Coach Speak: Oregon Soccer Coach Bill Steffen Looks Ahead to Another Season on the Pitch at Pape' Field.

July 25, 2003



Give us a quick overview of the season.

BS: 'This will be an exciting season. Last year was a year of challenges and growth. We had a lot of younger players get experience against some of the top teams in the country. Portland won the national title, and North Carolina is traditionally in that role. Then factor in two other NCAA teams from the ACC and then the Pac-10 which had six NCAA teams, too. A lot of the players matured very quickly, and hopefully this year they can put that development into practice. Hopefully we're healthier than we were last year, and that will be a contributing factor our success.'

Q: Go through your key returnees at the main positions.

BS: 'At midfield, Lindsey Werdell is our captain and senior. She had a really a good spring and has continued to develop over the course of her career. She's made great strides in emerging as a more dominant person for us on the field. We want to keep her as involved as possible because she keeps others invovled around her. Cristan Higa had a great spring and assumed a little more of an attacking role and want to her continue.'

BS: 'Up front, Nicole Garbin will probably be the focus, and we look for her to be healthy again, and become one of the dominant players in the conference. Last year as a freshman, Mele French has had a taste of collegiate soccer up front, and we look forward to her becoming a more consistent scoring threat.'

BS: 'In the back, Christine Mintz and Carlie Ashcraft really began to assert themselves in a more aggressive defensive presence in the spring, and we look for them to put that into practice this fall. They both have great potential and the sum of those two together will be exciting. Dara had a really Wone good spring and became much more confident and aggressive physically after coming off her ACL. We want her to continue to progress in this manner as we go through the fall.'

BS: 'In goal, Domenique Lainez has been working hard to come back from an ankle injury. We look for her to really blossom this fall. She's always had a good physical frame, and now it's her time to assume the mantle of leadership. The past three years, Sarah Peters has given us terrific leadership in net, and Dom has had a chance to understudy with Sara. Emily Marrer comes in as a freshman and has strong club experience and is very determined. She will push and work and develop as quickly as she possibly can. In her first fall for us last year, Mary Etter was a real sponge absorbing and applying a lot of new info quickly, and really demonstrated her athleticism. We look for her to continue that.'

Q: Talk about this year's schedule.

BS: 'This year's schedule will be very challenging but in a more systematic way than years past. We build by having some home matches early, than go on the road for some challenging games out of region, then in-region. We're excited because the final non-conference weekend we have Portland and Weber State - it's a tremendous way to wrap up the non-conference weekend by playing the defending national champion. After that, the Pac-10 should be an interesting two months. The teams are always changing, and right now it look like it could be anybody's race. The Pac-10 has developed even quicker than the level of soccer across the country, and we're excited to see how it's become the top conference in the country.'

Q: Although you haven't seen them practice with the team yet, which newcomers would you guess have the best chance to make immediate impact

BS: 'Goalkeeper Emily Marrer will come in and will impact things just by her work ethic and intensity. Dana Richardson will help through her athleticism and her versatility. Sabrina DeMonte was able to train with us in the spring and showed her athletic ability and versatility in multiple positions. Erin Engelhardt has tremendous experience transferring from Virginia. Rachel Grushkin brings a lot of potential but not as much experience so it will be interesting to see how she progresses.'

Q: Talk about the team's overall strengths - it's speed, strength, skills, etc.

BS: 'This is the most athletic team we've had since I've been year. The question marks will be how healthy we are, and also how quickly we can gel as a team. If we can do that early on, we expect to be successful from the start. I think this group is very determined and has a great amount of desire.'

Q: What did you see from the spring workouts from the returnees?

BS: 'Compared to past years, there was a lot more growth this spring. It makes sense in that they were a lot younger in the fall, and they needed time to develop after being thrown against the third-toughest schedule nationally right off the bat. I think they learned a lot about each other. As a resut of those lesson, I think this year you'll see improved confidence and experience out of them. This is a very old, young team - they have a tremendous experience level already at a very young age.'

Q: You brought back John Galas to fill in the departure of Keri Sanchez who will focus more her pro/family commitments. What does he bring to the team?

BS: 'He brings a lot of passion and knowledge from several different levels and environments, and that will be a tremendous help for us. He's also a UO alum, so his passion extends beyond the soccer field to the whole university and community.'

Q: What are your goals for this year's team?

BS: 'First, as always, to get to the NCAA Tournament. This team has a better chance than any we've had thus far. Given their abilities and desires, it's an excellent starting point. They want to be the best program ever, and getting into the tournament would be a big part of that.'

Q: What are the key things this year's squad will need to concentrate on?

BS: 'They'll have to finish opportunities on the field. We'll be solid at creating things, but we need to make sure we finish chances. Given the schedule and how it builds, it will be important to start well and build as a squad.'

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