Women's Soccer Aiming High
Aug 25, 2006
When the Virginia women's soccer team opens play today with its first ever meeting against Syracuse, it will be akin to firing a gun that doesn't have all the bullets. But despite some missing components, the Cavaliers are still aiming squarely at their long-range target - the National Championship bull's eye.
The ammunition shortage in the opener can be attributed to injuries and talent. Assist machine Shannon Foley will likely miss the season with a knee injury and some freshmen are out of action with injuries as well. Meanwhile, the talented Jess Rostedt and Nikki Krzysik are playing with the U.S. Under-20 National Team in that age group's world championships.
Why the optimism if the roster chamber isn't fully packed? That's easy. Once Rostedt and Krzysik return (sometime in early September), the Hoos will have eight starters back in the line-up from the 2005 squad that went 18-6-1. That team reached the NCAA Quarterfinals.
Besides, the goal at Virginia is always a National Championship.
“Winning a National Championship as usual. We have to start with an ACC Championship,” senior Kara Frederick said of the team's goals. “The ACC is arguably the best conference in the nation for women's soccer so we have to concentrate on that, but our ultimate goals is always to win the National Championship and that's what we're working toward this season too.”
The Cavaliers will be working toward their title goals in the same manner as always under coach Steve Swanson, who enters his seventh season at the helm. In recent seasons, the Hoos have utilized a 4-3-3 alignment. Regardless of the scheme, however, the style remains the same: work hard, control possession, win 50-50 balls, and capitalize on openings.
“We'll stay true to the characteristics of Virginia women's soccer,” Frederick said. “We move the ball around a lot on the ground and we're a really talented team technically that likes to put an emphasis on holding the ball, keeping the ball, and playing in to play out. We like moving the ball on the ground and working the ball through the midfield.”
Of course, to accomplish 'beautiful soccer', you have to have skilled and talented athletes on the field. Even when playing short-handed (the two exhibitions featured just 12 Hoo field players), Virginia does.
Frederick helped take us through the talents of some of the players that will contribute for UVa this fall.
Starting from the defensive end, goalkeeper Christina de Vries returns for her senior year. De Vries started every game in which she played in 2004 and 2005, logging more than 4,000 minutes between the posts. Along the way, she has posted 104 career saves and a .78 goals against average. Her 23 shutouts rank No. 1 in school history and fifth in conference lore.
With her in net, the Hoos tied the school record for wins last season with 18; in 2004, De Vries helped lead the team to its first ever ACC Championship. “We have a veteran in goal. She's really, really solid in the back,” Frederick said.
On defense, Becky Sauerbrunn leads a unit that has several sophomores expected to contribute on the outside in Krzysik and Sarah Senty. Alex Singer started 13 games last season in the back as well.
“Becky Sauerbrunn - you can't ask for a better central defender than this girl. She's one of the best in the nation,” Frederick said. “We have some young girls who are looking to fill the roles of outside defense who are really quick and really technical. They'll do well for us in the back.”
De Vries echoed Frederick's praise of the defense.
“I think we have more experience than last year because last year we had all freshmen except for Becky,” she said. “So we're coming in with an experienced back line and I think that's going to help us this season.”
Moving forward to the midfield, the Cavaliers' fancy footwork crew includes the talented duo of Jen Redmond and Kelly Quinn. Redmond tallied three goals and five assists last season and Quinn recorded five goals and four assists. In the defensive portion of the midfield, Julia Falk (who has played in 25 career games) and Nikki Lieb (a four-year starter on the lacrosse team) should help control counter-attacks.
“We have people who are ready to fill those midfield roles,” Frederick said. “Jen Redmond is a great distributor of the ball. Kelly Quinn works her butt off for you and Julia Falk and Nikki Lieb, a lacrosse player, are going to be playing defensive holding in the middle. We have a good, solid midfield line-up.”
Of course, the headline stealers are often up top in soccer with the goal scorers. Virginia has some strong forwards in the system. The conversation starts with Rostedt, who had 12 goals and 5 assists as a freshman last season. From there, Sarah Curtis (3 goals, 6 assists), Kristin Weiss (returning from knee surgery; 6 career goals, 6 career assists), and freshman Caitlin Miskel are expected to provide offensive punch. Frederick, who has nine career goals, is part of the unit as well.
“Jess Rostedt is a great goal-scorer for us and she moves the ball really well. … Sarah Curtis, who will probably play in the middle, holds the ball for us well,” Frederick said. “We have a new freshman on the outside, Caitlin Miskel, who does really well and works hard on the outside left.”
Did she forget somebody? No, but she talked about herself with a mocking laughter. “Well, we have Kara Frederick, a fifth-year who has some pace on the outside, definitely,” she said.
All of that talent has Swanson chomping at the bit to get started.
“We're really excited. I don't know why, maybe it's because of all the challenges we have in front of us already, but I can't remember a season I've been more excited for,” Swanson said. “I think this team has the potential to be every bit as good as any other team that we've had here. I would not sell this team short at all.”
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