Ten Teams in Ten Days: Oregon State's Women's Soccer Preview
Aug. 21, 2006
The chase for a spot in the NCAA Tournament continues in 2006 for the Oregon State women's soccer team. So close in recent years, the Beavers head into this season believing that their time has come.
'This is a season where we have a very clearly defined goal that we should play in the NCAA Tournament,' ninth-year head coach Steve Fennah said. 'In four of the last five years we could have gone, and we were a lot of people's choice as a team that should have gone. But we have to take care of it ourselves. We have a schedule that gives us a very good chance of achieving our goal.'
OSU won't tinker too much with a successful formula that has led to 10-win seasons in three of the last five years, including a 10-8-1 record last season. The Beavers also earned their first national ranking in a decade in 2005. A strong defense that rarely concedes goals is still the primary focus, and with nearly the entire starting defense from last year still available, that shouldn't change.
The Beavers do hope to improve their offensive output, however, as they managed 24 goals in 19 games last year. OSU had a successful recruiting season, bringing in 10 newcomers, many of whom are attack-minded players.
'We still want to be very stingy on the defensive side of things,' Fennah said. 'We don't want teams to score goals against us. We feel we'll be a solid team defensively again. But scoring more goals is going to be crucial. We have players that have worked on their game to improve in that area, and we have some exciting youngsters coming in that will help us out and score some goals.'
With junior forward Jodie Taylor (Merseyside, England) returning, the Beavers know they have at least one player that can be counted on to put the ball in the back of the net. She scored 15 goals as a 2004 freshman and was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. She followed that with 10 goals last season and was named to the All-Pac-10 first team and All-West Region second team for the second time.
'Jodie is an integral part of our offense,' Fennah said. 'She had a successful summer playing in the Nordic Cup with the English Under-21 National Team and in the W-League with the Boston Renegades. She's probably in her best game shape ever because she was able to play all summer.'
Including Taylor, nine of last year's 11 starters are returning, and 13 letterwinners are back. Returning players accounted for 83% of last year's goals, as well as 73% of the assists and 80% of the points.
'We feel like we have a quiet confidence because of the experience and the impact players we have returning,' said Fennah, who is assisted by Heidi Slaymaker, Linus Rhode and Steve Reese. 'That's important when you're heading down the stretch. We have players who have been in every situation and who know how to handle themselves. We've got some good leaders with our older players. That will give us a solid base on which to build.'
New to the program in 2006 are lights at Lorenz Field at Valley Stadium. The Beavers will play night games in front of a home crowd for the first time.
'The lights will create an atmosphere that is exciting to play in,' Fennah said. 'It will help our attendance and create a buzz on game nights.'
Here's a look at Oregon State's players by position:
Taylor has scored 51 percent of Oregon State's goals the past two years (25 of 49). Including her assists, she has been involved in 67 percent of OSU's goals. While she's moving closer to attaining the top spot on OSU's all-time goal-scoring list (she's in fourth place, nine behind the leader), opponents are becoming more and more aware of her ability.
'Jodie is a talented player,' Fennah said. 'But that creates the burden of people knowing who she is, and putting the pressure on to stop her. Her key is to find a way to keep getting it done. She's going to have teams trying to prevent her from playing. She has to understand that and deal with that. I'm very confident that she can.'
The first option as Taylor's strike partner is junior Whitney Goodell (Concord, Calif./College Park HS). She came off the bench to score four goals last year, including two against Oregon that netted her Pac-10 Player of the Week honors.
'Whitney will have her opportunity to come in and show her strength,' Fennah said. 'She took what opportunities she had last year and scored some goals for us. I expect her to come in and tie that spot down. But she will face challenges from our newcomers.'
Of OSU's 10 recruits, five freshmen are listed as either forwards or midfielder/forwards. Fennah hopes that they will quickly make the transition to college soccer and aid OSU's attack.
Emily Henshaw (Hillsboro, Ore./Jesuit HS) is a true forward, while Naj Homidi (Fremont, Calif./Washington HS), Melissa Peck (Boise, Idaho/Borah HS), Caitlin Ritchey (Eugene, Ore./Sheldon HS) and Jessica Velazquez (Diamond Bar, Calif./Diamond Bar HS) could also move back into the midfield.
