2012 begins with some clear challenges for the Alma College Women's Soccer players and coaches. The team made it to the NCAA Tournament last season and they know that the league arrow is on their backs.
"After the last two seasons, we have set a certain level of expectation," said Alma Head Coach Jeff Hosler. "We want to compete for an MIAA title and play in the NCAA tournament every year. Growth each season is important and we believe we could have done more during 2011.
"This year's team is going to be very, very young and our coaching staff knows that is going to take an even more committed, disciplined effort by these players because of their youth."
2012 OFFENSIVE OUTLOOK:
The Scots lose 10 players from last year's squad, nine of which played significant minutes, and offensively the team was hit the hardest.
So. Mackenzie Smith (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw Nouvel) will be looked upon to have a breakout year after being the first sub in the forward line last season. Much of the offense could be generated through Jr. Taryn Handyside (Montrose, Mich./Hill-McCloy), a very versatile and skilled player. She has had a consistent and productive first two seasons and is considered a natural finisher.
Freshmen Kelly Wilson (Midland, Mich./Dow), Mallory Simon (Ada, Mich./Forest Hills Central), Kalyn Berinti (Plymouth, Mich./Canton) and Agatha Weddle (White Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Northern), among others, will be looked upon to make a mark offensively. Returners that will also contribute include Jr. Autumn Root (Haslett, Mich./Haslett) and So. Kailey Vlug (Coopersville, Mich./Coopersville).
"Offensively, we were hit the hardest with departures," said Hosler. "The fun thing is that we will have a lot of young, front attacking players that will improve each day. I believe that one player that could really surprise is Autumn Root, who is a very smart, attacking player."
2012 DEFENSIVE OUTLOOK:
On the other side of the pitch, defensively the Scots are experienced and talented and the group should provide the stability up and down the field.
A challenge for the Scots is to replace all everything GK Monica Witt, who graduated last spring. Sophomores Morgan Waier (Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc) and Rachel Doptis (Macomb Township, Mich./Dakota) are expected to compete for the position. Waier saw action late in the season, including the MIAA and NCAA Tournaments, after Witt suffered a season-ending injury.
Jr. Ann Kennedy (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Eastern), Sr. Brittany Dulyea (East Kentwood, Mich./East Kentwood) and So. Sam Waldrop (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer) will anchor the defensive group for the Scots.
"We are very confident in our ability to defend," said Hosler. "We only gave up 16 goals last season and we return the same backline that will provide our stability. Over the last couple of years year here, we have established a very solid defensive system that we believe in and it has worked for us"
2012 SEASON SCHEDULE:
The Scots, under Hosler, have always challenged themselves in non-league action and 2012 is no different. They will take on perennial power Washington University, ranked #9 in the country, and a solid Webster University team in St. Louis on Labor Day weekend. Then they will host UC Santa Cruz and Depauw before opening the MIAA schedule.
"Going to St. Louis will be a really good challenge for us to start," said Hosler. "The first two games are important for us to see how we stack up in our region. Then it is a very nice opportunity to be able to host a California school here in Michigan and we finish with a solid DePauw squad. I believe that six MIAA teams could win the conference and that it will be ultra competitive at the top, perhaps the most parity we have ever had with all nine league teams."