Ten Schools in Ten Days: Oregon State Women's Soccer Preview
Aug. 30, 2005
For several years now, the Oregon State women's soccer program has been on the verge of earning a long-awaited NCAA Tournament berth. The 2005 squad should be no different, and head coach Steve Fennah believes he has put together the right mix of experience and talent to help the Beavers break through.
OSU's only previous NCAA appearance came in 1994. The Beavers thought that they had an excellent chance last year, as they went 10-9-1 and finished in seventh place in the Pacific-10 Conference with a 4-4-1 record. Despite a strong case, OSU was not awarded a bid.
'Without question, we want to play in the NCAA Tournament,' said Fennah, who is in his eighth year as head coach at OSU. 'We felt our RPI was strong enough last year to get us in. This year's group has the potential to take us a step further.'
Fennah can keep a positive outlook thanks to the return of nine starters, including sophomore forward Jodie Taylor (Merseyside, England/Oldershaw HS), who was a 2004 Freshman All-American, an All-Pacific-10 Conference first team selection and the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. A total of 13 letterwinners are back, and eight promising newcomers join the program.
One player, senior forward Stacey Mescher (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo HS) will look to start for her fourth season. Five other players may start for the third year. A total of 10 players on the roster have made at least 10 career starts.
'I think one of the exciting things is that we bring back a pretty experienced group,' said Fennah, who is joined by sixth-year assistant coaches Heidi Slaymaker and Linus Rhode. 'We have a good core group with several players who have been here at least two years. Having a group that's got such good experience, and particularly with the team's success in the Pac-10 last year, is an exciting thing to bring back.'
The schedule, as always, is designed to be challenging. Eight games will be played against 2004 NCAA Tournament teams. In addition to five qualifiers from the Pac-10, OSU will host Wake Forest and Virginia Commonwealth and will visit Portland.
During non-conference play, OSU will have five home games, three road contests and three neutral-site matches.
'We have a schedule that's attractive,' Fennah said. 'It's a difficult schedule but one that we can have some success with. There's no question that this team wants to be playing in mid-November. To do that, we'll need to be physically and mentally prepared to handle each game as it comes.'
Here is a look at OSU's team by position:
The goalkeeping position is in good hands with junior Melissa Onstad (Castro Valley, Calif./Castro Valley HS), who has started the past two years, and senior Amy Johnson (Eugene, Ore./South Eugene HS/Utah State), who has seen extensive time as the backup.
Onstad is the school's career record holder for goals-against average (1.12) and in 2004 she set the OSU single-season records for goals-against average (0.96) and shutouts (eight).
'Melissa has worked very hard this past year and she's probably in her best shape ever,' Fennah said. 'The best thing about her is the vocal command and leadership she brings to the defense.'
Johnson has played in 10 games and made seven starts over the past two seasons.
'If Amy works hard and pushes Melissa, she'll have the opportunity to win more playing time,' Fennah said. 'It's great to have two goalkeepers of their caliber.'
A third goalkeeper who is being groomed for the future is freshman Ashley Wood (Corvallis, Ore./Corvallis HS). In the meantime, she could see action in the field.
'Ashley has good size, athleticism and hands,' Fennah said. 'She needs to get some experience and then she'll make her push. I think she'll be a very good goalkeeper down the road for Oregon State.'
OSU's defense was a true strength in 2004, as the Beavers posted a school-record nine shutouts and allowed a goals-against average of just 1.11 (23 goals in 20 games). Three of the four starters on the back line return.
'We definitely need to keep up the same form,' Fennah said. 'If you're not conceding goals, you've got a better chance to win games. It's that simple.'
The two center backs should again be sophomore Monica Storm (Chino, Calif./Ayala HS) and junior Alison Vislay (Mission Viejo, Calif./Capistrano Valley HS). Storm started all 20 games as a freshman, while Vislay rebounded from an injury that cost half of her freshman year to start all 20 matches last season.
'Monica and Alison are as good a pair of center backs as there are,' Fennah said. 'Monica had an outstanding freshman year. She's composed with the ball and is strong making challenges. Vocally, she's already a leader on the team. Alison has the experience of being a starter. She reads the game exceptionally well, attacks the ball and tackles well.'
Senior Cara Miller (Corvallis, Ore./Corvallis HS) is a returning starter at fullback. A two-time Pac-10 All-Academic honoree, she'll seek to earn a starting nod for the third straight year.
'Cara has always been a good leader by example,' Fennah said. 'She's always been one of our most fit and hard-working players. The example she will set as a senior leader will be a real positive.'
Junior Jen Crump (Santa Maria, Calif./Ernest Righetti HS) is a two-year starter who may move to fullback from the midfield.
'Jen did well starting in the midfield but she may help us at defense this year,' Fennah said. 'It's good to have a player of her quality and experience.'
Junior Lauren Wippel (Wilsonville, Ore./Wilsonville HS) has played in 33 games and made 10 starts in her two years.
