Women's Soccer Team Ready to Fly
Aug. 9, 2001
The Oregon Ducks are ready to fly in 2001. Armed with a mix of battle-tested veterans and an infusion of skillful newcomers, the women's soccer team is poised for its first NCAA Tournament berth in the program's seven-year history.
Coach Bill Steffen has brought in 13 newcomers-10 freshmen and three transfers-to help form a team which also includes Pac-10 veterans Chalise Baysa, Beth Bowler, Starr Johnson and Julie McLellan, among others.
'We've got the best of both worlds this year,' Steffen said. 'Typically you either have a strong veteran leadership or a talented freshmen class. Here, we've got both. Last year, the returning players went through the toughest schedule in the country. They know what the highest level of college soccer is about and the incoming freshmen respect that.'
One challenge will be to get each player-new and old-on the same page. How quickly Oregon develops its chemistry could play a key factor.
'The newcomers have tremendous ability, energy and a great upside,' Steffen said. 'There's already been good communication between our returning and incoming players. I think this is going to be a breakout year for us. We're really exciting to get going.'
One of Oregon's strongest positions is the midfield. And it all begins with senior Chalise Baysa (Oak Harbor, Wash.), who has led the Ducks in scoring the past three seasons. Baysa, the all-time leader in goals at Oregon, tallied a team-leading six goals last year, finishing with 13 points.
'The midfield position will be great with Chalise, who's been our strongest midfield over the years and we also have a great group with her.'Crystal David (San Francisco, Calif.), Oregon's second-leading scorer in 2000 with 11 points, returns for her senior year. Steffen plans to put David and speedy junior Julie McLellan (Vernon, B.C.) closer to the touch lines in 2001.
'By keeping them wide, it will give them more room to run, which is their strength,' he said.Senior Annie Murphy (Eugene, Ore.), who finished with two assists and one goal last season, also adds stability to the midfielding corps.
One of Oregon's top newcomers is freshman Nicole Garbin (Wailuku, Hawai`i).
'Nicole has got a huge potential and is going to be an outstanding player,' Steffen said. 'She's going to be playing more central midfield this year.'Another freshman who could contribute is Nicole Renna (Georgetown, Texas). 'I think she will give us a lot of time at the central midfield,' Steffen said.Hawai`i transfer Amanda Orand (Salem, Ore.), Kirsten McEwen (Portland, Ore.) and Kelly Baird (San Pedro, Calif.) all will be competing for playing time this year as well. Steffen said McEwan also could bolster Oregon's defense.
'I look for us to combine a lot through the midfield. I like having a little more of our speed wide in the midfield. If anything, we're going to try to get more people into the attack.'
Beth Bowler (El Cajon, Calif.), a four-year mainstay for the Ducks, will be one of the top forwards. Despite missing five games due to an sprained ankle last year, Bowler scored three goals and had two assists to place third in overall points for Oregon. She was an Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 pick in 2000.Sophomore Ann Westermark (Strangmas, Sweden) is expected to secure a starting role as well, after starting 11 of Oregon's 20 matches a year ago.
'Beth and Ann will be really strong for us up top,' said Steffen, who also will use David and McLellan at forward.Freshman walk-on Arlene Tuttle (Santa Rosa, Calif.), who comes from a strong youth program, will help the Ducks' depth.
'We hope to be very strong at the defender position because we have a lot of depth, experience and youth,' Steffen said.Returning are starters Starr Johnson (Kailua, Hawai`i) and Angela Romero (Albuquerque, N.M.).
'They both have been through some tremendous battles for us,' Steffen said.Lindsey Peterson (Port Orchard, Wash.), Lindsey Werdell (Eugene, Ore.) and Dara Wone (Burnaby, B.C.) each were impressive in spring drills and should fight for starting posts.The Ducks also brought in Robi Thayer (Auburn, Wash.), who is a junior transfer from UTEP where she started every game for the Miners the last two seasons.
'Robi brings in a lot of experience as a central defender and we look for her to impact us as quickly as possible,' Steffen said.In addition, freshmen Elise Minvielle (San Francisco, Calif.), Kristen Konopka (Redondo Beach, Calif.), McEwen and Baird all will assist the backfield.
Steffen expects the goalkeeping position to be the most competitive, with two returners and two newcomers fighting for the starting nod.Juniors Sarah Peters (Woodinville, Wash.) and Jeanine Norstad (Moss, Norway) bring their match experience to the Ducks. Also competing for playing time will be Michelle Jensen (Junction City, Ore.) and Domenique Lainez (San Bruno, Calif.).
'We have four quality goalkeepers,' Steffen said. 'Obviously Sarah and Jeanine have been through the rigors of Division I. However, 'Chelle and Lainez both are going to be expected to battle for the starting position. 'Chelle has quickness and kind of a bulldog mentality. Lainez has a great frame and athleticism required for goalkeeping. This is definitely the most depth I've had.'
The Ducks endured one of the nation's toughest schedules a year ago, playing 10 teams ranked in the NSCAA top 25 and three of the top four in the nation.This season, Oregon's nonconference schedule features NCAA Tournament teams Montana, San Diego and Portland.
'We've got a lot of nonconference challenges. Outside of the conference Tennessee has made great strides as a program and Portland and San Diego are some of the country's top teams,' Steffen said.
The Pac-10, meanwhile, sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament last season. Oregon wants to be one of them in 2001.
'With the Pac-10 being the best conference in the nation for women's soccer, it presents a unique kind of challenge through the rivalries we've established,' Steffen said.