Broncos Set to Make Run at WAC Title...
A year after winning the Western Athletic Conference title with a run through the league tournament and an appearance in the NCAA first round, Boise State University’s soccer team is poised for another outstanding season in 2010. Last year’s team set the program record for wins going 13-7-4 overall and went 5-3 in league play to place tied for third in the conference’s regular-season standings. The Broncos finished the year strong winning their last three regular-season games followed by a three-match run through the WAC Tournament. That run gave the program two firsts, its first league championship and first NCAA Tournament berth.
One obstacle standing in the way that this year’s team will need to overcome is a difficult schedule which has the Broncos on the road for 14 of the 19 matches during the regular season. But with that said, the bulk of last season’s record setting squad is back giving Boise State solid experience and leadership to depend on when the road gets tough. The Broncos are looking to improve upon 2009’s success as they set their sights on adding the conference’s regular-season title to Boise State’s resume along with a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
WHO'S BACK IN 2010...
This year’s team is talented and hungry, as well as, experienced and youthful. Boise State returns most of the impact players from 2009 including eight starters and 15 letterwinners. In addition, the Broncos return two other veterans who redshirted in 2009, while adding 11 newcomers to the roster.
The eight returning starters include seniors Shannon Saxton at forward, midfielder Cheyenne Jones and Malia Hendrix at defender. In addition, there are four juniors in Liz Ruiz at goalkeeper, midfielder Brandy Hickcox, Chelsea Robinson a combination midfielder/forward, and defender Lindsay Roberts. The final returner in the lineup is sophomore defender Lauren Hickok.
Other veterans back are senior midfielder Jayne Murray, junior defenders Ashley Walsh, Serena Montoya, and Tiffany Hall-Johnson. The rest of the sophomore class is forward Erica Parks, defender Brianne Favatella and Megan Blanchard at goalkeeper. In addition, two redshirts from 2009 return in sophomores Janelle Jin (midfielder) and Mandy Nader (defender), Nader started as a defender in 2008 before injury sidelined her in 2009.
WHO'S NEW IN 2010...
There are eleven new faces on this year’s roster including two transfers and nine true-freshmen. The transfers include Kati Lucas (Richland, Wash.) a junior forward from Walla Walla Community College in Washington and Ebie Harris (Modesto, Calif.) a sophomore forward from UC Riverside.
The nine freshmen include midfielders Gabby Garcia of Murietta, Calif., Ali Clarkson of Auburn, Wash., and Portland, Oregon’s, Tylyn Hughes, Kallie Neimann, and Rebe Wolverton; midfielder/forward Katy Oehring out of Littleton, Colo.; midfielder/defender Mackenzie Hickel from Federal Way, Wash.; and defender Ashley Hruby from Vancouver, Wash. Wrapping up the class of nine is goalkeeper Maddy McDevitt of Edmonds, Wash.
The talent level and athleticism of the team has increased, which should produce daily battles for game time and starting roles at each position. Overall, Boise State is stronger, deeper and more athletic than it has been in some time.
The league has placed high expectations on Boise State as the WAC coaches picked the Broncos to battle Utah State University for this year’s WAC crown in their annual preseason poll. Boise State was edged by the Aggies for the top spot in the poll by one point, 59 to 58. The Broncos return all three of its 2009 All-WAC honorees in Lindsay Roberts, Shannon Saxton and Brandy Hickcox.
Roberts was a first-team All-WAC selection last season as a defender, while Saxton and Hickcox were recognized on the second team. It was Saxton’s third career WAC postseasn honor, the second for Hickcox and Roberts’ first. They combined for 68 starts in 2009 and a total of 132 in their careers. In addition, the trio were among the 11 players recognized by the league on the 2010 All-WAC Preseason Team this summer.
Offensively last year the team recorded 31 goals and 25 assists. Seven of the top nine scorers are back including the top two in Parks (9 goals, 2 assists) and Saxton (6 goals, 3 assists). Defensively the team recorded a goals against average of 1.0, second in the WAC and second best in program history. Back on defense is starting goalkeeper Liz Ruiz and three of the four defenders in Roberts, Hendrix and Hickok.
