2014 Position Previews: Midfielders
July 29, 2014
Last year's Boise State soccer team had a lot of strengths. The defenders and goalkeepers helped post the stingiest goals-against average in the Mountain West. The conference's coaches clearly thought highly of the Bronco midfield. Brooke Heidemann and Katy Oehring were both voted All-Mountain West First Team in 2013.
In fact, no position group has more accolades recently than the midfield. Heidemann was also a first-team selection in 2012, as well as the MW Freshman of the Year that season when she played forward for the Broncos. All three midfielders that year were second-team choices: Oehring, Lauren Hickok and Shannon Scheuren. Oehring and Hickok have since graduated, but Heidemann (junior) and Scheuren (senior) are among the veteran leaders on the 2014 squad.
Heidemann came on strong at the end of her freshman campaign, scoring both of her goals in conference play. The Meridian, Idaho, native rolled the momentum into last season when she scored 21 points on nine goals and three assists. Her role will continue to expand this year as Heidemann keeps adding elements to her repertoire.
"She's been working on the range of shots she can take and being a less-predictable dribbler," said head coach Jim Thomas. "She's a very good dribbler, but she's added some new kinks to the way she runs at players. She's also really just increased the ways in which she can affect a game by not needing to be the goal scorer to help us win. She's more of a deep-lying playmaker who is able to move around lots of different places on the field and where she can beat you from."
This year Thomas and the Broncos are asking Heidemann to continue increasing her point-scoring, while also taking on a leadership position within the team. Thomas said she has already begun to help with the development of her younger teammates.
Heidemann has also had the opportunity to learn the ropes of being a leader from playing alongside one of the best in program history. Schueren has been a key contributor each of her first three seasons and a starter the last two, setting an example all along.
"In Shannon you have a kid who has really made the physical sacrifices to help this program get to where it is right now," Thomas said. "She leads the charge in the weight room, she leads the charge in preparation. She has had to overcome a lot of injuries and still manages to set the tone in all of those off-the-field areas. Her mindset toward playing the game and how she is the tempo controller for us, that kind of thing is very difficult to replace; but it's excellent for us to have her work with some of the young players we have this year."
Just as it was a boon to have the current duo come up playing next to Oehring. The 5-foot-11, physical, controlling midfielder was a four-year starter who was strong in open play and a vital part of Boise State's set pieces.
"When you lose a player like Oehring it's tough," Thomas said. "You're always going to reel a little bit without that player."
As with the departure of any key contributor, it provides an opportunity for someone else to step into a larger role. In this case, it has also allowed Thomas and the staff to alter the role.
"It has enabled us to take a player like Kelsey Nicassio who has great physical tools and is an incredibly gifted passer, and really sort of tilt the team toward her capability," Thomas said. "Same goes for Bekah Carrasquer, who is a phenomenal short-range passer. She has a very, very high completion rate and is safe with the ball. She really sets tempo brilliantly for us. So now we can mix and match between that position between those players' abilities and really change the look of that. Before, we were a little more rigid at that spot."
Versatility is also something that has been a point of emphasis with the returners. Thomas has been pleased with the improvements every midfielder has shown in developing a more well-rounded game.
"We've expanded their roles," Thomas said. "Brooke has expanded her role to drop deeper into the field. The others have expanded theirs to rotate higher. Other teams are really going to have to react to our ability to interchange."
In addition to the wide range of skills the midfield group has as individuals, there is a burgeoning depth in the position group beyond the starting three.
"Bekah and Nicassio are the heirs apparent to Oehring and they've been working diligently to establish themselves next to Shannon. I'm proud of them for that," Thomas said. "Jess Vogel has shown that she has more than enough capability to play as a central midfielder. She may find herself there pretty quickly. Madi Campbell and Sarah Taylor absolutely have a shot to get there. We'll have to see more out of them in the preseason camp before they're in the starting discussion, but we're excited about their future."
Before the torch is passed to any of the young Broncos, there is still work to be done for the veterans. As decorated as Heidemann's short career has been so far, Thomas knows there is something missing from her mantle.
"Obviously you've got championships," Thomas said. "We've got a kid who has been the freshman of the year, one of the best players in the conference last year but is without hardware. I think within the next two years she's going to be really focused on coming away with some sort of ring on her finger."
The same can be said for Schueren, whose on-field accomplishments are only exceeded by her off-field demeanor.
"She sets the tone off the pitch," Thomas said. "She's going to leave a legacy of how to act as a Bronco. Whether it's in the classroom, in the newpapers, on the news, in front of our boosters, around the athletic department, you name it, Shannon is an example we would love anyone to follow."
With a year left in the program, Schueren and the rest of the midfielders will look to lead the Broncos to new heights.
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