July 31, 2012
Coach Salmon Training Camp Preview
By Jeff Geiser
CINCINNATI – As University of Cincinnati women’s soccer head coach Michelle Salmon opens her fifth training camp with the Bearcats on Wednesday, the message to her team is clear: Rise Up.
Last season, Cincinnati had numerous matches end the wrong way despite routinely dominating possession of the ball and outshooting opponents. This year, Salmon is challenging her team to go beyond that and make the play that wins the match.
The Bearcats, who return 19 letterwinners from a club that went 6-9-4 in 2011, outshot their opponents 282-257 last season.
“I thought last year we competed and dominated games in the BIG EAST at times. This year it’s a different mindset. These players know from the get-go that it’ll be a challenge to even start. To put it point blank - rise up and win. There’s been enough talk; it’s time to put it into action.”
UC will boast a unique blend of youth and experience in 2012 after five true freshmen started at least 10 matches last season. Four of the five started all 19 contests, including leading scorer Mackenzie Grause (6 goals, 3 assists) and goalkeeper Kristina Utley, who finished second in the BIG EAST with 91 saves.
The biggest challenges the Bearcats will face during training camp will be blending seven true freshmen with the returners and finding players who can adequately fill the void in the defensive backline after the departure of graduates Kelli Pawelko and Erin Kaufmann.
In addition to the seven freshmen, Cincinnati has two key additions to its coaching staff in assistant coach Michael Crane, who arrived via University of South Alabama, and veteran assistant Sandy Davison, who boasts more than a decade coaching in the U.S. Youth National scene.
“What a great advantage and resource having two staff members having never seen our players play,” said Salmon. “They’re getting a fresh set of eyes on them and they might see something we miss, or maybe we should move a player to another position that we didn’t think about before. Whenever you get a fresh set of eyes, there is opportunity for players to move positions and opportunity for players to earn more playing time.”
Arguably the biggest training camp battle will take place in goal. The incumbent starter, Utley, must hold off senior Ashley Daniels, who started during the 2012 exhibition season, and highly touted freshman Natalie Smith.
The team figures to be in the best shape it’s been in heading into camp since Salmon’s arrival after approximately 90 percent of the team played summer ball, by far the highest total during her Bearcats tenure.
Health-wise, the Bearcats are sitting in relatively solid ground. Daniels will miss the first 2-3 weeks of camp as she recovers from a leg injury. Junior midfielder Natalie Dominic is expected to return in October after suffering an ankle injury in the spring. Junior forward Katie Buczek is out for the season with a head injury and sophomore Elizabeth Wargo, who suffered a knee injury in 2011, has been deemed medically disqualified and will serve as a student assistant in 2012.
Cincinnati will hold fitness tests at 7 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, followed by two-a-day practice sessions from 9-11 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. up until its first exhibition match on Tuesday.