2012 Spartan Women’s Soccer Preview
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Having completed the best season in program history last fall, the Case Western Reserve University women's soccer team features 13 letterwinners and five returning starters as it aims for a University Athletic Association Championship and a second-straight NCAA Tournament berth.
The Spartans, ranked No. 17 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division III Preseason Poll, concluded the 2011 campaign at 13-4-3 overall with a 4-2-1 record in the ultra-competitive UAA. The squad ended the season with school records for both wins and shutouts (11). Additionally, Case earned the program's first-ever national ranking in mid-October and reached the NCAA Championship Tournament for the first time in team history.
Sixth-year Head Coach Tiffany Crooks, leader of the reigning UAA Coaching Staff of the Year, returns an abundance of talent and experience across the roster, but will have to replace seven seniors, six starters and NSCAA All-American Kendra Simmons (Medina, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit), who will sit out her senior year with a medical condition.
"Our program will absolutely miss last year's senior class as well as Kendra (Simmons)," said Crooks. "Those losses leave us with some definite holes, but we will not try to fill them. Rather, this scenario opens up space for other players to emerge and create new roles for themselves. It also gives us an opportunity to get creative and expand on what we've done in the past."
Last season, the Spartans led the conference with a program-best seven All-UAA selections and four first-teamers. Prior to that, CWRU women's soccer hadn't had a first-team All-UAA pick since 2003.
This fall, the Spartans return four of the seven All-UAA selections, including a first-team honoree in junior forward Leah Levey (Columbus, Ohio/Bexley). An NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region Second Team honoree, Levey was third on the team with eight points on two goals and a team-high tying four assists. A versatile player that can also play the midfield, Levey has 21 points on eight goals and five assists in 38 career matches.
Leah's older sister and senior tri-captain/midfielder Deena Levey (Columbus, Ohio/Bexley), also a three-time All-UAA honoree, produced a solid 2011 season with five points on a goal and three assists. In 54 career matches, Deena has recorded 22 points on six goals and 10 assists.
"The Levey sisters are key players for us," noted Crooks. "Each is very strong tactically, works hard, and has the ability to impact the game in different ways. They complement each other well, and we will count on them a great deal this season."
Bourque was second on the squad with nine points on four goals and an assist, while Lee had six points on two goals and two assists.
"Rachel (Bourque) has great speed and continues to develop into one of our top scorers," said Crooks. "Devyn (Lee) brings great size, experience and the ability to impact the game in key situations."
Along with Bourque and Lee, the Spartans return an additional midfielder with significant experience in graduate student Alexandra Litofsky (Columbia, Mo./Rock Bridge) as well as experienced forwards in senior Alyssa Lauzau (Pickerington, Ohio/Bishop Hartley) and sophomores Jessie Sabers (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Jerome) and Christine Straka (Prospect Hills, Ill./Saint Viator).
Litofsky saw action in 19 games with four starts and totaled a goal and an assist, while Lauzau tallied three scores, including a game-winner, with one helper. Sabers concluded her first collegiate season tied for third on the squad with eight points on a pair of goals and a team-high tying four assists, while Straka appeared in 18 matches with a pair of goals.
With the losses of several key cogs on the backline, Crooks will turn to senior defender and tri-captain Maeve Goede (Westlake, Ohio/Westlake) to anchor a unit that allowed just 11 goals in 20 matches. Goede scored her first career goal, the eventual game-winner, during Case's NCAA Championship First Round victory versus Lebanon Valley College (Pa.).
"Maeve (Goede) brings a very physical presence to our defense, and with 51 career starts, she is one of the most experienced players in the league," said Crooks. "We'll rely on her to lead the defensive effort as some of our other players settle into their roles."
Crooks also expects extended playing time for junior Katie Chapin (Basking Ridge, N.J./Villa Walsh Academy) and sophomore Nicole Harioka (Danville, Calif./Carondelet). Chapin appeared in 16 games a season ago, while Harioka logged minutes in eight contests.
The Spartan sophomore class returns five additional players that will compete for time including midfielder/forward Caitlyn McGillis (Fraser, Mich./Regina), midfielders Makenzie Best (Grove City, Ohio/Grove City) and Maureen O'Reilly (Florence, Mass./Northampton), defender Megan Novak (Powell, Ohio/Olentangy Liberty) and midfielder/forward Allie Debeljak (Beachwood, Ohio/Beachwood).
McGillis saw game action in 19 contests and recorded an assist. Best played in seven games with two assists, while Novak played in five contests.
The starting goalkeeper job will be up for grabs as the team loses the program's all-time shutouts leader in 2012 graduate Anna Kennedy. Junior Kerry Martenis (Southgate, Mich./Southgate) returns with the most experience, while sophomore Cameron Casson (Allen, Texas/Allen) played in one match as a rookie. Crooks also sees a pair of freshmen in the mix at the position.
Even with a roster full of experienced players, Crooks is looking forward to significant contributions from her freshman class.
"I expect the freshmen to come in ready to compete and to make a statement," noted Crooks. "This is a very talented group and their contagious energy will help everyone in our program."
The Spartans' 2012 schedule features matches versus four preseason nationally-ranked programs—two of which are UAA squads. The team opens with a trio of road matches versus Heidelberg University on Friday, August 31, preseason No. 12 Ohio Northern University on Sunday, September 2 and Denison University on Wednesday, Sept. 5. The team's home-opener is set for Saturday, Sept. 8 versus preseason No. 24 Centre College (Ky.) at Case Field and the UAA slate begins on Saturday, Sept. 29 at home versus New York University at 5:00 p.m. as part of CWRU's Homecoming Weekend festivities.
"The UAA, like every year, will be the best conference in the country," said Crooks. "Top to bottom, every single team can compete. Looking at our non-conference schedule, it is our toughest yet in the time I have been here. Playing top teams in the Great Lakes Region as well as the country will allow us to see where we fit in the big picture. We're very fortunate to play against the best, and we will have to show up prepared and ready to perform during every match."