Soccer Opens Spring Saturday
Boulder - What a difference a year makes.
A year ago head coach Bill Hempen entered his first spring season fresh off a 3-11-2 regular season record in his first season in Boulder. A year later his Buffs went 10-8-2, won their first-ever postseason game and advanced to the semifinal round of the Big 12 Tournament, and were possibly just one win away from receiving the program's first NCAA Tournament nod.
Riding that momentum, when Hempen and the Buffs open their spring schedule this Saturday versus Northern Colorado (10 a.m., CU Football Practice Fields), they will want to win, "but getting better as individual players and as a team is the bigger goal for the spring," Hempen explained.
"What we went through last spring were the most important steps that we could take in the success that we had this fall. The work that the kids put in spilled over to the fall. The belief of what we were all trying to do and the mind set of here's how we do things at Colorado now has continued to carry over."
The Buffs returned 19 letterwinners and six starters from the most improved team in the history of the Big 12 to spring drills and have had several points of emphasis since January. Hempen must find a goalkeeper. After playing four last year, gone is senior starter Sara Erskine. Looking to fill the void this weekend is sophomore-to-be Jeannie Rankin, who posted a 1.61 goals against average in the fall in 10 games played. The challenge will come from junior redshirt Janet Wildemuth, a Nevada transfer.
He lost some big personalities in soon-to-be graduated seniors Meghan Swanzy and Aimee Bugay. He must try and get the younger players to step up and assume those roles.
While trying to find the team's personality through his younger players, he must also find leadership. With a pair of walk-ons making up two-thirds of next fall's senior class, he will look to his underclassmen to fill the void that will eventually left by graduation.
But in the meantime, he will look to capitalize on his midfield, which will be the strength of his next team. Leading the charge is First-Team All-Big 12 pick and Newcomer, Rookie of the Year and Soccer Buzz Freshman All-American Fran Munnelly. Munnelly led the '02 Buffs in goals, assists, shots and points and will look to do the same again this spring. Joining her in the midfield is sophomore Jen Thais on the outside as well as returning starter Alyssa Burgess.
The Colorado defense will return starter Ashlie Mihalcin, but will need to be reconfigured, as Hempen's back line will be shredded by the graduation of Bugay, Swanzy and Lindsaey Galas. Starters Ellen Falender and Nicholle Taylor return to the forward line, but Tiffany Booth does not, so begins the process of finding the right forward combinations.
"Our goal is to be that next team," said Hempen on the traditional league powerhouses Texas, Texas A&M and Nebraska. "Everyone else has had their chances, but haven't been able to hold on to it. If we're that next team, it puts you in position to go after the big dogs."
2003 Colorado Soccer Spring Schedule
March 1 Northern Colorado CU Football Practice Fields 10 a.m. (MST)
March 8 vs. San Diego SDSU Deck 12 p.m. (MST)
March 9 at San Diego State SDSU Deck 12 p.m. (MST)
March 16 at Denver Pioneer Field 12 p.m. (MST)
vs. 1986 ODP Team Pioneer Field 1 p.m. (MST)
April 5 at Regis Regis Field 9:30 a.m. (MST)
vs. Colorado College Regis Field 10:45 a.m. (MST)
vs. Air Force Regis Field 12 p.m. (MST)