With 17 returning players and 11 new freshmen, Westmont Women’s Soccer has set its sights on a return to the NAIA National Tournament at the end of the 2012 season. The Warriors reached the second round of the tournament in 2011 and look to improve on that performance this year.
Under head coach Kristi Kiely, who is now in her third year leading the women’s soccer team, the Warriors put together a record of 13-6-1 and received an at-large invitation to the national championship – their first in five seasons.
Judging by The NAIA Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll that listed Westmont at number nine, last year’s performance earned national respect for the Warriors. The good news is that the Warriors return nine starters from last year’s team.
“A number of our All-Americans and all-conference players are returning,” noted Kiely. “We also have a lot of young players who came in with energy, athleticism and excitement. They add strength and depth to our roster. It is a fun team to have 18 freshmen and sophomores and ten upperclassmen that have a lot of experience under their belts.
“We have a team that tasted the sweetness of victory and accomplishment last year, especially at the national tournament,” continued Kiely. “They expect to get back to the national tournament. But they don’t expect to get back there without doing the work. An example of that is that most of the team passed the fitness test coming into training camp. We know even better what it takes to get to nationals and to place higher in the tournament and we are willing to put in the work.
“We will be building off of what we did last year,” said Kiely in reference to the style of play her team will employ. “We will keep the ball until we find the right opportunity to go, then we go, and we all go.”
With the largest roster in recent memory, the Warriors look to have plenty of depth heading into the 2012 season. Westmont returns four All-Golden State Athletic Conference players, two of whom are also All-Americans. Many of the upperclassmen have played a significant number of minutes since their freshmen year.
The Warriors return a solid goalkeeper and an intimidating array of backs. Junior Lindsey Smith will serve as guardian of the Warrior net after earning All-GSAC honors in 2011. Smith allowed 0.92 goals against average last season, tallied 72 saves and posted six shutouts.
“Comparing this year in training camp to last year, Lindsey is sharper and more confident,” assessed Kiley. “She is coming off a successful year with lots of experience. Lindsey is great in the air and with great distribution. I have never seen a keeper at our level with her ability in the distribution side of goalkeeping. It is absolutely fantastic. With the ball at her feet, she is calm and composed and can play out of the back. We can use her as an eleventh field player.”
Unfortunately for the Warriors, sophomore goalkeeper Alison Glasco suffered a torn ACL during training camp and will not be available for the Warriors this season.
“It’s just really sad,” said Kiely about Glasco’s injury.
Fortunately for the Warriors, Kiely added freshman Lauren Dorr out of Menifee to the cache of Warrior goalkeepers.
“We are excited about what Lauren brings on the field in terms of verbal presence and her off the field leadership abilities,” said Kiely. “I have seen her encourage and lead in training camp in ways that freshman usually don’t. She has been working hard in camp and we look forward to what the future might bring for her in those areas.”
Heading the list of defenders is junior Alison Hensley. A 2011 All-American, Hensley serves with sophomore Sophie Judd in the center back position.
“The pairing of Sophie and Alison helps the rest of us to feel more confident in the style that we play of trying to go forward,” offered Kiely. “Because of how well they lead the team from the back, we are able to do the things we do on the attacking side of the game. She and Alison complement each other in the way they communicate, in their style of play and in the ground that they cover. The way they play together is what makes us so successful in the back.
“Sophie is very loud and very good in the air,” said Kiely. “She had to take some time off after receiving a concussion in our GSAC semifinal game last season, but a week and one-half later she found herself in the Cal State San Marcos game in which the ball was in the air 80 percent of the time. She just jumped right back into it. While Alison was gone over the spring and summer, Sophie raised her level of play and hasn’t stopped.”
“It is certainly very nice to be returning an All-American,” said Kiely in reference to Hensley. “I am very proud of her for receiving that honor in a year when we had more goals scored against us than we would have liked and more losses than we would have liked. Because of her athletic ability, her composure, her verbal quality and her presence in the back, other coaches and teams recognized her abilities. She led our team from the back. She will serve in the roll of captain, an honor well deserved. The players follow her because they trust her.”
At the outside back position, look for juniors Amanda Diesen and Missy Robertson to get the starting nod.
