Judah Newby | Sports Editor
The Wheaton women’s soccer team of 2011 was a force to be reckoned with, not only in the CCIW, but also on a national level. The team went 23-2-2 overall on the year, won the CCIW regular season and tournament crowns, and made a run all the way to the Division III National Championship game in San Antonio last December.
It was quite an end to the careers of the 2011 senior class, who as a group racked up 82 total wins against just 12 losses in a four-year span. The path to repeating that experience on this year’s team is not easy, but Head Coach Pete Felske believes he has the pieces in place to make this season just as successful.
“We did lose a lot of good players with a lot of good leadership,” he said. “But we have a real solid class of players coming in as well that have been playing good club soccer for a really long time.”
The players that will return with experience to the team include senior captains Laura Karsten, Keri Shannon and junior Amanda Brait. Karsten returns for her final year of eligibility as a fifth-year senior after starting every contest last year, while Shannon scored 13 goals and 13 assists. Both players were named First Team All-Conference as well as All-Region by d3Soccer.com. Brait, meanwhile, is coming off a sophomore season that saw her sidelined for all but six games with a torn ACL. She returns in 2012 as the main cog in the Wheaton defense at the sweeper position.
Sophomore Anna Seabolt returns to the offense as a forward following last season’s 14-goal campaign as well as being named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team for her 10 postseason points in last year’s run to the championship game. Senior Val Lelle scored five goals and assisted on eight others last year and also returns at forward. Sophomores Sarah Guidera and Annie Hamilton are also vying for strong playing time at the position.
Including Brait at sweeper, the Thunder defense also returns seniors Jennifer Lee and Shelby Anthony, along with junior Megan Campbell, who missed most of last season due to injury. Felske noted that Laura Karsten will also play some defense but will be brought up to the attacking line when the Thunder go on the offensive.
There are 13 total newcomers to the 27-person roster for Felske’s team, including 11 freshman and three transfers. Included among them is transfer junior Leah DeMoss, who comes to Wheaton after playing two seasons at the Division I level at the University of Iowa, where she was the team’s second-leading scorer with eight goals in 2011 as a sophomore.
“Leah is a slashing forward with very good speed, and she’s constantly moving,” Felske said of his new forward. “It’s been fun in preseason to watch the pace of our team pick up.”
About his offense, Felske said, “Individually and collectively as a team we’re playing at a much higher rate. We’ll be faster than last year; we’ll be more athletic than last year. The only thing we won’t have more of is our experience.”
The fast-paced tempo of the offense may lead to more goals allowed on defense, Felske admitted, but he said that there should not be anything keeping the team from averaging a solid four to five goals per game.
“Early in the season will be a good test for us just to see how the new players adjust, but as far as our confidence as coaches in our players, there’s no question. I told our players that if we’re not scoring four to five goals a game, that’s our fault,” he said.
As goalkeeper, the Thunder will have senior Hilary Barreto and sophomore Kelsey Graham split time between the posts – the same approach they took a season ago. Both Barreto and Graham have saved over 80 percent and averaged less than one goal allowed per contest.
The season begins tonight at 4:30 p.m. for the women’s team with the Bob Baptista Invitational, as Wheaton takes on Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College (Calif.) on Friday and Principia College (Ill.) on Saturday, also at 4:30 p.m.
Photo Credit: Allison Freet
Printed in the August 31, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.