Aug. 14, 2012
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The 2012 edition of the Oregon State women’s soccer team is set to take the field Friday, looking to build upon the program’s success during the last three seasons. That success includes back-to-back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament and a head coach in Linus Rhode, who has won more matches in his first four seasons than his four predecessors did during that same stretch of time.
The Beavers are coming off of a 2011 campaign in which they went 13-5-3 overall and 7-3-1 in the Pac-12. Their return trip to the NCAA’s came in the opening round of the tournament when they fell to Portland in a penalty shootout. Gone is last year’s crop of seniors but in their place are eight freshmen, one junior transfer and another strong senior class.
There will be two familiar faces to Beaver fans not on the pitch during the 2012 season as seniors Chelsea Buckland and Milan Cabrera will both miss the year due to injuries. Coach Rhode expects to have the duo back on the newly laid grass at Paul Lorenz Field in the spring.
Despite the loss of five solid seniors and two impact players, the OSU program is already receiving some high praise from its peers as Pac-12 coaches picked Oregon State fourth in the conference in their pre-season poll. Ahead of the Beavs are Cal, UCLA and defending conference champion Stanford.
Not only is the team catching eyes from within the conference, but its fifth-year head coach is also impressed with what he has seen through the first full week of fall camp.
“This is the most competitive preseason camp that I have seen in a while,” Rhode thought. “There are a group of girls here that are really working hard and I can see that they’re hungry, so it’s going to be exciting for me to see how things pan out.”
Below is a position by position breakdown of the 2012 Beavers and some thoughts from Rhode within each category.
The Orange and Black midfielders are led by their two team captains, senior Lindsay Meiggs and junior Jacy Drobney. Together the duo brings upperclassmen leadership to the position as well as a wealth of game experience. The pair played in a total of 33 matches in 2011 and saw more than 2,000 minutes on the pitch. Following in the captains’ footsteps will be fellow upperclassmen in juniors Brandi Dawson, Erin Uchacz and Haley Shaw, while redshirt sophomores Julia Sattler and Brittney Oljar headline the corps of underclassmen in the group.
Rhode on his midfielders…
“We have quite a few players returning and we have some freshmen as well coming in, but when you look at our returners with the likes of Lindsay Mieggs and Jacy Drobney, they are having a very good camp so far. We are also looking at Haley Shaw, Brandi Dawson and Brittney Oljar in there as well, so there is a lot of flexibility within our group. That’s because a lot of those players can play in different lines in the midfield but they can also play up front. I think what we are finding out with this group is that we have the ability to be very flexible and do some interchanging of positions, which can be at the start of a game or through the course of a half.”
Heading up the forward corps for Rhode will be senior Megan Miller, along with juniors Brandi Dawson and Haley Shaw, along with the help of some talented underclassmen. Junior Jenna Richardson will join the rotation after returning from Japan where she played for Team Canada at the U-20 World Cup. Aside from that group of true forwards there are a number of midfielders who could split time within the position.
Rhode on his forwards…
“Right now at striker we are looking at four players in Brandi Dawson, Haley Shaw, Olivia Lovell and Megan Miller. They can play up top as well as Jenna Richardson who will be added to the fold when she comes back. From watching them in pre-season camp they are really showing where they are goal dangerous and whether they are providing opportunities for themselves or for their teammates there are a lot of positives there. I think there is going to be a real battle for playing time and for me as a coach that is a good thing because it keeps the environment competitive and healthy.”
The OSU defense is a relatively new group led by fifth-year senior Justyne Freud, who brings her four assists and one goal to the table as well as her 19-matches played during the 2011 campaign. Juniors Jessica Niewoehner, Morgan Kennedy and redshirt junior Katie Gleffe are the only other upper classmen in the group. Niewoehner scored one goal after taking just two on goal all season in 14-matches, while Kennedy logged more than 750-minutes of play in 17-matches. The Beavers boast four underclassmen at the back line in redshirt sophomore Marissa Kovac as well as incoming freshmen Val Margerum, Audrey Gibb and Laura Rayfield. Kovac played in 15 matches during her redshirt freshman season of 2011 and saw close to 390 minutes of action out on the field.
Rhode on his team’s defense…
“We have brought in some players that are showing very well. Our returners are also showing very well and as a coach you are happy because you have a very good talent base there. I think it’s going to be a difficult line to break down from what we are seeing right now. They are very strong defensively and they are taking a lot of pride in keeping a clean sheet. They do not want to get beat one versus one and they will do what it takes to not get beat.”
Returning in goal for Coach Rhode are two upper classmen in fifth year senior Claire Pflueger and junior Audrey Bernier-Larose. New to the team this year are freshmen Natalie Ogden and Sammy Jo Prudhomme, who are performing quite well in fall camp.
Rhode on his goal tenders…
“Michelle Voiland, my assistant coach is going to have a tough time because the returners are looking really good and the freshmen are also looking real good. As far as the competiveness goes and the level that the kids are showing, it is the most competitive I have seen in a while at a pre-season camp.”
Rhode on his bench…
“We are definitely going to have depth because all the players that I have mentioned obviously can’t start so I will be very confident in the players that aren’t in the starting line-up on any given day. It is probably going to be just a few little things that keep them out of the starting line-up anyway, so to put them on the field in a game is not going to be an issue. If someone starts one, two three games or whatever it may be, there is still another player who can start because there are going to be little things that separate them. It might be tactics, who’s a little sharper that week or who is showing a little bit more urgency, so those intangible factors are going to be evaluated very, very closely.”
Two familiar names that Beaver soccer fans are used to seeing at Lorenz Field will not be making any appearances during the 2012 season. Both Milan Cabrera and Chelsea Buckland will both miss their senior campaign due to ACL injuries. Buckland injured hers during National Team competition in June, while Cabrera went down in the spring season.
Rhode on injuries…
“The injuries are a sad thing to see and you never want to see one of your teammates get hurt, but as a group we are moving forward. The girls hope that they (Buckland and Cabrera) take care of themselves and the team is fully supportive of the two of them, but when it comes to the games and the season they are focused. For the group now it is full steam ahead and they are fully concentrated on winning games, so that is great to see.”
Rhode’s fifth season in Corvallis brings along some welcomed changes to the venue where his team calls home. During the off-season Lorenz Field was reseeded with the rye grass, which is the same grass that was used as a playing surface during the 2010 World Cup. The field was regraded and laser leveled, which makes the coaching staff and players excited to see.
Rhode on field improvements…
“When the girls take the field for the first game, it will be phenomenal because the surface is just world class. It could be a World Cup field, so I am excited to see some of the looks on their faces and they realize all the work that has been done to their game field. We had some girls out there the other day and they just couldn’t believe it, so they should be proud of what they have.”
The Beavers will be able to put that new surface to the test this coming Friday night as they play host to UAB in their 2012 home opener. OSU holds an all-time record of 11-12-1 during home openers with a 3-2 record during the last five seasons.