Women's Soccer Season Preview - Part Three
Aug. 25, 2009
The Washington women's soccer team kicks off its 2009 season this week as they host Seattle on Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. and No. 3 ranked Portland on Sunday, Aug. 30 at Noon. Below is the final installment of a series breaking down the 2009 team. To read the first part of the women's soccer season preview, click here and to read Part Two, click here.
After having just three seniors suit up in 2008, the Huskies will rely heavily on their upperclassmen in 2009, including a strong senior class which includes leading scorer Veronica Perez.
Half of the team's 2008 starters were underclassmen, including freshman goalkeeper Kari Davidson for the majority of the season, but the Huskies will have a starting lineup full of juniors and seniors along with sophomores who were thrown into the fire - and came out alive and well - in 2008.
'Soccer is a game where you have no time outs, you only have a halftime to give them a few pointers and your preparation for fall takes place in summer when you can't coach them,' Gallimore said. 'To be successful, you have to have a core of players who 1, take accountability for themselves and 2, hold each other accountable. I think that's the biggest shift you see when you go from a re-building era to having an experienced team in place. It takes time when you don't have experience and there's hardly anything you can do except be patient in the building. Our players pushed each other in the off season, during the summer and going into preseason camp. They've really taken it upon themselves to make it happen.'
It doesn't hurt that one of their senior leaders has emerged as one of the top talents in the country.
'When you have a player like Veronica Perez, a lot of the other players on the team look up to her and they say, `look how much she wants this for herself and look how hard she's training.'' Gallimore said. 'This is a team sport and she can do anything in the world possible to make herself better and have a good season, but to have team success she needs everybody else. They have such respect for her that I know they want her to go out on a good note as a senior along with the rest of that group. They're all on the same page as far as buying into it and wanting to do well for one another and that's what builds a true team.'
With so many veterans holding a tight grip on their positions, it will be tough for the newcomers to find a spot on the field. But Gallimore likes her well-rounded group of freshmen who can contribute all over the field.
'The biggest thing about our incoming freshman class is they're really versatile and more the wiry, wispy athletic type,' Gallimore said. 'Most of them can play both sides of the field. A couple can play centrally. I think for them, their role and place on the team is going to be determined solely on how they perform and where we need them. That's part of the reason we recruited this group. We need people who can fill a hole when we need it or they can compete for a starting spot if they come in and show they have an aptitude for it. They're all going to come in and really help us in our depth, in our versatility and that's not something you can't underestimate. It's something that can help a team win close games.'
Louise Albin is one of those players with versatility, playing both up front and on the backline. A local product from Shoreline, Wash., she was a four-time All-WesCo South selection at Shorewood High School where she was twice a team captain.
'Louise is a very technical player who has a great sense of the game of soccer and will fit in well with our possession-oriented style of play,' Gallimore said. 'On the other side of the ball, and what originally attracted me to Louise as a player, is that she absolutely loves to defend. She has a natural tenacity, fight and competitiveness that make her a force defensively.'
Kelsea Brajkovich, meanwhile, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., will add depth to an already crowded midfield position, meaning she could also move around to other parts of the field.
'Kelsea can flat out run. The more we watched her, the more we liked her. She will physically be able to step in and give us quality minutes and depth in the wide positions,' Gallimore said. 'She is very sure-footed and serves the ball well. She will be able to consistently create scoring opportunities for her teammates and herself. She's also the kind of kid who will quietly go about competing with her teammates until she has earned a starting spot and can't be taken off the field. I love her drive and passion.'
'Kellie has huge potential and comes from a playing background where not only did she develop tremendous skills, but tactically she is an extremely intelligent player. She understands the offensive and defensive roles of every position on the field and, if needed, could fill just about every role. One of our tasks early on is to figure out where Kellie can help us the most,' Gallimore said. ''Jessie isn't a big player, but she plays big. She is feisty and quick-footed. She is fun to watch in the attack as she is a crafty one-versus-one artist. She has great stamina and can get up and down the field well in the wide channels, as well as serve dangerous balls into the box. I can tell she is going to be a player who brings a ton of personality to the team and is going to add to the positive team chemistry we already have.'
Also joining the Huskies as transfers are Jorde LaFontaine-Kussmann, who will sit out the season after transferring from Cal, and Brittany Davis-Roberti, who comes to the Huskies from USC. LaFontaine-Kussmann's story is an inspirational one as she was diagnosed with lymphoma during her freshman year at Cal. She made two starts for the Bears as a freshman in goal before missing the remainder of the 2007 season and the entire 2008 campaign due to her illness. But she has been in remission since the spring and has been cleared to play, giving the Huskies another goalkeeper to push an already talented group.
As always, the Huskies will face a tough schedule in 2009, with the Pac-10 slate alone making it one of the toughest around. The Huskies will also face off against national power Portland, this time at home and early in the season, with the Pilots ranked No. 1 in one poll.
'As is typical, we have a schedule that allows us to play tough teams and if we beat them it's going to matter for placement in the tournament,' Gallimore said. 'We have games we should win and have to win if we're going to be a tournament team, particularly in non-conference. We feel that the Pac-10 Conference is anybody's ball game. I don't care if you're voted 1st or 10th, every game is a battle like every sport in our conference.'
The Huskies, who were picked fifth in the conference in the preseason coaches' poll after finishing tied for third last year with USC, will look to exact some revenge in 2009 over teams they felt didn't get their best last season.
'Our sport is unique in that you play each team once. You get one chance to play a team and you have to wait a full year to play them again so we want to be able to battle,' Gallimore said. 'We have some very good teams in our conference and last year we were able to beat a couple and tie for third but the overtime game against USC, our team thought they should have won that game even though it was on the road. Some of our lopsided scores against Stanford and UCLA are games we want another crack at and we want to improve against them.
'The other thing we look at on our schedule as another little bogey is the Portland game,' Gallimore said of the team that beat the Huskies, 1-0, in overtime last year. 'They have beaten us more often than not and that's no secret but that's a game where I feel if we can get that one early, that puts us in a great position for later in the season. Portland's always a great team and they always do well and can help you when NCAA Tournament time comes around.'
SUMMING UP THE TEAM
The Huskies look a team that could have all the pieces in place in 2009. Veteran leadership, experience, a taste of success in 2009 and an incomparable summer bonding experience in Brazil over the summer. Now, it's time for the team to put all the pieces together and match the high expectations felt within the program.
'I think we will be a great team, meaning we'll be on the same page, we'll play hard for one another and we will be organized defensively and offensively,' Gallimore said. 'One of our challenges will be to see if we can continue to beat the teams we should and then get to the next level of beating the top-8 or so teams in the country so we can put ourselves in that group. We need to get better and more consistent attacking out of our outside backs, and we can't be a one player attacking team with Veronica Perez. We want to be a team that you have to defend, not a team with one player who needs to be defended.'