PALATINE HILL -- A lot of home games. That's the plan for Lewis & Clark head coach Jim Tursi to get his young team comfortable entering the 2017 season.
"I scheduled all home games because I've had back-to-back classes of 13 freshmen or so the last two years, so I figured home would be the best place to learn," said Tursi, who starts his eighth season leading the program.
Of the 26 on the Lewis & Clark roster, 22 are underclassmen. As a result, all four of the team's non-conference games, as well as two exhibitions, are at Griswold Stadium in Portland.
Despite the youth, the primary goal scorers are back, as returning sophomores accounted for 86 percent of Lewis & Clark's goals in 2016.
Kori Swanson and Tasha Addington-Ferris are the team's seniors this year. Swanson is a captain who is coming off an injury last season and is expected to be one of the team's best leaders. Addington-Ferris brings great size to the defense and returns after missing her junior season to study overseas.
In the junior class, Mali PetersonWood has played in 30 games despite battling injuries over her first two years. She is one of the team's most skilled players and will be utilized in multiple spots. Erin Lutz is a great striker who will have the opportunity to get scoring chances from all over the field.
Two of Lewis & Clark's goalkeepers are returning sophomores. Hannah Osmundson started 17 of the team's 20 games in goal last season, finishing with a 3-10-2 record. She made the fourth-most saves, 82, in the Northwest Conference last season. Emily Schmelling started two matches a year ago and was in six matches overall. She made 13 saves and allowed three goals.
Paige Barta and Alexa Hanson are returning sophomore defenders who will both be captains this year. Barta, with great speed and grit, emerged as a defensive mainstay for the Pioneers during her freshman season. She started all 20 games and posted two assists in 2016. Hanson is the heart and soul of the team and will be relied upon to play well this year. She scored her first career goal last October at Puget Sound. Terra Clarke made four appearances last season and has shown she's capable when called upon.
In the midfield, Caroline Hennes is back for her second season after leading the team with eight goals in her debut year, which ranked her second in the NWC in scoring. The All-NWC Honorable Mention selection returned for the fall tremendously fit and will face the challenge of being the Pios' most marked player this season. Lulu Adams and Sarah Howard are expected to provide valuable minutes out wide, a demanding spot in Tursi's scheme. Adams started five games last season and scored a goal, while Howard was in the starting lineup for two games and competed in track and field last spring as well. Emily McCarty returns and has shown well during fall practice after an offseason of hard work.
Up front, Anna Saucedo showed the ability to create opportunities to score during her freshman season and is expected to progress with her chances to get the ball in goal. She took the second-most shots on the team in 2016 and scored once during her 16 starts.
Lewis & Clark brought in another large freshman class again this season, welcoming 12 first-year student-athletes. McKenzie Wingard is a forward from Missoula, Mont. and shows good pace. She could lead the team in scoring if she's able to recover from an early-season injury. Kennie Beighle comes from a state championship program and has impressive speed. The Bellevue, Wash. native will be out wide to create opportunities for the Pios. Courtney Schmidt of Denver, Colo. is a talented forward who will play up front. The four-year letter winner and all-conference selection is working through an early injury.
Defensively, Giana Losson joins the team from Castro Valley, Calif. where she was a three-time all-league selection. She could be a key anchor to the back as she develops through the Pioneers training program. From Los Angeles, Jazz Jones brings lengthy throw-in ability that should provide Lewis & Clark unique scoring chances. She was her varsity team's most valuable player and an all-league selection in 2015. Caitlin Gallagher has been a surprise through fall practice and brings collegiate-level strength in her first year. From Agoura Hills, Calif., Gallagher led her high school team in assists and was a team captain. Emily Tash is a highly-capable defender from Los Angeles who will most likely be matched against some of Lewis & Clark's toughest opponents. Tash started all four years in high school.
Abby Barnes is a first-year midfielder from Woodland Hills, Calif. The talented left-footer will be a key factor as she develops through the program. She was the league MVP and All-CIF Southern Section her last season of high school. Throughout fall practice, Becca McCullough has been noticed and is earning trust from her teammates. Out of Seattle's Bishop Blanchet where she was a two-time All-Metro League First-Team choice, McCullough is expected to play numerous positions throughout her Pios career. Anjali Kothari is a skillful midfielder who will develop within the deep midfield group. From Fullerton, Calif., Kothari was a team captain for a league championship team. Kaylin Schiller is a first-year competitor from Winnetka, Ill. who made the move to the west coast because of Lewis & Clark's comfortable culture. Like Kothari, she'll work to get in the mix in the midfield.
Megan Sawyer joins Osmundson and Schmeling in goal. The Battle Ground, Wash. native is strong and capable of owning the box. She holds the Prairie High School shutout record and was part of a state championship team.
Lewis & Clark opens the regular season on Friday at 3 p.m. against Hamline. After the four-game, non-conference schedule concludes on Sept. 9, the Pios play two away games to open NWC play. The first home conference match is on Sept. 23 against Puget Sound, which the Pios defeated 1-0 on Senior Day last year for Lewis & Clark's first victory over the Loggers since reinstating women's soccer in 2004.
The schedule goes back-and-forth between pairs of home and away games before wrapping up on Nov. 5 with Senior Day against Pacific Lutheran.