Soccer Reports to Fall Training: Season Outlook

BOISE, Idaho - The Boise State soccer team reported to the first day of fall camp for the start of the 2012 season, Wednesday. The Broncos will take part in two-a-day practices leading up to their season-opener against New Mexico State at the Boas Soccer Field, August 17. Here is a look at what to expect from the Orange and Blue this fall.

Outlook

The 2012 Boise State soccer team is poised for a tournament run this season with an athletic mix of experience and youth. After finding its bearings in the new Mountain West last season, the Broncos will look to improve on its 2-4-0 conference record and 8-11-1 overall record from a year ago. Though its record left room for improvement, the team was not unsuccessful. The Broncos finished fifth in the final conference standings and made it to the first round of the Mountain West Tournament where they fell to UNLV, 2-0.

The trend in recent years for Boise State has been a growth in speed and athleticism, with this year's team showing no exception. Head Coach Steve Lucas says he plans to use these new skill sets but to continue the Broncos' style of play, coveting possession and connecting passes.

"We're a team that wants to keep the ball and that is never going to change," Lucas said. "Our athleticism and ability to do that has increased which is great. We want to be able to play faster while still keeping the ball."

Fresh Faces

The 2012 class represents three different states, boasting three high school state champions and five Olympic Development Program participants. The Broncos will welcome Dominique Banks (Cypress, Calif.), Bekah Carrasquer (Portland, Ore.), Brooke Heidemann (Meridian, Idaho), Kelsey Nicassio (Alta Loma, Calif.), Whitney Peterson (Meridian, Idaho), Anna-Marie Popma (Tigard, Ore.), Cassidy Richmond (Maple Valley, Wash.), Kayla Tucker (Canyon Lake, Calif.) and Kelsey Witker (Tacoma, Wash.) to this year's squad.

"This class is very athletic and very experienced," Lucas said. "They have some big-time games under their belts and they all fit a need that we have. We're looking forward to them coming in right away and helping us get better."

Lucas and the Broncos welcome two members of the class from the Portland-Metro Area, a strong pipeline for Boise State over the past several years. The Orange and Blue currently have five members who hail from the area.

Bronco Breakdown

Goalkeeper

The loss of goalkeeper Liz Ruiz will be felt during the 2012 season, as the Broncos try to fill the shoes of the most decorated goalie in Boise State history. Ruiz holds career records in wins, shutouts, save percentage and goals-against average. Heading into the season, three players will be fighting for the opportunity to solidify themselves as the starter in between the posts. Lucas says redshirt senior Megan Blanchard, redshirt sophomore Maddy McDevitt and redshirt freshman Ashleigh Anderson all have a chance to provide a solid last line of defense this fall.

"We're comfortable going with whoever separates themselves, and right now it's a wide open race," Lucas said. "The tough part is none of them have a lot of experience in games but the spring was good for each of them to get some time in game situations."

Blanchard enters the final season of her career, playing a total of 278 minutes in six appearances with a 1.94 goals-against average. McDevitt saw her first action last season, playing 270 minutes with a 2.00 GAA.

Defense

While this season's back line may look different from that of 2011, it will not be lacking in experience. The four-person defense will be anchored in the middle by its two center backs, sophomore Mikhaila Bowden and junior Kallie Neimann. Bowden was a standout freshman last year, leading the team in minutes played, while Neimann moves back to a defensive role after spending the first two years of her career in the central midfield.

The outside back position will have room for competition as possible starters could include redshirt seniors Mandy Nader and Janelle Jin as well sophomore Avery Salisbury. Lucas said incoming freshman Dominique Banks leads her class of defenders and will have the chance to secure solid playing time as well as fight for a place in the starting 11.

"We have a good mix of experienced players and young players on that back line," Lucas said. "Between the recruits coming in this year and a few returners we will be in good shape back there."