In the end, if Boise State can get past a brutal schedule that has the Broncos on the road for the majority of the season, the team has the experience along with the talent to make a run at the WAC regular-season championship and potentially a postseason tournament berth.
2010 POSITION-BY-POSITION PREVIEW
One of the strengths of this year’s team will be up front where they return their top two scorers from 2009 and one of the most prolific scorers in program history. Leading the way will be four-year starter Shannon Saxton. She was second in goals scored last year with six but she is on the verge of owning nearly every offensive record in school history. The senior from Beaverton, Ore., holds records for goals in a match (tied for first) with four and season with 17, assists in a season and career with eight and 16 respectively, as well as the mark for points in a match, season and career at nine, 39, and 74. Saxton needs two goals to become the all-time leader in scoring. The record stands at 30, she currently has 29 career goals. Saxton is also a three-time All-WAC honoree.
The favorite to join Saxton at forward in the starting lineup is speedy sophomore Erica Parks. The Nampa, Idaho, native led the team in scoring last season with nine goals and two assists. Parks led the Broncos’ late season charge scoring in six of the final 11 contests including the game-winners in the Broncos upset of WAC regular-season champion San Jose State in the season finale, as well as, the decisive scores in the WAC semifinal and championship matches. She was named the WAC Tournament MVP for her performance at the championship event scoring in all three games.
Challenging those two favorites will be a solid cast of forwards. Returning for her junior season is Chelsea Robinson who is a combination player splitting time between midfielder and forward. She is slated to play more in the midfield this season but is available to move forward if needed.
Both transfers to the squad for this year are forwards giving Boise State plenty of experience up top for 2010. The first is junior Kati Lucas, no relation to coach Lucas, from Walla Walla Community College in Washington where she recorded 46 goals and 25 assists during her two-year career.
The second transfer actually played against Boise State last season for UC Riverside in a scoreless draw. Ebie Harris comes to the Bronco program with three years of eligibility remaining after spending one season at UCR where she started in five of 18 contests.
One freshman could see time at forward this season. Katy Oehring is slated to play more at midfield but could be pushed forward if needed. The Littelton, Colo., native is a solid threat and is the tallest player on the roster at 5-11. She averaged eight goals and 12 assists during her last two prep seasons. Oehring’s time at forward will be limited as she is expected to play more of a midfield role this year.
Overall the forwards should be a force for opponents to deal with. Boise State has the most experience at the position in recent years. They are proven scorers and are capable of being game changers. Look for all of them to see quality playing time during the campaign.
The midfield has a solid blend of experience and youth this year with 13 players vying for playing time. Leading this group are two starters from last year in All-WAC performer junior Brandy Hickcox and senior Cheyenne Jones. Hickcox is a two-time All-WAC honoree and has started 31 of 43 matches played in her career. The Boise native has five goals to her credit and has been one of the more consistent Broncos in the center midfield for Boise State during her tenure. The play ran through her last season as she anchored the team in the middle.
Cheyenne Jones has been an impact player on the left wing since she arrived to campus. Jones is quick and experienced, she is expected to be a four-year starter when this season begins at the University of Oregon on August 20. The native of Aloha, Ore., has started 56 of the 63 matches played and has recorded seven goals and five assists.
Chelsea Robinson is predicted to start at midfield also when opening day arrives. The junior has seen time as a starter at both midfield and forward during her career. She has started in 26 of 41 contests to date recording four goals and six assists.
Challenging the three projected favorites or for the fourth starting position is a host of experienced Broncos and six talented freshmen. The group of veterans to watch include Ashley Walsh, Jayne Murray, Janelle Jin and Brianne Favatella. Walsh has been a steady defensive center-mid through her first two seasons earning 12 starts in 41 games played. The Vancouver, Wash., native has the most experience of the three and should see quality minutes if not a starting role.
