2013 Calvin Women’s Soccer Preview
Friday, August 16, 2013
By Mark DeHaan
In 2012, the Calvin women’s soccer team was expected to struggle, namely due to a young roster, an unfamiliarity with the college ranks, and a 10-10-0 record in 2011. Chosen to finish fifth in the preseason MIAA rankings, the Knights showed early chemistry and were able to surprise the conference, earning the regular season and tournament MIAA championships en route to a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament. In the tournament, Calvin again surprised its opponent, defeating nationally-ranked Aurora on a golden-goal in extra time in round one before bowing out in the second round to fifth-ranked Loras. Calvin finished the season 16-5-1, including 12-3-1 in conference.
However, the Knights will be no surprise in 2013. Losing just two seniors to graduation, Calvin returns the majority of its roster while looking for leadership from an experienced class of new seniors.
In 2013, the Knights look to replace the production of graduated seniors Francesca Smith and Liz Cancel. Smith started all four years for Calvin while Cancel tallied 23 career goals and 12 career assists.
Calvin’s senior class of 2013 begins with Danielle Carter, a 2012 All-MIAA first team selection, and Heidi Scholten in the midfield. Carter has started every game she has appeared in as a Knight while Scholten started all 22 games last season.
“Dani and Heidi have played major roles in the middle of our field,” said head coach Mark Recker. “They both cover a lot of ground and they set the tone for the rest of the team. I think that they’re key to whatever tempo we create on the field and they’ve been good enough to follow the lead of the tempo I’m looking for our team to play at.”
Recker will look to senior (junior eligibility) Paige Rindels, junior Elle Burman, and sophomores Abby Ploeg and Christina Drost to play out wide as well as spell Carter and Scholten at center mid.
Up top, Calvin will look to senior Kelly Koets to lead the team’s versatile attack. Koets tied for the team high with ten goals last season with sophomore Taylor TenHarmsel. TenHarmsel was a first team All-MIAA selection in 2012. Sophomore Paige Capel led the team with seven assists. All three forwards are important members of an offense which topped the MIAA with 46 goals in league play last season.
“Kelly’s understanding of the game and passion and execution have improved every year,” said Recker. “I think last year we saw the mental toughness start coming out, especially during our NCAA games. Taylor is fantastic on the ball, a distributor, and can finish at any time. Paige is just a hard constant worker who is unselfish and services great balls to others because of that unselfishness. Each athlete plays differently – they have different strengths and gifts that they bring to the field – each one also offers a different challenge to an opposing defense to try and manage.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Calvin will see three-year starter and senior Ashton Hearn in net. Hearn posted a goal-against average of just 0.90 last season while playing over 1800 minutes in goal.
“Ashton has three years in net and each year she gets better. She had several big saves, both in our tournament run and during the year. My hope is that she’ll continue being able to make key saves while the defense limits the total number of shots at her.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise of last season was the stellar play of the then all-freshmen back line of Kelsey Hiegel, Sydney Kinney, and Jaimie Verbal. Kinney was a member of the 2012 All-MIAA second team. The Knights allowed just 19 goals all season, including just ten in conference play, the lowest amount of any team in the league.
“For whatever reason, the chemistry of those three hit stride right away,” said Recker. “I don’t think you could say that was anything magical from a coaching perspective, it just seemed that the three understood what the other was going to do.”
Calvin opens the season on August 31 with a non-conference home match-up against Montreat (NC) College before traveling to Milwaukee, Wisconsin September 6 and 7 for a weekend tournament hosted by Milwaukee School of Engineering. The Knights will face Loras (IA) College, who knocked them out of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, and North Park (IL) University. Calvin begins the MIAA portion of its schedule September 9 at Alma College.
As a team, Recker hopes that his team will again compete for an MIAA title and an NCAA III Tournament berth.
“We’d definitely like to repeat as MIAA champions and tournament champions, and it would be great if we could make our run to the regional finals in the NCAA tournament if (a tournament berth) should happen,” said Recker. “But my tendency in approaching every season is you have one game to play each week and take one day at a time, respecting each and every opponent.”
But, due to surprisingly strong play in 2012, he knows that the rest of the league won’t take them as lightly as they did at the beginning of last year.
“This team played passionately last year when they were on the field, and I don’t think that will change this year, and I think we’ll be in the hunt from the beginning. My assessment is that the league will think that we’ll be right up there near the top, the difference being they now know what we have, and last year they did not.”