Soccer Season Preview
New Season, New Challenge
Broncos begin Mountain West era.
A new season brings a new conference for Boise State University soccer, which will look to find early success in the Mountain West. The Broncos have 23 players returning from last season, 12 of whom were also members of the 2009 Bronco squad that notched the program's first league tournament championship and NCAA Tournament appearance. The 2010 team tallied an overall record of 8-10-3 while finishing fifth in the WAC with a conference record of 4-2-2. The Broncos made it past the first round of the conference tournament with a double overtime win against Louisiana Tech, but fell to San Jose State in the semifinals 2-0.
Filling the Boots
Though there is much experience returning for the 2011 season, this year's team will need to fill the holes left by 2010 seniors Malia Hendrix, Cheyenne Jones and Shannon Saxton, who each rank in the top 10 for most games started in school history.
"It's tough to replace each of those players but it's something that happens and it's something you have to prepare for," said head coach Steve Lucas. "Those three played a lot of games and had a lot of success. All the girls who are returning and all the new players know there is a new standard."
After spending most of the 2010 season on the road, the 2011 schedule will allow the Broncos more games in front of the home crowd at the Boas Tennis and Soccer Complex. The team will kick off the season by hosting Montana and Oregon at the Soccer Etc./Nike Classic, August 19-21. The following week, Air Force and Gonzaga will make the trip to Boise for the Bronco Invite, August 26-28.
"We love playing at home," said Lucas. "We have a great field and a great setup. But the best part is that we have good teams coming in, and that's the exciting part too."
Boise State will battle for Mountain West supremacy in the seven-team conference, getting a shot at each team in the latter part of the season. League play will open Sept. 30 in Laramie, Wyo., against the Cowgirls before returning home to host Air Force, Oct. 8. The Broncos will also host conference match-ups against TCU (Oct 21), and New Mexico (Oct. 23) along with nonconference games against Utah State (Sept. 25) and Idaho (Oct. 29).
The Broncos may have a chance to catch some opponents off guard this season after being voted to finish sixth in the preseason coaches' poll, notching 14 points. San Diego State was crowned the preseason favorite with 34 points and four first-place votes. Right behind the Aztecs was New Mexico, which earned 33 points and three first-place votes. The two front runners were voted well ahead of the rest of the field, which consist of UNLV (24), TCU (20), Wyoming (15) and Air Force (7).
Seven freshmen are included on the 2011 team, coming from California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The newcomers consist of midfielders/forwards KT Clayton (Kent, Wash.) and Jenna Griggs (Portland, Ore.), midfielders Noelle Kolb (Moorpark, Calif.) and Shannon Schueren (Bothell, Wash.), defenders Mikhaila Bowden (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Avery Salisbury (Federal Way, Wash.) and goalkeeper Ashleigh Anderson (Lake Oswego, Ore.).
The class of freshmen is one of the most athletic and experienced Boise State has seen. Even though they have yet to play a game at the collegiate level, Lucas likes that most have championship experience at the club level, something that will be beneficial when the newcomers battle for playing time this season.
"We know there are players who know a lot and have played a lot of games but we are expecting the young ones to come in and challenge for spots," said Lucas. "They all play in different spots and have good players in front of them for sure, but playing time is certainly available to grab."
The Broncos lost their leading scorer from a year ago, Shannon Saxton. She finished her career as the all-time leader in scoring holding school records for goals (35), assists (22) and points (97). This means the Boise State front line will be led by junior Erica Parks in 2011. The Nampa, Idaho, native was the team's second-leading goal scorer last season with five goals and tacked on two assists. With each point Parks earns, she will be moving up the Broncos' career record book. The junior enters the season tied for sixth in goals (14), ninth in points (32) and fourth in game-winning goals (7).
The favorite to join Parks on the front line is senior Kati Lucas, who joined the Bronco squad last season after transferring from Walla Walla Community College. Lucas played in 16 games as a junior and started six times.
Fellow transfer Ebie Harris will see time at the forward position this year after scoring two goals with the Broncos last season. The Modesto, Calif., native came to Boise State from UC Riverside in 2010 and appeared in 20 games, allowing her to enter the 2011 season with experience under her belt.
There is definite experience up front for the Broncos with three returning upperclassmen but Lucas said he expects to see some goals out of newcomers KT Clayton and Jenna Griggs, both of whom will get time up front and in the midfield this season.
"We're going to be able to score goals with the way that we are going to play," said Lucas. "The toughest part is that some of the teams we play against are very good at what they do and we need to be prepared for that."
The midfield line will have a strong foundation with Chelsea Robinson and Ashley Walsh returning for their final season. The pair of seniors knows what it takes to play and win. Both started in each of the Broncos' 21 games last season and were members of the 2009 WAC Championship squad.
Lucas and the Broncos will also welcome the return of Brandy Hickcox, who played in one game last year before suffering a season-ending injury. Hickcox was a piece in Boise State's 2009 championship season as she started in all 23 games and was named second-team All-WAC.
The youngest of the four potential starting midfielders is sophomore Katy Oehring. Despite her youth, Oehring is the tallest member of the Boise State team at 5-11, and will provide the Broncos with an added physical presence as well as an attacking mentality. The Littleton, Colo., native was third on the team in points last season with nine, scoring three goals and adding three assists.
A number of other returners will add depth to the midfield position and battle for playing time throughout the season. Juniors Brianne Favatella and Janelle Jin join a large group of sophomores who each saw significant time during their freshman campaign. The second-year midfielders include Gabby Garcia, Tylyn Hughes, Kallie Neimann and Rebe Wolverton, each of whom played in at least 14 games last season.
True-freshmen Noelle Kolb and Shannon Schueren will join redshirt-freshman Ali Clarkson in the mix of midfielders.
The Broncos return three starting defenders from last season who have a wealth of experience at the position. The trio of senior Lindsay Roberts, redshirt-junior Mandy Nader and junior Lauren Hickok have combined to start 137 games during their collegiate tenures. With three of the four positions on the back line seemingly locked up, there is the potential for a season-long battle for the fourth starting position. Lucas could look to sophomore Ashley Hruby, who played in 19 games last year and started three times. Returners Mackenzie Hickel and Serena Montoya will also vie for playing time along with newcomers Mikhaila Bowden and Avery Salisbury.
The group of goalkeepers is led by senior Liz Ruiz who is returning with more than two years of starting experience. Ruiz litters the Boise State career and season record books and will look to solidify herself as one of the premier goalkeepers in the program's history. Heading into the 2011 season, the Boise, Idaho, native holds the top spot in career save percentage, goals against average and shutouts. With six more victories she will pass Kim Parker as the winningest goalkeeper in Bronco history.
Challenging for time at the position is redshirt-junior Megan Blanchard, redshirt-freshman Maddy McDevitt and freshman Ashleigh Anderson.
The 2011 squad will be a veteran group, not only in age but experience. The team will have 12 players who were a part of the Bronco program during the post-season success in 2009 as well as the tough WAC semifinal loss in 2010. The juniors and seniors who have seen the ups and downs will be complimented by a talented group of underclassmen looking to put their stamp on the Boise State program as it begins a new era in the Mountain West.
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