilermaker Challenge Cup. Louisville and Loyola-Chicago are also part of the four-team field.