With three of four starters returning, and two seniors patrolling the middle of the park, the midfield should again be a strength for the Beavers. Senior Jen Crump (Santa Maria, Calif./Ernest Righetti HS) will be starting for her fourth year. She had three goals and three assists last season. Fellow senior Kelli Washburn (Santa Barbara, Calif./San Marcos HS) will be starting for the third year.
'Everything starts with Jen and Kelli in the middle,' Fennah said. 'It's important that any team has leadership in the middle, so having Jen and Kelli there, who have played in every game since they were freshmen, is crucial.'
Junior Jetta Sadusky (Littleton, Colo./Columbine HS/Nebraska) came in as a transfer last year and was very good as a wide midfielder. She had three goals (two of which were game-winners) and two assists. This summer, she helped the Colorado Rush win the U-19 club national championship.
A decision on the fourth starter will be made in camp.
'This is certainly an area where a newcomer can come in and make an impact,' Fennah said. 'And some of our returners, such as Kelsey Provo, had a good spring and will also contribute. We think this is an area that can be a strong point because we have some flexibility and can show some different looks.'
Sophomores such as Provo (Eugene, Ore./Sheldon HS) and Julie Arredondo (Corvallis, Ore./Corvallis HS) got their first taste of college soccer last year and will look to take a big step forward this season. Senior Tiara Hong (Kaneohe, Hawaii/Education Laboratory HS) returns to the squad after a one-year absence.
In addition to the previously mentioned freshmen, other new midfield prospects include Loretta 'Red' Nixon (Centennial, Colo./Heritage HS), whom Fennah considers very talented and versatile, and Michelle Luckes (Carnation, Wash./Eastlake HS).
OSU fielded some of its best defenses in school history the past couple of years, and with the players that are returning, that should be true again. During the past two seasons, OSU's goals-against averages were 1.11 and 1.12.
However, the defense took a big hit when senior Alison Vislay (Mission Viejo, Calif./Capistrano Valley HS) suffered a knee injury in the spring, which will likely force her to redshirt in 2006.
Still, the Beavers return the other three starters from last year. Junior Monica Storm (Concord, Calif./College Park HS), a former U.S. youth national team member, has been a rock the past two years and has yet to receive the attention her play deserves.
'Monica is a tremendous central defender,' Fennah said. 'She has already had a tremendous college career and she's only going into her junior year. She reads the game very well. She's going to feel a little more pressure without Alison, but Monica is ready to step up and have a big year.'
Senior Lauren Wippel (Wilsonville, Ore./Wilsonville HS) started every game last year and continues to improve. Sophomore McKenna Martindale (Lake Oswego, Ore./Lakeridge HS) did very well as a freshman.
'The back line has really been a strength for us,' Fennah said. 'Alison will almost certainly miss the year and it's disappointing to lose one of your senior captains. But Monica, McKenna and Lauren played virtually all of the minutes last year and bring a lot of experience and quality. And I think we'll find someone that can step into the other role quite well.'
A leading candidate is freshman Sophie Clough (Ashton-under-Lyne, England), a member of the English U-19 National Team. Sophomore Samantha Pabst (Eugene, Ore./Sheldon HS) showed promise last year but was plagued by injuries. Now healthy, she should become a strong contributor. Freshman Chai Parsons (Camas, Wash./Camas HS) was Washington's prep 3A co-player of the year.
Senior Melissa Onstad (Castro Valley, Calif./Castro Valley HS) already holds most of OSU's goalkeeping records and will be looking to add to her legacy. A four-year starter and a team captain, she is the school's all-time leader in goals-against average (1.09) and solo shutouts (19) and could take over the lead in saves as well.
The backups are redshirt freshmen Ashley Wood (Corvallis, Ore./Corvallis HS) and Caitlin Seeley (Medford, Ore./North Medford HS).
'Having Melissa back for her senior year, with all of her experience, is huge,' Fennah said. 'She has been one of the better keepers in the conference since she was a freshman. The backups are untried and untested, but they've been working hard and if their chance comes, I'm sure they'll be up for it.'