Women's Soccer Fall Practice Underway
Aug. 14, 2009
SEATTLE - Coming off one of the best seasons in school history and fresh off an inspiring summer tour of Brazil, the Washington women's soccer team has hit the field this week for fall practice with a spring in their step.
A young team in 2008 surprised many by going 15-6-1 - the third most wins in program history - and advanced to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament a year after going 5-13-1. The team returns all but one starter from that squad and will look to challenge for a Pac-10 title after finishing tied for third last year in one of the country's most competitive conferences.
All 19 returners hit the field Tuesday for the first time for morning conditioning and afternoon practice. The team has continued with two-a-days throughout the week and also took some time out on Thursday to take team photos and headshots.
'We are six practices into our preseason and I am pleased with the progress,' head coach Lesle Gallimore said. 'We have a fairly large returning group, but they know that just being a returner doesn't guarantee you anything: not a starting position, not a place on the travel roster. Many of the returners took their experience from last year, combined it with our trip to Brazil and took to heart the message of preparing to be great and making a run at being a team that wins another National Championship for the UDub.
'The fitness level is good in general, but we'll keep building our fitness so that we're peaking at the right time of the season,' Gallimore continued. 'I feel that we are a little deeper in each position this year and there are going to be some real battles for playing time which makes for healthy competition at practice. In soccer, the training not only should replicate the game, it should be even tougher so that games seem easier. Our goal is to have a group of players that challenge each other physically and mentally in practice enough that when we face an opponent nothing is too difficult and we are prepared for anything that comes our way. We are using the preseason to build that mentality.'
A total of seven newcomers have made their debut in the purple and gold practice uniforms, including five freshmen and two transfers. Forward Jessie Young, midfielders Kelsea Brajkovich and Kellie Welch and defender Louise Albin and goalkeeper Dani Boross make up a solid freshman class while Cal transfer Jorden LaFontaine-Kussmann, a goalkeeper who will have to sit out the 2009 season, and USC transfer Brittany Davis-Roberti, a defender, add depth to an already strong back line.
'The young players are fitting in nicely,' Gallimore said. 'I think for any freshman, the beginning of pre-season is just a shock to the system... first time with the group, first time away from home for most of them and they are really working hard to earn everyone's respect. It's a lot all at once and our rookies are surviving nicely. Each day they get a little more comfortable and you can see their personalities coming out on the field and away from the field as well.'
Senior Veronica Perez, who had a breakout campaign in 2008, is fresh off stints over the summer with the Mexican National Team and the U-23 U.S. National Team. And after a stellar freshman campaign, sophomore Kate Deines will look to establish herself as one of the top scorers in the conference.
The team is back with a hunger after getting a taste of NCAA success last season and appears in synch already as they use the next two weeks to prepare for their opener on August 26 against Seattle.
'We'll have an intrasquad scrimmage sometime in the next few sessions to begin to look at different potential line-ups and rotations of players. We'll begin to taper down the physical training so that we are fresh when we step on the field against Seattle U,' Gallimore said. 'We don't expect that we'll be perfect that first game out, but we'll prepare to be as close to perfect as possible. The great thing about having a fair amount of returners is that you can build on a lot of things from last year without using preseason time starting completely from scratch. They are a great group to work with and coach and as long as we see improvement day to day and game to game, I'm confident we'll see the results we want.'
Check back in to GoHuskies.com next week for a full season preview.