“Amanda is one of the most tenured players in terms of playing time and game experience,” said Kiely. “She has worked very hard this summer and you can tell in her fitness, confidence and leadership in the back. She is a smarter player, a more determined player, a more confident player.
“Missy is probably the best surprise of training camp,” conveyed Kiely. “She worked incredibly hard this summer to find herself currently in the starting position as an outside back. She is one of our most aggressive players. Because she has matured as a player, she is smarter in how she uses her sheer determination to come away with the ball.”
A quintet of players – including returning juniors Caroline Moe and Denae Crump – will be complementing the starting backs and providing a depth should serve the Warriors well over the long season.
“Caroline is returning from an ACL injury that occurred last September,” reported Kiely. “She has been doing double-days with our training room staff since May, which is never a fun thing. She came in very strong and very determined. Caroline is a gamer. I look forward to her continued progress.
“Denae was a front player for the first two years,” explained Kiely. “She played in the Pepperdine game in the spring as a back and didn’t make a single mistake. She’s come in with a strong desire to learn and develop in the position. If she continues to work, she will have a good shot at getting playing time in the position.”
Freshman Rachel Burrow of Camarillo, Sarah Hardin of Fremont and Kaitlynn Durham of Beaverton, Oregon round out the Warriors’ defensive front.
“Rachel played for Oaks Christian,” said Kiely. “She is very athletic and very calm on the ball. She will probably find herself in the back, but if we can find a place to use her athleticism anywhere else, we are sure going to work hard to find it, possibly as a winger. She has shown well this camp, probably better than I expected early on.
“Sarah could find herself on any one of the three lines,” said Kiely. “For now we will call her a back because that is where she has most recently played. She has great size, height and athleticism. She led the team in fitness testing after pulling her hamstring early on in the summer. She is extremely coachable, always engaged and will develop into a very good player. She is another player we would like to see on the field this year.
“Along with Missy, Kaitlynn is one of the best surprises in camp,” proclaimed Kiely. “She can run. She is an athlete. She is a great teammate. She has stepped in as a center back, which is hard to do as a freshman. Alison did it, Sophie did it and they are all the better for it. She has come in and learned our style and has implemented into her game what we do tactically. She is showing us what she can do and we are watching. We want to get her on the field.”
“Personally, the midfield is my favorite area of the field and I don’t care who knows it,” quipped Kiely who played midfield for the Warriors from 2001-2004 while the Warriors won three national championships. “It is also the area I am most critical of. My expectations are high of all my players, but innately, they are higher on our center midfielders.
The three veterans who will form the core of the Warrior presence in the center of the field are junior Jenny Martinez and sophomores Courtney Stonesifer and Tiffany Dimaculangan. Martinez tallied six goals for the Warriors while Dimaculangan added a goal and an assist.
“Jenny looks sharp,” reported Kiley. “She is focused and powerful. Ideally, we would like to get her closer to goal this year because she can fire the ball. Jenny is one of our more soccer savvy players. We are looking at her to score goals and create goal scoring opportunities for other people. We believe that she could have a very successful year.
“Most likely, Courtney will play in the middle of the field, though she could end up in the back,” shared Kiely.”In the middle of the field she brings a certain calmness and composure, combined with a magnificent vision of the field, an ability to switch us and an ability to keep us the ball. She has mastered the technical side of the game. To have that in a central midfielder is vital. We have challenged her in her ability to be a ball winner and so far she has responded well.
“Tiff is the player who will keep her opponent guessing the most,” said Kiely. “Is she going to drive at you? Is she going to play it? Is she going to shoot? Is she going to find that small window that you left her to pass through? She is very much a playmaker. Once her fitness comes into it, I think she has the potential to have a very good year. After starting with an injury last year, we were able to use her off the bench in the middle of last season and she earned a starting spot. A lot of the opposing coaches were asking where she had been because she didn’t have a scouting report on her. Now she has a scouting report and will have to deal with it. I think she will deal with it well because she is the kind of player that will keep you guessing.”
Newcomers to the midfield are Angela Brown of Menifee, Katie Moyer of Simi Valley, Deanna Vander Meer from Lakewood and Carly Richardson from Belmont.
