Ten Schools in Ten Days: Washington Women's Soccer Preview
Sept. 6, 2005
Women's soccer at Washington has been as elementary as''A, B, C.'
'Always be competitive,' seems to be the annual motto for the Huskies who have also been consistent in their success since Coach Lesle Gallimore arrived in 1994. In her 11 previous years, Washington made eight NCAA Tournament appearances and finished in the top half of the Pac-10 standings during each of the last seven seasons.
Gallimore admits that such consistency may be difficult to sustain this season. Only four starters return from last year's team that posted a 17-5-1 record and finished third in the Pac-10 standings with a 5-3-1 mark.
'We have the personalities and enough returnees with leadership ability that I think we can put together a really good team that is competitive,' Gallimore explains.''We have no preset goals of trying to outdo the 2004 team, we are just going to try and be the best 2005 team we can be.'
The 2004 team would be difficult to outdo as they advanced deeper into the NCAA Tournament bracket than any UW team ever. The Huskies won three playoff games, reaching the quarterfinals before losing 3-1 at Princeton to fall one game shy of the Final Four.
That UW team featured the Pac-10's first two-time Player of the Year award recipient, Tina Frimpong. She completed her UW career last fall as the school's all-time leader in goals (43), game-winning goals (18) and total points (99).
Also departed are midfielders Nikki Gamble, a second-team All-Pac-10 selection, and Kelley Schweighart, an honorable mention pick. All four primary starters on defense are gone, including three-year starters Nicole Martinez, Clare Rustad and Kelli Smith. The fourth defender, sophomore Dana Stirn, is still on the squad, but will be sidelined the entire season after undergoing knee surgery. She started 21 of 23 games as a rookie in 2004.
'I have never faced a year more challenging as a coach than the 2005 season is going to be. Not even when I started a new program with San Diego State and not when I first came here and took over,' Gallimore declares frankly. 'There has never been a year like this year and I can say that ahead of time. We not only graduated one of the best classes that have come through here as far as achievement individually and as a team, but their character and achievements as students. What a tremendous group we lost. Add injury on top of that and a couple medical hardships, as well as kids leaving the program.'
The result is a roster that has undergone a major makeover. Just eight letterwinners return and forward Kim Taylor comprises a senior-class of one. She is joined in the minority by five juniors who are outnumbered by 20 underclassmen. Sixteen players have never before seen game action for the Huskies, including 12 freshmen.
'We are more than excited about the freshmen that are coming in. In our recruiting for the 2006 class, we were for sure able to land some players that I think are a few diamonds in the rough,' describes Gallimore. 'The key is a rapid rate of maturation. We need to go from pups to dogs.'
Taylor is a legitimate honors candidate who will shoulder much of the scoring burden. She garnered honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors following each of the last two seasons.
She scored six goals last year, over half of the total of 11 tallied by returning players. Taylor ranks No. 7 among all-time Huskies with 19 career goals, including nine game-winners that are UW's third-highest total. She is listed fifth with 19 career assists and No. 3 with nine game-winning assists. Her 57 total points are the seventh-best career total ever by a Husky.
'In four and a half years she has proven to be a mainstay in the Pac-10. She has proven to be consistent and she has had good seasons leading up to this year,' says Gallimore. 'Kim is going to be called upon to make up for the extra points that we lost from our graduating class.
'The one thing about Kim's stats is how many of Kim's goals are game winners. Kim is a pressure-crunch player and some of our most important goals have come from Kim. I think that having all of these new players is going to be a positive for Kim, because it will be more of a time for her to shine on her own a little bit.'
If healthy, junior Shannon Dillon should provide another experienced presence up front. She played 14 games last season before being felled by an injury that required ACL reconstruction.
Versatile sophomore Katy Dowling, could inject a spark to the offense if there is not a greater need for her services on the back line. She ranked fifth on the team with three goals last season.
A potential impact player may emerge in the form of freshmen Melissa Beal or Tara Hodgson.
'Melissa has a lot of potential as a big strong kid that can hold players off and make a big target. She can also run past people and finish. She is going to be a nice addition up front for us in an area that we are clearly a little thin,' says Gallimore.''Tara is a great athlete and a tireless worker that is very skillful.'
Waiting in the wings to help the offense is junior Shuree Hyatt, an accomplished forward who will red-shirt after transferring from San Francisco.
The midfield will have a drastically different look in 2005 with only one returning starter. But three other veterans gained valuable midfield experience last season.
Sophomore Dani Bridges started all 23 games in 2004, netting two goals with one assist. She is a talented playmaker who will be counted upon to excel for the unit to thrive.
