2012 Calvin Women’s Soccer Outlook
Sunday, August 19, 2012
By Mark DeHaan
From 2005-2010, the Calvin women’s soccer team was a model of consistency as the Knights made the NCAA National tournament each of those years and won no less than 15 games.
Unfortunately for the Knights, that streak ended in 2011 as one of the youngest teams in Calvin history earned a 10-10-0 overall record.
With just three upperclassmen on the roster in the fall of 2011 the Knights were forced to replace seven starters from the 2010 season. Despite this drastic change, Calvin fell one win short of making the MIAA season ending tournament, finishing fifth in the standings with a 10-6-0 record in conference.
Said Head Coach Mark Recker: “We took great heart from being in a position (in the MIAA) that with a few more wins may have put us right in the hunt and this after losing seven starters from the previous years squad.”
While the 2012 squad will not have to deal with the loss of seven starters, it still has to replace last year’s lone senior and starting center midfield, Kara Zondervan. “The team benefited from the maturity and perseverance of our lone senior,” said Recker.
But, with a young squad comes a great amount of experience at a young age, and Recker explained that Zondervan was not the only one in the midfield who offered a stabilizing presence. “Several teammates were significant factors in the leadership of a team that was rebuilding. Midfielders Francesca (Smith) and Danielle (Carter) were major contributors to sustaining our performance standards and team unity as captains on a young team,” said Recker. “Liz (Cancel) joined with them in demonstrating what it means to be a team member and a performer. These three returning members of last year’s team will lead us into this coming season and do so confidently.”
Smith has started all 61 games in her Calvin career, while Cancel, a forward, was the leading scorer on the squad last year. Smith and Cancel are the only two seniors on the roster for this fall and both were named first team All-MIAA last season. “As seasoned members of the team and players passionate about soccer, both take great pride in their own specific play as well as the product and performance of the team,” commented Recker. “Each will do what they do best in making contributions to the excellence of our corporate praise.”
Calvin will also be deep at the critical goalkeeper position as junior Ashton Hearn and sophomores Stephanie Goeldner (Des Moines, IA/Des Moines Christian HS) and Lauren Merz (Spring Lake/Western Michigan Christian HS) all return. Hearn was an All-MIAA second team selection in 2010 and saw action in 12 games in 2011, starting in five. Merz appeared in 14 games in 2011, starting in 10 while Goeldner saw action in six games with three starts to her credit.
With all but two players returning, Recker explained that the ups and downs of last year’s season aided in the development of this year’s squad. Still, each team faces a new and completely different season, and with it new challenges. “Being challenged to perform consistently is a lesson this team faced last season and every team has to learn year to year. It remains one of my focuses because it is a challenge to play with excellence game-in-and-game-out,” said Recker. “Working hard is a key ingredient and my perception is that this team has this character in a large number of its members.”
The Knights open their season against the national runner-up from one year ago in CCIW foe Wheaton College.
Recker commented on playing the Thunder in Calvin’s very first game and how he hopes to match up against a very strong returning Wheaton squad: “We hope to play head-to-head – each year is a beginning for every team, every team is human and past performance does not necessarily equate to performance repetition. Wheaton is a quality program and offers us an opportunity to measure who we are, where we are at, and what elements need further refinement or development.”
Calvin also plays non-conference games against Illinois Wesleyan and Robert Morris–Springfield before diving into the thick of their conference schedule.
“The MIAA league will be fun competition. Teams in the league showed some parity last season as evidenced by the final standings,” said Recker. Adrian finished tops in the MIAA at a 14-2 conference record but was defeated by Alma, who finished with a 12-3 conference record, in the tournament championship as the Scots earned the MIAA NCAA tournament bid.
“Adding a freshman class with additional skills will be a step toward higher performance as a team (in the MIAA) – how they adjust to the demands of collegiate soccer and speed with which they adjust will make all the difference as the coaching staff put the skill sets together,” added Recker.
In the end, Recker hopes that this year’s Calvin squad does what Alma did last year, earning the MIAA’s bid to the NCAA tournament. Through its non-conference and MIAA play, Recker hopes that this year’s Knight team will “play hard and pursue excellence each time the team steps on the field, grow in our joy of being teammates and performers who have the privilege or praising God through play, and represent what we profess both in our interactions and by the manner in which we compete.”