Ten Teams in Ten Days: Washington Women's Soccer Preview
Aug. 25, 2006
Their goal is straightforward.
'Absolutely, our goal is to score goals. You've got to score,' Washington women's soccer coach Lesle Gallimore stated emphatically.
Scoring is the obvious objective for any soccer team. It serves as UW's primary point of emphasis because the Huskies registered more than one goal in a game just twice last season. They were respectable in other aspects of the game.
One season after advancing within one game of the Final Four, the Huskies (0-17-3, 0-9 Pac-10) last year suffered through the first winless season in program history. The record was misleading as UW was extremely competitive.
All but four games were decided by a one-goal margin. Half of the games (10) were decided by the exact same 1-0 score.
The 2004 UW squad that finished within one game of the Final Four allowed 1.13 goals per game. Last year's squad didn't yield much more, with 1.89 per contest. The most telling statistical difference between the two seasons is revealed by looking at the goals-scored category. In 2004, the Huskies netted 45 goals, a figure that dropped to an all-time low eight last fall.
'We had so many new players and had lost so much offensive punch from the previous year. We just need to rebuild that,' Gallimore said. 'We gained a ton of experience in a lot of areas last year. The experience that we still need to gain this year is the experience of winning.
There is convincing evidence to believe the Huskies will have a much improved offense this season. If so, it should be parlayed into an enhanced record.
'We're talented enough to win more games than we lose. That's what we want to do,' exclaimed Gallimore who directed the team to eight NCAA Tournament appearances during her previous 12 seasons. 'I really love the kids on this team. I think that once they take what can be perceived as a negative experience, and translate that into success, we can be a great team again.'
Washington returns eight starters from last year's team, including a quartet of players that started all 20 games. Seniors Cathy Roe and Shaela Ward anchor a defense that limited 12 opponents to just one goal. They are supported by senior Kelsey Rasmussen, a two-year starting goalkeeper.
The midfield features junior Dani Bridges who started every game in her first two collegiate campaigns.
Also returning is part-time starter and leading goal scorer Melissa Beal who netted a goal in each of the team's spring games.
A cadre of newcomers will battle for playing time, including a talented five-player freshman class. The offense will be bolstered by the addition of junior Shuree Hyatt, a transfer who tallied eight goals in each of her two seasons at San Francisco.
'We're really excited to get the 2006 season underway. We had a great spring and ended on a high note with some good results at the end of our spring season,' Gallimore said. 'I know the players have been working very hard over the summer. We're just really anxious to get them back together as a group, including all the new recruits, and see what they look like on the field.'
The unit entrusted with increasing the goal output features Beal who was the only Husky to tally multiple goals last season. She had four.
'Melissa Beal is one of those players who had a little bit more on her shoulders as a freshman than we originally thought she would have to bare,' recalled Gallimore. 'She has grown into that role now. She is unbelievable within 20 yards of the goal.'
Hyatt is an accomplished forward who practiced with the Huskies last year while serving her red-shirt season after transferring from USF.
'If Shuree is anything like she was in practice last year, she is going to be a great addition for us,' Gallimore says. 'She is a finisher. Shuree can get in front of the goal, she can create goals and she can scrap around the goal.'
Two other veteran forwards will be relied upon to share the scoring load in senior Shannon Dillon and junior Katy Dowling. A potential impact player could emerge in the form of skillful freshman Veronica Perez-Murillo.
'We feel like we've improved on the attack,' said Gallimore. 'That's clearly what has to get better for us to have success.'
The midfield contains a quartet of veteran players led by Bridges in the center.
'Dani is the best overall soccer player on our team. I really feel strongly that she will do great things for us in 2006,' Gallimore said. 'She can run, she can dribble and she can shoot with either foot.'
Three midfielders saw considerable action as newcomers last year and that experience will enable them to battle for starting berths in 2006. Jenna Robison started 11 games in 2005, Katie Buser drew seven starts and Marcena Winterscheidt started once.
The addition of talented freshman Chelsea Bumbaugh greatly bolsters the midfield. The position could be even further enhanced if red-shirt freshman Erin Foley is healthy. She was expected to make an impact last season before suffering a season-ending injury during preseason training.
'I wouldn't say that we are extremely deep in the midfield, but we are talented,' Gallimore assessed. 'Finding the right combination of people to play there early on is going to be key. I really think that we can build our front five and six players to be a really good attacking presence.'
A position of strength last season should again be successful this year. Returning starters Roe, Ward and Katie Hall form the nucleus of a stingy defense. The other starting spot is up for grabs with junior Robin Alexander and sophomore Katie Gregoire perhaps having the inside track due to experience.
Freshmen Nikki Murray and Lindsey Kasser appear poised for immediate playing time on defense.
'The key in the back of the field is how well we mix in new players. There is going to be some change there for the better,' said Gallimore. 'We have talented players. Our back line and goalkeeping will be solid. '
The team's most stable position is goalkeeper where Rasmussen returns for her third straight season as the starter. The senior ranks among the school's all-time leaders with 191 career saves and 13 shutouts.
'She is one of the top `keepers we have ever had. If we can get things going on both sides of the ball, Kelsey has a great chance to put up some really low numbers as a goalkeeper,' Gallimore projected.
Two capable backups return along with incoming freshman Alex Phillips. Red-shirt freshman Taylor Carr is an athletic presence between the posts and the likely backup. She will be challenged by junior Lizzy Showman, who saw action in two games last season.
All four shot stoppers have the luxury of training with Associate Head Coach Amy Griffin who was a goalkeeper on the U.S. National Team (1987-1991).
Washington confronts a difficult 20-game schedule this fall that includes both 2005 national championship game competitors.
The Huskies are scheduled for nine appearances against teams that qualified for last year's NCAA Tournament, including five foes that advanced to the Sweet 16.
'People will look at me and think I'm crazy, but it's a hallmark of our program to play a difficult schedule. This year is no different,' said Gallimore. 'Eventually experience will pay off for our players. We're extremely hopeful and optimistic that it will pay off for our team this year based on the experience they gained with last year's schedule.'
'Being much more consistent on both sides of the ball is what we want to achieve, but clearly you have to score goals. It's a must,' Gallimore emphasized. 'You're not going to win if you don't score goals.'
The focus always returns to scoring goals. Gallimore predicts that offensive improvement will be accomplished via a balanced attack.
'Our goals don't have to come from one or two places. We can spread that around a little bit with the players that we have. If we can get Dani Bridges, Shuree Hyatt and Melissa Beal up in the double digits point-wise, whether it's assists or goals, and then supplement that with the ability of other people who are capable of scoring goals like Jenna Robison, Shannon Dillon or Katy Dowling, we will have success.'