'Dani is our most creative returning player. When I talk about growing up, Dani clearly in the amount of minutes that she played last year, had an opportunity to gain some experience that a lot of her classmates didn't. That is going to be huge for us and put some pressure on Dani to perform in a good way. I think she has huge expectations in herself and we expect some big numbers out of her.'
Three other sophomores saw action last season; Robin Alexander, Dana Johnson and Sophie Spickard. All three will draw additional minutes this year as they vie for jobs in the starting 11.
Several other newcomers should be in the midfield mix, including freshmen Jenna Robison.
'She is one of the tactically best players that we have recruited. She sees the whole field and she can spread the field for us. Jenna is going to get better and better, and her ability to distribute from that position is phenomenal.'
The midfield is bolstered by the transfer of'Katie Buser from San Diego along with an infusion of talented freshman in Sarah Dougherty, Erin Foley, Rachael Kimball and Marcena Winterscheidt.
The position undergoing the largest turnover is the defense. The entire back line quartet will be new.
One sure starter is junior Shaela Ward who looks to be a mainstay on the defensive flank for the next two years. Ward played 12 games last season and drew two starting assignments.
'Shaela is huge to our success with us losing Dana Stirn. She is one of the older players on our team with that leadership and a great likability. She creates great chemistry on our team because she is very positive and she is a hard player. She is going to have to bring a bite to our back line that we have lost to graduation and injuries.'
Junior Cathy Roe, a transfer from Penn, will vie for a starting berth on the other defensive flank.
A pair of freshmen will challenge for the vacant centerback spot, including Katie Hall who is a great ball winner. Lanky Katie Gregoire could either play the defensive midfield position or move all the way back to help the thin defensive corps.
Two other freshmen, Jenna Kozakiewicz and Elena Martinez, are also poised for playing time on defense.
A position of strength for the Huskies is goalkeeper where junior Kelsey Rasmussen patrols the nets. She played every minute last season, amassing a school-record 10 shutouts while compiling a solid 1.13 goals against average.
'Kelsey has had the perfect progression of a goalkeeper. She played in seven or eight games her freshman year and was a solid starter last year. I think in her junior year, we are all on the same page in realizing that she has to be a leader. There is going to be a very young team in front of her and she has to be able to elevate her game to the next level, which in goal keeping always means to have fewer and fewer soft goals.
'Her biggest strength is her demeanor. Kelsey has a good presence in goal, but at the same time she provides a very calming effect for the rest of our team. When things get tense she is usually the one to make sure that everyone relaxes a little bit. It is a great place and time for this team to have a starter returning.'
A pair of players will battle for the backup spot in sophomore Lizzy Showman and athletic freshman Taylor Carr. Showman practiced with the team all last season, but did not see any game action.
All three shot stoppers have the luxury of training with Associate Head Coach Amy Griffin (formerly Allmann) who was a goalkeeper on the U.S. National Team (1987-1991).
This year's schedule won't be easy as UW meets 10 opponents that participated in the 2004 NCAA Tournament, including finalist UCLA. The Huskies encounter nine foes listed in the Soccer America preseason rankings, three of them top-10 teams.
The season opens at sixth-ranked Penn State followed by meetings with No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Portland, No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 15 West Virginia, No. 17 Stanford, No. 20 Tennessee, No. 22 California and No. 23 Arizona.
'Like every year, it seems like our schedule is really difficult. There are no gimmies, and that's awesome,' says Gallimore who emphasizes the improvement of the Pac-10. 'We are always going to play to try and win the NCAA Tournament. If winning a Pac-10 championship happens within that time frame, obviously we are elated. The key is that the conference prepares us really well for the tournament.'
'You can't replace Tina and there are a lot of players that you could say that about. You have to find a way to adapt and change. To me, that is Husky Soccer,' Gallimore exclaims.
'We are going to try and maximize what we can do with individuals and their talent. We are going to be the best team we can be. We may not be the deepest team at every position and we won't be pulling people off the bench that are as good as the next person every time, but we will try to put people in positions and play a system that suits what we do well.'
Last fall, the Huskies reveled in their fantastic run through the NCAA Tournament. That success may also have raised the standard for future Huskies, but the annual goal remains straightforward.
'We are going to base our expectations on the expectations that we have ever year,' concludes Gallimore. 'We want to be as competitive in the conference as we can be and we want to do well enough in non-conference play so that when the tournament rolls around we will be a viable tournament team.'
Gallimore makes it sound as simple as 'A, B, C.'