'Lauren has been a staunch defender,' Fennah said. 'She's mostly come off the bench but now I think she'll make a push to start. She's a good athlete and one of those players you love to have because of her work ethic.'
Freshmen seeking to make an impact on defense are McKenna Martindale (Lake Oswego, Ore./Lakeridge HS) and Samantha Pabst (Eugene, Ore./Sheldon HS). McKenna was an all-state high school player and won four state titles at the club level. Pabst was also an all-state selection and won two prep state titles.
'McKenna could really press for a spot in the back as a freshman,' Fennah said. 'She's a big, strong kid that is very strong in the air and very strong with the tackle. Samantha has great pace and great ability with the ball. She's a very smart player.'
The midfield may look a bit different in 2005, particularly if Crump shifts to defender. Regardless of the lineup, it's a crucial spot as the Beavers try to improve on their goal-scoring efforts from a year ago. The team managed just 25 goals in 20 games last year, yet still posted a winning record.
'Defensively, our midfield was very good last year,' Fennah said. 'But they didn't really contribute many goals going forward, and we need that to change this year.'
Returning starters include senior Liz Money (Port Angeles, Wash./Port Angeles HS) and junior Kelli Washburn (Santa Barbara, Calif./San Marcos HS).
Money has started the past two years and has career totals of one goal and four assists.
'Liz is a tireless worker in the midfield,' Fennah said. 'She could play any of the midfield positions. She battles and competes and leaves everything out on the field.'
Washburn has started 29 games in her first two seasons and has two career goals.
'Kelli has anchored the midfield for us in the past,' Fennah said. 'She dominates the game in the air. Her role is to control her area and keep the ball moving.'
Jetta Sadusky (Littleton, Colo./Columbine HS), a sophomore who has transferred from Nebraska, is expected to earn one of the starting positions. She started five games and scored one goal last year for the Cornhuskers, which made it to the NCAA Tournament's Round of 16.
'I'm really excited about Jetta,' Fennah said. 'She'll probably come in as a wide midfield player and make an impact right away. She has good pace and excellent fitness, and I'm looking for her to get forward and really contribute to the offense.'
Senior Chloe Mutnick (Portland, Ore./Lincoln HS/Colorado) played in four games last year.
Said Fennah: 'Chloe is a hard-working player. She keeps the game simple and will try to help us off the bench.'
Incoming freshmen who may help in the midfield are Pabst, Tiffany Alvarez (Pomona, Calif./Pomona Catholic HS) and twins Esme and Julie Arredondo (Corvallis, Ore./Corvallis HS). Alvarez won a national championship at the club level, while the Arredondo twins were both all-state high school players.
'Tiffany is a high-level player who is very versatile,' Fennah said. 'I'm hoping that she will add some punch to our midfield as we move forward. Esme and Julie can either play midfield or move up front. Esme has a good soccer knowledge and a knack for scoring goals. Julie understands the game well and is a good passer.'
Without the addition of Taylor, 2004 may have been a very bleak season on offense for the Beavers. She had a tremendous freshman year, scoring 15 goals, which was second in the Pac-10 and tied for second on OSU's single-season list. Her 32 points were third in the Pac-10 and third on the Beavers' single-season chart. Six of her goals were game-winners.
'Jodie just knows how to play the game,' Fennah said. 'She has a nose for the goal and has tremendous pace and technical ability with the ball. She's going to be a marked player this year, and obviously teams are going to look to single her out for special attention, but she has the mentality and the ability to still be very successful.'
With Taylor accounting for 60 percent of the Beavers' scoring strikes in 2004, adding to the fact that no other player scored more than two goals last year, Fennah knows that others will have to contribute for OSU to be successful.
'We have to get some more goals out of other players,' Fennah said. 'It could come from set plays, where everyone has a chance to get forward. But our other forwards and attacking players are going to have to weigh in with some more goals.'
Taylor will likely be joined up front again by Mescher, who scored two goals and had six assists in 2004. She has nine career goals, and ranks tied for ninth on OSU's all-time assist list with 12.
'Stacey has been outstanding for us every year,' Fennah said. 'She was one of the better players in the conference last year and she was still recovering from an injury. She has scored some goals for us and I think she'll score some more this year. Her assists were a huge part of Jodie's goal haul from last year. Stacey is a very influential part of the squad.'
Sophomore Whitney Goodell (Concord, Calif./College Park HS) is a returning midfielder/forward who played in eight games as a freshman.
'Whitney is a big, strong physical player,' Fennah said. 'She can hold the ball up. She is someone who could score a few goals.'
Freshman Kelsey Provo (Eugene, Ore./Sheldon HS) was an all-state high school player and was a member of the Oregon ODP state team.
'Kelsey is very quick and has the ability to score goals,' Fennah said. 'If she really works hard and gets after things, I can see her coming off the bench and adding some goals here and there.'
Sadusky and the Arredondo twins could also move up and be used at forward.