Midfield

The Bronco midfield returns a core group of athletic talent. Shannon Schueren and Katy Oehring are the probable starters at the central midfield roles, providing a tandem that could give opponents trouble for the next two seasons. Schueren, a sophomore, is the top returning goal-scorer and point-getter from last season, tallying three goals and two assists for eight total points. The Bothell, Wash., native will look to build on those numbers with a year of experience under her belt and the chance at a starting role. Oehring, a junior, has distributed three assists in each of her first two seasons at Boise State and gives the Broncos a threat to score from long range.

Senior Lauren Hickok and junior Gabby Garcia will look to stretch the wings of the offense. Hickok will be in more of an offensive role this season, moving up from an outside back to an outside midfielder. Garcia has been a stable part of the Boise State midfield playing in 16 games each of her first two seasons.

"Our returning set is really good," Lucas said. "They had a great spring and they are starting to form some cohesiveness. Their fitness, willingness to work and knowing where each other are will play big roles in our success."

Lucas will look to a crew of returning players to add depth, including redshirt senior Brandy Hickcox, who was plagued by injury last season. She joins fellow senior Brianne Favatella while juniors Tylyn Hughes, Ashley Hruby and Rebe Wolverton will also look to play significant minutes in 2012.

This year's freshman class is also loaded with talent in the midfield, led by Rocky Mountain (Meridian, Idaho) alum Brooke Heidemann, who was selected as Idaho Girls Soccer Gatorade Player of the Year for 2011-12.

Forward

The Broncos will have to manage the loss of 2011 leading scorer Kati Lucas, who finished her career with a seven-goal season, three of which were game-winners. Senior leader Erica Parks will look to carry the load up front while climbing the career lists for goals and points, on which she sits sixth and seventh, respectively.

"Erica is ready to breakout again," Lucas said. "The thing about Erica is we just need her to be dangerous in whatever way. If she's not scoring goals she can help us to score goals. It's not so much that we need her to finish with 10 or 12 goals. we just need her to be in dangerous spots and get chances. If we are getting chances we are doing the right things."

Supporting Parks up top will be fellow senior Ebie Harris and sophomore Jenna Griggs, each of whom will look to earn increase minutes in 2012.

Bronco fans will most likely see some new names putting balls into the back of the net this season as several freshman forwards put on the orange and blue. KT Clayton will make her Boise State debut after redshirting last season.

"Having KT back will be exciting for us after spending a year with her and seeing what she can do, now it can finally count," Lucas said.

The true freshman class brings offensive fire power from the likes of Kelsey Nicassio, Cassidy Richmond and Kayla Tucker, but is led by Tigard, Ore., native Anna-Marie Popma. Popma comes to Boise after scoring 100 goals during her high school career, her final strike serving as the game-winner in the Oregon 6A State Championship.  The interscholastic success played a big part in her being ranked as the sixth-best prospect in the Pacific Northwest Region by Topdrawersoccer.com.

"We have some goals coming in with the incoming class for sure. Popma will be up front and we know she can score goals, but it's a different level so hopefully she can get adjusted quickly. All those guys will be challenging each other will be a good thing."

2012 Schedule

The Broncos will kick off the regular season at the Boas Tennis and Soccer Center with the Holiday Inn Classic, (Aug. 17-19) before hosting the Bronco Invitational (Aug. 31 - Sept. 2) and the Soccer Etc./Nike Classic (Sept. 14-16).

The three tournaments provide six of the team's 10 home games for the 2012 season, the other four coming in Mountain West conference play. The Orange and Blue will welcome San Diego State, Fresno State, UNLV and Nevada (Senior Day) to Boise for home conference games while making trips to the 2011 champion New Mexico, Air Force and Wyoming.

Boise State will be tested in its first road match of the season when it visits the Palouse and Spokane for games against Washington State and Gonzaga. The Cougars advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season and is one three teams on the Broncos' schedule to make tournament appearances in 2011, joining Montana and New Mexico.

"There are games we gave away last year and games that we stole. Conference play will be interesting again because it's not brand new but it's about half new. Between being a different team this year and adding two teams to the conference, it will still feel like we're almost in a new conference."

The team will make one non-conference trip to the West Coast for the Viking Classic in Portland, Ore., and one trip to the East Coast for matches at Navy and Pennsylvania.


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