Veterans Set New Standard For UW Soccer
Oct. 17, 2008
by Micheal Jeremiah
It is another rainy afternoon in Seattle as the Husky Women's Soccer teamfinishes practice and begins to move back toward the locker room. Despite theclouds, rain and the fact that the team is practicing for the first time after a loss,players are smiling and looking confident.
The reason for their optimism is that for the first time since the 2004-2005season, when the Huskies advanced to the National Quarterfinals, this team ranksamong the best in the nation heading into Pac-10 play. After three years of sub-.500 play, including a winless 2005-2006 season, the Huskies now stand at 9-4and have been ranked as high as 16th in the national polls.
Coach Lesle Gallimore, in her 15th year at Washington, said the reason forthe drastic improvement is not only the experience of older players, but also thepositive examples that those players have set for their teammates.
'I think our older players have done a great job of bringing their last two orthree years of experience to our younger players,' said Gallimore. 'They have justset a standard. A fitness standard, a quality of play standard, and a behavior offthe field standard that you always want to have where their past experience in apositive way contributes to the success of the overall team.'
Standards are important because this Husky team boasts a diverse rosterwhen it comes to age, as four freshmen have started games this year. KateDeines (Issaquah, Wash.), the two-time defending Gatorade State (Wash.) Playerof the Year, leads all freshmen in terms of starts with 11 on the year.
In terms of goal production, senior forward Melissa Beal and junior forwardVeronica Perez are setting the standard for the Huskies. Through 13 games, thepair has combined for 13 goals, with Perez leading the way with a breakout yearof eight goals and four assists. Beal thinks that her play with Perez is comingtogether at the right time.
'It's nice playing with Veronica because I know that no matter what run I amgoing to make she can always find a way to get the ball at her feet, do a few tricksand then pass it off to me,' said Beal, who has led the Huskies in scoring two ofthe last three years. 'We both find ways to just figure out how to click with eachother. We've clicked together on how to go forward and put the ball in the backof the net.'
The numbers that Perez has produced are even more impressive whenyou realize that before this year's offensive explosion, Perez's career highs stoodat two goals and an assist from last year. She has noticed the extra attentionfrom opposing defenses, and sees it as a chance to create opportunities for herteammates.
'I make sure to tell my teammates to try to get me the ball,' said Perez whenasked how she reacts to having a defender follow her all over the field. 'If [thedefense] is going to come to me, it is going to make space for them to make runsand get the ball.'
The advantage of two forwards enjoying a solid offensive season is one thatCoach Gallimore is happy to have. The next step, according to Gallimore, is to getthe line behind Perez and Beal involved in the scoring.
'We are not a one-person reliant team but clearly if [Beal] and [Perez} areplaying well and we get McKenna Waitley getting back into form where she wasin spring before getting injured in the summer, those three in combination cangive us a lot,' said Gallimore. 'We need them to keep doing that and bring othermidfielders into the attack so there not only scoring goals but they are creatingchances for our players in the midfield as well.'
One of the midfielders that Gallimore is referring to is Jenna Robison. Robisonis part of the group of resilient seniors that fought through the losing of the pastthree seasons. The hard work and determination of Robison paid dividends forthe Huskies in a Sept. 28 game against Hawai'i. In overtime, Robison scored ona long free kick that gave the Huskies a 2-1 victory.
The goal earned Robison a spot on Soccer America's women's Team of theWeek that week, and helped her team got off to the start that they hope will propelthem toward the goals they set for themselves.
'Our goal at the beginning of the year was to get to the tournament, split roadgames, and when we are home win all our games,' said Robison. 'We want to bein the top three or four in the Pac-10, because then you have a better chance ofgetting into the tournament.'
That is a tall order considering that the Pac-10 sports three of the top fiveteams of the country in USC, UCLA, and Stanford.
But the Huskies have shown they are ready to play with that caliber of team,falling to No. 2 USC and No. 3 Portland only after hard-fought overtime games.From here, according to Gallimore, the next step is to break through for a pointscoringresult against a top team.
'Success breeds success, so once we get one of these big wins under ourbelt I think you are going to see an even better team,' said Gallimore. 'If we couldsomehow knock off one of those teams, if we can get one of those teams witha positive result with a win or a tie, I think you are going to see a team that trulyhas turned a corner.'
For the Huskies, that corner takes them away from the memories of losingseasons, and returns them to the Pac-10 prominence that the team has enjoyedin the years before 2004-2005.
'Once we get that confidence,' said Gallimore. 'There's no looking back.'
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