2011 Calvin Women’s Soccer Outlook
Monday, August 15, 2011
By Sports Information Student Assistant Derek Neice
Coming off a stellar season that included an MIAA tournament title and an undefeated home record, the 2011 Calvin Women’s soccer program looks again to get back on the pitch and replicate its success this upcoming fall. Despite losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last November, the Knights still boasted a 15-3-2 record and certainly will look to maintain the confidence with which they finished the 2010 season.
With the tradition that Calvin soccer offers, there are always talented freshmen looking to make their mark on the team, and having lost the past senior class of six players to graduation, this year should provide plenty of opportunities for playing time among what is ultimately a very young lineup.
One of the biggest things to watch for is where the leadership this season will come from. With only one senior on the roster in the form of Kara Zondervan, there will be a big need for new leaders to step up and take on the roles left by the graduated seniors.
“Kara has never faltered in her passion for the game and her willingness to work hard on the field and I believe strongly that Kara is going to be a big impact player on our team this year,” Calvin Coach Mark Recker said of where he expects leadership to come from this season. He continued, saying, “In addition to Kara, we have players like Francesca [Smith], Danielle [Carter], and Jill [Honderd] returning and I suspect that each of them will step into the needed roles of leadership left by the graduating class of last season.”
Last year, Calvin’s defensive game was certainly one of the more reliable and consistent components of the winning chemistry that the Knights developed as a team. Conceding a mere seven goals over the course of the season, the back line definitely did its part as a whole while the offense scored a whopping 41 goals, making the goals for/against ratio a very elite number indeed.
Looking to this fall then, it will definitely start out as a work in progress on that back line. With two starting spots being vacated by seniors Kellie Honderd and Lauren Heyboer and another opened up with the transfer of freshman Liz Drennan to the University of Illinois, there looks to be a lot of room for the development of a working combination defensively.
One player to watch is sophomore Laura VanEngen who brings back size and power on the defensive line after a good freshman season off the bench. And with the kind of players Calvin brings in and develops, there should be no doubt that the rest of the pieces will find a way to fit together and succeed fairly quickly.
“Our defensive unit will be young and we will have some learning experiences,” Coach Recker said of his defense this fall. “Still I think that the potential is there for a strong group to emerge led by some potential returners.”
Connected to this is the goalkeeper situation. A piece going into last year’s puzzle was that Calvin only had one goalie on the roster for the entire season in that of freshman Ashton Hearn. Tallying 56 saves for the year and a .889 save percentage, Hearn certainly has to be the frontrunner for the 2011 starting keeper position given her year of experience. But an influx of four freshman keepers this fall will make for an interesting competition to see who is on the line when the season starts up in September.
“Coach TerHaar is looking forward to the building of a strong supportive group who challenge each other to excel,” said Recker. “Ashton [Hearn] has the advantage of having been through a season and knowing what we need from her.”
Offensively is where Calvin returns the bulk of its starters. Even with the loss of senior midfielder and 2010 MIAA Most Valuable Player Carly Prins, the attacking game should be strong. Aside from Prins, two of the top four goal scorers on the team are back as well as a returning attack player who took all of last season off.
Juniors Smith, Liz Cancel, and sophomore Brittany Hieftje all return this season as impact offensive players in their Calvin careers. Last season Hieftje tallied 5 goals and Smith scored 4, with Smith also adding 3 assists to help lead the team in points behind Prins.
Cancel, a dynamic scorer her freshman year at Calvin [5 goals 1 assist], returns to the pitch after a year away and should immediately find her groove again in this offense.
“She can be a real threat given her quickness and her finishing skills,” Recker said of Cancel’s return to the squad. “She has the potential to raise the standard of play on the field and our hope is that she bring her A-Game every day.”
Smith, Calvin’s midfield maestro, will also be a team captain this season, and Recker is confident that she and Honderd will help to raise the level of play on the pitch each and every game.
“Francesca [Smith] returns and has the added dimension of bringing the team along with her to a level of performance she has come to expect at Calvin,” Recker said.
Along with these talented scorers in the midfield and attacking third, Danielle Carter returns as a sophomore after starting in every game as a freshman last season and scoring three goals. Carter also showed a great eye for distribution in the midfield.
Additional returners in the midfield and forward positions who made impacts last year as freshman are now-sophomores Paige Rindels, who scored three goals and added an assist, Kelly Koets, who scored a pair of goals, and Heidi Scholten, who managed an assist in the time she saw off the bench.
On offense and defense, the rest of the mix will be decided by the incoming freshmen as well as a few other players from last year who did not factor in to many of the games that the Knights played.
“Each season the freshman class rewrites the script of anticipated direction of team performance,” Recker commented about how the freshmen impact the team. “This year’s incoming class is no exception, and I have high hopes for this group.”
Aside from the roster changes this season, another thing to watch for is a change in the scheduling for the MIAA. This season will shift back to a double round-robin regular season where you play every other team twice (home and away), with a post season tournament as well; the winner of that tournament gains the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.