Women's Soccer Confident Entering Season Opener|
Aug. 16, 2010
By Jeff Geiser
The anticipation for a great season is mounting for the University of Cincinnati women's soccer team, with its 2010 regular season set to begin in three days.
Head coach Michelle Salmonbelieves her team is fully prepared for a grueling schedule and likes the progress the program has made in her third year.
"When we look at the plan, I think we'll be competing for (a BIG EAST championship) this year," Salmon declares. "I think we'll be in the mix of it, I really do."
Salmon is not the only one with these expectations. Co-captain Logan Ballinger, a redshirt junior midfielder, thinks anything less than a first-place finish will be a disappointment.
"We're going to go into the BIG EAST to take the championship," says Ballinger.
One of the reasons for the high expectations from a team that finished 13th in the BIG EAST in 2009 is the camaraderie that has developed since last year, as well as the influx of talented newcomers.
"In year three, you can really see that big picture come together, with the freshmen coming in and the veterans that are returning," explains Salmon. "It's such a great thing to see, the environment and culture that's cultivated a competitive, yet championship approach."
After a successful spring season that featured wins over Indiana, Vanderbilt and Marshall, a few of the upperclassmen approached Salmon about enrolling in summer school in order for the team to stay on campus and practice together.
"This is the first year we've had everyone in summer school," recalls Salmon. "The captains came in and said, `The team would like to do summer school. Is there any possible way?' Hats off to the administration. They gave us the luxury of doing that."
Salmon believes the extra training sessions have helped her 10 incoming freshmen get acclimated to college life and improve their conditioning.
"When you look at our freshmen, they've been here since the middle of July training with Kelly Howe, who is fantastic. She's the best strength and conditioning coach I've ever worked with in my life," says Salmon. "So those girls are fit, which is half the battle in preseason. My understanding from the captains is those guys played pickup every night; so they're sharp."
Freshman Kate Schmidt, a midfielder from Sylvania, Ohio, is widely considered the newcomer who will make the most immediate impact this season.
"Kate Schmidtis the one I'm really excited about," says Ballinger. "She's got a good mentality and good physicality out there."
"(Schmidt's) a really good freshman and will be in the starting lineup. Kate is a complete player. She's great in the air. She's a tremendous attacker of the ball, and has great vision.
"With Kate Schmidtplaying the way she's playing, and being a dominant player in practice, the returnees are pumped," Salmon states. "They're excited because they're surrounded by really great players. It's not just your starting 11."
Other touted freshmen - such as forwards Alexis Scott, Jazmine Rhodes, Katie Greer and Katie Buczek - are expected to take the scoring load off of the veterans, which include the top three scorers from 2009: redshirt junior forward Emily Hebbeler; senior forward Kendall Loggins; and junior forward Julie Morrissey.
The Bearcats road to the 2010 BIG EAST championship starts at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20 vs. Morehead State at Gettler Stadium.