“We see Angela playing in the middle of the field, though she could play in the back for us,” said Kiely. “She had a very good first scrimmage. She is another nice surprise in how well she has adapted to the college game with the speed of play, her creativity, her work rate. I think that she has a lot of potential to do well at the collegiate level.
“Katie is a very technical player,” noted Kiely. “She has played a lot of years on the same club team as Rachel Burrow. So, I know they have a connection. Katie brings technique and creativity. She has a knack for finding the ball that no one else sees except the front player running on to it. Once she gets adjusted to the speed of play and the fitness needed at this level, she could be a very good central midfielder. I think she is our future in the middle of the field – as long as she continues to work and adopt the style we are asking of her.
“I have seen Deanna develop and grow over the last year and one-half as a recruit,” observed Kiely. “I think she has become more confident on the ball. She is very good at keeping possession and keeping us calm and composed..
“I am very happy with Carly’s performance so far,” assessed Kiely. “She comes as a defender but we would like to use her as a midfielder. She is helping to fill the hole created by losing Mel. We probably have a four to five man rotation in the middle of the field. She is part of our central midfield rotation that we feel very confident in right now. She is technically very strong, composed on the ball, sees the game well and understands the game well. Carly is a physical presence in a part of the field that we have been lacking for a while.
Kiely will have a number of options at her disposal for the Warrior’s front line. Six returning players and three freshmen comprise an arsenal of varied weaponry. The returns include two seniors: All-American Ashley Correa (9 goals, 10 assists) and All-GSAC honoree Aolani Rueff (8 goals, 2 assists).
“Lan will be serving her second year as captain,” remarked Kiely. “With her experience last year she has grown into one of the best leaders I have seen. She is humble, which makes her approachable. She is confident, which makes her very good on the field. She wants to finish well. She is fitter than she has ever been. She will go at people, she will combine with Ashley and Kaci and she will keep us the ball.
“Lan is such a versatile front player and a great leader for our younger front players. I feel very fortunate as we look to the future that they will be able to learn under her for a year. She is the picture of what you want in a leader and in a front player. She can smack the ball in from 25 yards out, she can head it in off a cross and she can volley it in when she finds her way in a scrappy mess in the middle of the box. She is who you want your younger players to be following.
“Ashley has had the best training camp of her career in terms of fitness, work rate, focus and leadership,” expressed Kiely. “When she is on the field, you want her on your team. She is somebody the other players look to. Her ability to deliver a variety of balls led her to leading us in assists and being our leading goal scorer last year.
“If Ashley can build on those things this year, I think she will have a very, very good year. Her biggest challenge this year is going to be dealing with the scouting reports on her. She will have to deal with being double-teamed, maybe being man-marked, and will have to perform under pressure in ways she hasn’t had to. I’ll tell you at the end of last season she did well because even though the word was out on her, she was still able to finish as our leading point getter last year.”
The four returning sophomores consist of Mallory Mitchell (5 goals, 5 assists), Christine Adams (2 goals, 2 assists), Kaci Mexico (3 goals, 3 assists) and Carly Holly.
“Mallory is another player who has come in looking very good,” said Kiely. “She is currently in a starting position. We hope she will add on to her goals and assists that she contributed as a freshman. She is one of the players I enjoy watching the most. She will bait you in, wait for you to bite and then she is gone. She is smooth on the ball. Then the minute you think it is your moment to win it, it’s through your legs and she’s behind you.”
“Teeny-Tiny Tine does not play so teeny-tiny,” quipped Kiely about Adams who stands at 5-3. “What Christine brings to our front line is speed and a deceptive size. You think you can knock her around, and maybe you can, but she is right back up and guess what, she has the ball. In camp, we have been seeing her finish a lot of goals. She is starting at a better spot than last year and we would hope she will end in a better spot. We see her as a winger. We see her using her speed to get in behind. We see her using her accuracy and finishing for some goals. She is a more confident player heading into her sophomore year.”
“Kaci finds a way to get it done,” exclaimed Kiely. “She makes something out of nothing. That is Kaci’s biggest strength. She is certainly a force to be reckoned with, but what she can do on the ball and the chances she makes out of nothing makes her very hard to defend.”
