Trojans Ready to Leave Their Mark in 2016|
Aug. 19, 2016
#LEAVEyOURMARK. This is the mantra for the 2016 women’s soccer Trojans as they embark on a season with high expectations.
It is important to notice the emphasis on “Leave OUR mark,” as opposed to “Leave YOUR mark,” explained third-year head coach Keidane McAlpine. “The value we are preaching is selflessness. I think those two concepts are going to bind us together and will allow us to have a better season than we have had before.”
This year’s squad is no longer the underdog. As preseason No. 11 according to the NSCAA, preseason No. 8 in TopDrawerSoccer’s poll, and picked to finish second in the Pac-12 Conference by a vote of the league’s coaches, there are high expectations both internally and externally. The team is coming off a NCAA Tournament Round of 16 finish in 2015, where they finished an impressive 15-6-2 and were second in the Pac-12 with a 9-2 record. The team also boasts bone fide stars in Morgan Andrews and Kayla Mills, both NSCAA Second Team All-Americans in 2015 who are on the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy Award watch list.
However, the message from McAlpine to keep his team focused on the task at hand has been consistent. This particular group has not done anything yet.
“Last year’s team did a great job, and thus they are being recognized for the work that they did, but this team still hasn’t won a game or even played a game and there is growth to be had. We need to be diligent in the work that we put in, the discipline in our details and be reminded that it took a lot of effort and sweat to get to be able to have the experiences we have had over the last two years. Only that same type of effort, plus a little more will help us to do a little better. If we don’t do those things, we will not have the same type of success,” said McAlpine.
On the preseason accolades for the likes of Andrews and Mills, Coach McAlpine is excited for their national recognition, but believes it is a bigger testament to the success of the group.
“That is really the goal with this team, explained McAlpine. “If someone is going to get recognized, it is going to take all 30 of us to push forward to get it done. That’s our goal to do it together. If an individual gets recognized that’s great. Those two [Andrews, Mills] are just out in front right now, but it could be any number of women on our team. However, it won’t happen unless our team does what it is supposed to.”
The Trojans started preseason team workouts in early August, building to the season opener set for Friday, August 19 under the lights at perennial power Santa Clara.
“I have been really pleased with the starting point of this group,” said McAlpine.” The starters have come back focused, locked in and sharp. But more importantly, they have done a great job of integrating the new players into the team and thus the tempo and speed at which we are learning and the things we are trying to accomplish has been really exciting. The depth of the team has improved. That is something that is going to be very beneficial for the team going forward.”
The 30-member squad boasts 19 returners and 11 newcomers, including two key transfer strikers in Alex Anthony (Maryland) and Leah Pruitt (San Diego State). Nine of 11 starters return from last season’s Sweet 16 team, so the 11 newcomers provide great depth to an already strong side, and many will play key roles for the Trojans in 2016.
One key returner for the Trojans is goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme, who finished the 2015 slate with a 0.68 goals against average and 10 clean sheets while starting all 23 games. Adding to the goalkeeping core is junior Julia Murphy and freshman Kaylie Collins.
“Sammy Jo is going to be pivotal in what we are trying to do this year, but with Julia and Kailey we still have some very good competition going on,” said McAlpine.
The Trojan back line is led by the 2015 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Kayla Mills, who is expected to have a huge senior campaign. Joining her on the back line will be 2015 Pac-12 All-Freshman team selection Ally Prisock. Senior Savannah Levin is expected to step into a defensive role, along with a strong core of freshmen and sophomores in Erika Okuma, Courtney Corrin, Samantha Bruder, Julia Bingham and Lulu Pullar.
“We return the core of the group, said McAlpine. “We do have a hole to fill, but it’s coming together nicely with Ally and Kayla in particular leading the way for the group.”
The Trojan midfield provides a strong core that’s probably the deepest position on the team. Leading the way are seniors Morgan Andrews and Mandy Freeman, both highly decorated players. Andrews was the leading scorer for the Trojans with an impressive 12 goals in 2015. Juniors Amanda Rooney, Nicole Molen and Sydney Sladek are also impact midfielders for the Trojans. Sophomore transfer Sydney Myers is back from injury in 2016 and will also be a big contributor, along with Nikki Rosen, who has shown noticeable growth in the role heading into her sophomore campaign. Finally, additions in true freshmen Daria Petredes, Ashleigh Plumptre and Jalen Woodward has provided the Trojans further depth with tactically sound players that fit right into the system.
“The front line is where we have our biggest boost, with Katie Johnson returning from injury, with Sydney Johnson playing very well last year and now being a year older with more confidence,” said McAlpine. “Olga Langenskiöld is also coming off injury and will add to the core, while Hailey Hite has shown great development heading into her sophomore season.”
According to McAlpine, the most important thing for this team is the competitive environment that has been created by the depth of talent, which is exactly where he wants the team to be in this part of the year.
“Now we just have to figure out where the chemistry and symmetry is going to be in terms of the personnel that will start games, sub rotations and partnerships throughout the lineup. It is a difficult job for me, but a great environment for the players,” exclaimed McAlpine.
“As we grow closer as a unit, remain selfless and remember the experiences we already had, we give ourselves a chance to do something a little bit better.”
There is no question that the Trojans not only have the chance to leave their mark, but to make a huge impression on the Division I women’s college soccer front in 2016.