Women’s Soccer Team Seeking Quality Play in 2009
Saturday, August 08, 2009
The Calvin women’s soccer team will be seeking its fifth consecutive MIAA title this fall.
Head coach Mark Recker understands that doing so will not be easy.
“Our league is very balanced,” said Recker this summer. “There are teams like Albion, Hope and Kalamazoo who have won MIAA championships that are always a threat and there are teams like Alma and Adrian that made huge jumps forward last fall and are hungry for more. Finding a way to finish out in front of the pack this will be a challenge but I think our team is up for the challenge.”
The Knights return a veteran team led by four individuals that were named to the 2008 All-MIAA first team and one that was named to the 2008 All-MIAA second team.
Returning players that earned All-MIAA first team honors in 2008 include senior goalkeeper Kayla Sulzer (St. Charles, MO/Whitfield HS), senior midfielder Emily Ottenhoff (Palos Heights, IL/Chicago Christian HS), senior defensive back Allison Boender (Grandville, Mich./Calvin Christian HS) and junior midfielder/striker Carly Prins (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS). In addition, senior striker Natalie Veurink (Spring Lake/Western Michigan Christian HS) returns after landing a spot on the 2008 All-MIAA second team.
The group is part of a cast of 14 returning letterwinners on the Calvin roster. “We have a good nucleus of players returning including several players with quality experience,” said Recker. “We have some good building blocks to work with.”
A three-year starter, Ottenhoff served as the fulcrum of the Calvin offense in 2008 in center midfield, amassing 12 goals, three assists and 27 points while providing five game-winning goals. A two-sport athlete who also serves as a point guard on the Calvin women’s basketball team, Ottenhoff has career totals of 25 goals, seven assists and 57 points. Of her 25 goals, 11 have been game-winners.
A two-year starter up front, Prins also provides scoring punch as she netted 11 goals in 2007 and added seven goals and seven assists in 2008. A two-time first team All-MIAA selection, Prins also had three goals and two assists in Calvin’s three-game run to the 2008 MIAA Tournament title.
A key component of Calvin’s defense will be Sulzer who is 19-3-5 during her career in nets. A year ago, Sulzer was 7-2-2 with a goals-against-average of 0.35 while also receiving a spot on the Great Lakes All-Region third team.
Boender brings solid marking skills to Calvin’s defensive unit. A two-year starter, Boender helped Calvin post 16 shutouts in 2008. Boender also has offensive ability with career totals of six goals, one assist and 13 points. In addition to landing on the All-MIAA first team in 2008, Boender was also named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District second team.
Veurink is another savvy veteran with the ability to score. In 2008, Veurink scored nine goals along with five assists for 23 points. Of her nine goals, three were game-winners including a sudden-death overtime goal in a 1-0 double-overtime win over the College of Mount St. Joseph in a first round NCAA III Tournament game last November.
Other returning letterwinners include senior Krista Johnson (Cincinnati, OH/Turpin HS), juniors Lauren Heyboer (Kalamazoo, MI/Kalamazoo Christian HS), Elaine Schnabel (Chesterton, IN/Chesterton HS), Kellie Honderd (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian HS), Mindy Capisciolto (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian HS) and Stephanie Malburg (Grand Rapids, MI/Forest Hills Northern HS) and sophomores Kimberly Schmitkons (Baldwinsville, NY/Faith Heritage HS), Kelsey McCallops (Hudson, OH/Western Reserve Academy) and Kara Zondervan (Lakewood, CA/Valley Christian HS).
Heyboer, Schnabel, Honderd and Capisciolto were all members of the starting lineup during the 2008 season. Capisciolto took over the sweeper’s position early in the 2008 conference season after an injury to four-year starter Ashley Bolen and performed admirably. Heyboer and Honderd also held starting spots on defense.
“We have a quality group of defenders which should give us the potential of putting together another quality defensive unit,” said Recker. “If you want to win championships, you have to be solid on defense and we feel that we once again have the makings of a strong defensive unit.”
Johnson and Schnabel help fill out the midfield. Schnabel was particularly affective in her first-year as a starter last fall, accumulating six goals, five assists and 17 points. Two of her goals were game-winners.
Malburg has served as a strong reserve up front during her collegiate career, picking up three goals and three assists off the bench.
The Knights will also welcome a strong incoming freshmen class of players. “There are several incoming players that have the potential for value added participation,” said Recker of his incoming recruiting class. “We feel that the new players will bring quality play to our program.”
Ranked 17th in the final Division III Top 25 poll of the 2008 season, Calvin will face five (NCAA III) non-conference opponents that were also nationally-ranked in the final poll during the 2009 season. Calvin will travel to national runner-up Wheaton (IL) on September 26, will face (7th-ranked) Otterbein on September 4 in a tournament hosted by Ohio Northern, will host (20th-ranked) Denison on September 11 and (8th-ranked) Washington University of Missouri on September 19 and also journey to (16th-ranked) University of Chicago on September 15. The Knights will also host Madonna on September 9. Madonna was ranked 22nd in the final NAIA Top 25 poll in 2008.
Other non-conference opponents include Aquinas (September 1), Ohio Northern (September 5) and Kenyon (September 12).
“We have a challenging schedule without question,” said Recker. “My opinion is that we need to face the top teams in the Great Lakes and Central region in order to be prepared for our conference season and make a run for our league championship.”
The 2009 season will also see Calvin move from the Great Lakes Region to the Central Region. In addition to the MIAA, the Central Region will includes schools from the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW), St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC), Northern Athletics Conference (NAC) and will also include the University of Chicago, Washington University of Missouri and Mount Mary College.
The MIAA season will also see a change as the conference title will solely consist of the eight-game MIAA regular season. Over the previous three years, the overall conference title consisted of a combination of the regular season and MIAA post-season tournament. This year’s post-season MIAA Tournament will not determine the MIAA champion but it will solely determine the league’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA III Tournament. The MIAA tournament will also shrink to six teams this fall with the top two seeds receiving first round byes. Before, the top eight teams from the regular season standings advanced to the MIAA Tournament.
“Certainly our primary focus is on our conference schedule and our conference tournament,” said Recker. “We know that if we want to play in the national tournament, we will have to win our conference tournament first.”
Calvin’s conference season is scheduled to begin on September 30 when the Knights host Albion at 4:00 p.m. The first round of the MIAA Tournament is scheduled to take place on October 31 with the semifinals set for November 3 and the finals for November 7.