“Carly has come into camp as a different player – stronger and with a better understanding of the game and of her role,” said Kiely.
The freshmen forwards are Kelsey Steck of Valencia, Kaitlin Swift of Bakersfield and Annie Prickett of Bozeman, Montana.
“Kelsey is a force to be reckoned with,” noted Kiely. “Before committing, she trained with us one last time in the early spring. She led the team in fitness that day and she continues to do so. We are thrilled to get to work with her for four years. She has a ton of potential and is already making a case for playing time because of the way that she has come in as a player and because of her work rate. She is strong, she is fast and she is very coachable.”
“Kaitlin is a player that we saw and got to work with for the first time at our prospect camp,” pointed out Kiely. “She is going to make it very difficult for an opponent’s line because she is fast, she is aggressive and she works hard. At the very least, on her worst days, she will make a mess of things up top. On her best days, she’ll make a mess of things up top and create goal scoring opportunities for other people or score goals herself. Lani and Christina will be very good examples for her to help her understand what is expected at the college level and how she can have success.”
“Annie tore her ACL before coming to camp,” said Kiely. “We expected her to play in our front line. Now she will participate on the team through service, through encouragement and through rehabbing herself and getting herself healthy so she can get back out there with us on the field.”
Before the first week of training camp came to a conclusion, the Warriors had already scrimmaged against two NCAA Division I opponents – Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UC Santa Barbara. On Saturday, the Warriors will conclude its non-countable games by hosting an exhibition against California Baptist at one o’clock.
“It is a great test for us,” said Kiely regarding the early season events. “It is a great way to learn where we are at and the things that we need to work on. It is a good measuring stick against top level teams.”
The non-conference season opens on August 21 and 22 when the Warriors travel to Baldwin City, Kansas to take on #6 Baker and Missouri Valley.
“We want to play against the best that we can all of the time,” explained Kiely. “That is why we have the scrimmages that we do and why we love participating in the conference that we do. Baker (Kan.) made it to the quarterfinals of the national championship last year. My understanding is that Missouri Valley will be a good team this year. Playing those games early is another reason we choose to have the challenging scrimmages.”
The Warriors’ home opener will come on August 31 against Marymount. Located in Palos Verdes, Marymount is a new member of the California Pacific Conference and entering its second year of intercollegiate competition.
The Warriors will host #22 Westminster (Utah) on September 7, then head to Menlo College in Atherton to take on Southern Oregon and William Jessup the following weekend.
“Southern Oregon is usually in the running for the top-30,” noted Kiely. “(Head coach) John Clement has done a great job with his group. They were a hard game for us last year. We walked away with a 2-1 victory, but they will be a tough opponent for us this year, especially at a neutral site.”
The non-conference season concludes on September 18 when the Warriors return to #13 Cal State San Marcos.
“Going back down to San Marcos is going to be tough,” acknowledged Kiely. “I am excited to have that game on the schedule because it puts the team in a tough environment. We kicked them out of the national tournament on their field last fall. They are going to remember that. So, it will be a very hard game, but also a very telling game for us. It will also be a good game for us heading into the GSAC.”
Golden State Athletic Conference play begins on September 25 with a home game against Vanguard. The makeup of the conference changes significantly this year with the loss of Azusa Pacific, Fresno Pacific and Point Loma and the addition of Arizona Christian.
“I think there are five teams that will compete for the GSAC Championship,” said Kiely. “Biola, Concordia, The Master’s Vanguard and Westmont all have strong preseason schedules, strong rosters and a strong desire to walk away with a GSAC Championship.”
Home conference games include Hope International on October 3, Biola on October 6, The Master’s on October 17 and San Diego Christian on October 20.
The GSAC Tournament will begin on October 30 with first round play. The teams that finish in first and second in the GSAC standings will receive a first round bye. The third place team will host the sixth place team and the fourth place team will host team number five. The semifinals will be held on November 2 with the first place team hosting the highest remaining seed. The championship game is scheduled for November 9 at the home of the higher seed.
The first round of the NAIA National Championship will be played on November 17 at campus locations around the country. Winners will advance for subsequent rounds November 26 through December 1 in Orange Beach, Alabama.