Jayne Murray is another veteran who will see solid minutes. After being hampered by injuries her first couple years, Murray is healthy for her senior campaign and will push for an impact role. Murray is the lone Bronco who recorded a multiple-goal game last season with two against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Janelle Jin redshirted last season after a late season injury sidelined her during her freshman season in 2008. Jin is back at full speed and eager to challenge for a starting role on the outside. In 2008 she recorded two goals and one assist. Look to see her in the mix for a starting role this year.
Sophomore Brianne Favatella played a reserve defenders role last fall but has been moved into the midfielder for 2010. To date the native of Colorado Springs, Colo., has seen limited playing time.
Five freshmen will push the veterans for impact roles this season. They are all very talented and skillful. They all had solid prep/club careers and could surprise the upper classmen if they are not careful. Among the group of five are Ali Clarkson, Gabby Garcia, Tylyn Hughes, Kallie Neimann and Katy Oehring.
Garcia is a member of the Puerto Rican U17 national team and played for one of the top club teams in California, the So Cal Blues Soccer Club of San Juan Capistrano. Oehring has the height at 5-11 to be a force in the air for the Broncos, while Hughes, Neimann and Clarkson bring standout prep resumes to the program as well. All five are solid athletes and could see quality time as freshmen.
The midfield should also be solid in 2010 as the Broncos return plenty of experience and have good depth at all four positions.
The Boise State defense was one of the best in the WAC in 2009 recording nine shutouts while allowing 25 goals for a 1.00 goals against average, that ranked them second overall. The back line includes three returning starters in Lindsay Roberts, Malia Hendrix and Lauren Hickok, a veteran group that recorded 70 combined starts last year.
Junior Lindsay Roberts is a returning first-team All-WAC honoree at center back where she has helped anchor the Boise State defensive line as a two-year starter. The Richland, Wash., native has started 44 of 45 matches played to date and is projected to start in 2010.
Malia Hendrix is a senior who possesses good pace and has been solid in the back since transferring to Boise State following her freshman year at the University of Montana. The native of Boise has started all 44 games she has played the last two seasons at right back for the Broncos. She has recorded two goals and two assists at Boise State. The 2009 WAC All-Tournament honoree is penciled in as the starter at right back entering preseason camp.
The third returning starter is sophomore Lauren Hickok. The Bozeman, Mont., native came to Boise State as a forward last year but made an easy transition to the defensive back line as a freshman where she was a standout for the Broncos. Hickok possesses good speed and has the ability to move forward on the attack when needed. She was an impact player as a freshman starting at left back in 23 of 24 contests.
Three other veterans return in the defensive rotation Mandy Nader, Serena Montoya, and Tiffany Hall-Johnson. Nader started 13 of 21 games played at left back as a freshman in 2008 but missed last season with an injury. She is healthy again as a redshirt-sophomore and will battle for the final starting role.
Montoya is the most experienced of the remaining three starting two of 22 games played to date. Hall-Johnson a junior has seen limited playing time so far but that could change this year.
Two freshmen will also be in the mix along the back line in Mackenzie Hickel and Ashley Hruby. Both have good speed and skill to push the veterans daily for impact roles. Like Hickok, Hruby is another player who came to Boise State as a forward but will be utilized more in a defenders role. Both freshmen should present solid challenges to the veterans for the final starting position on defense.
Boise State has had solid goalkeeping since its inception in 1998. This year is no exception as they return junior Liz Ruiz who started 14 of the 15 matches played including nine of the final 13 contests in 2009. Last year the Boise native recorded a school-record 10 wins and a 0.90 goals against average, second best in the WAC, while allowing 13 goals. The 2009 WAC All-Tournament Team honoree was named the top goalkeeper at the championship event after allowing one goal and recording two shutouts in three matches. She is the projected starter in goal entering the 2010 campaign where she has started 21 of the 22 games played to date with a career 0.95 GAA.
The challengers at goalkeeper are sophomore Megan Blanchard from Fresno, Calif., and true-freshman Maddy McDevitt from Edmonds, Wash. Blanchard has the most time in the program after redshirting her first year in 2008 but has seen limited action so far in her career. Meanwhile, McDevitt had a solid youth career and could challenge for game time as a freshman. Both are solid athletes and are capable of starting if called upon.