2016 Season Preview: Women's Soccer

2016 Season Preview: Women's Soccer

PALATINE HILL -- Sitting just under .500 in the Northwest Conference last season, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers finished the year with a 7-8-1 record after a goal in the 90th minute by Whitman ended the Pios' final game of the season with a loss.

This year's squad looks completely different, having lost head coach Jim Tursi's first Lewis & Clark recruiting class of eight players, while adding 14 newcomers. Among the losses is Megan Ratfield, who holds the Lewis & Clark record for most assists in a season, as well as forwards Emily Thompson and Anna Thorndike. The duo shared 13 goals and seven assists last season and was selected All-Northwest Conference.

Offensively, the Pioneers scored 35 goals last year, with only seven of those attributed to returning players. Taylor Hudson, a captain this season, had one goal last season and joins Tursi for a fifth year after an injury in the 2014 season. Senior Rochelle Jordan returns to the midfield for the Pioneers and netted a class-high four goals in 2015, while fellow senior and captain Isobel Fikso scored two. Defender Mackenzie Cornell-Maier, who started 13 games last year, rounds out the senior class.

Juniors Ashley Cox and Kori Swanson, who played in a combined 28 games last year, return to the backfield. Cox is recovering from an ACL tear suffered last season.

Sophomores Jayana Alvarez and Carla Thomas join Jordan and Fikso in the midfield and saw action in 13 and eight games last season, respectively. Forward Erin Lutz, who competed in 14 matches a year ago, completes the sophomore class. 

A new crop of goalkeepers has been added after the Pios finished last season with just three shutouts.

"That was probably one of our issues last year that might have cost us a few wins," said Tursi. "I am hoping they will come in and give us a stable, steady back line that we feel comfortable with." 

The defensive squad adds freshmen goalkeepers Hannah Osmondson and Emily Schmelling, the latter sporting two First-Team All-League selections for Sprague High School in Salem, Ore. Defenders Paige Barta and Alexa Hanson are expected to be versatile in their ability to play both outside wing and center. Hanson led Bishop O'Dowd to a League Championship last year in Alameda, Calif. Also from California, Terra Clarke brings in three HDNL Championships from Arcata High School. Thea Spindel completes the defensive squad. She is an outside defender from Ann Arbor, Mich.

The largest class since Hudson's, this year's class of recruits is working to incorporate themselves into the Pioneers lineup.
 
"We have 14 new players, so we have been focused on getting them integrated into the group, getting some of them to understand they will be needed right off the bat," said Tursi.
Tursi recruited heavily in the midfield, bringing in four new faces.
 
"By pure numbers, this is the first year that we have had a really solid midfield," said Hudson. "They make up the majority of the team and that will be really nice because we definitely will be working on running up and down the sides and definitely needing fresh legs."
 
Julia Fontana was captain and an All-City Second-Team selection last year for George Washington High School in Denver, Colo. Emily McCarty, from Milwaukie, Ore., was a team captain and four-year letter winner for Milwaukie High School. Lulu Adams boasts two undefeated seasons with Palisades Charter in Los Angeles, while Caroline Hennes looks to join Fikso and Thomas in the center midfield. Hennes is fresh off a Metro League Championship with Seattle's Holy Names Academy in 2015.
 
Forwards Alexia Olsen and Anna Saucedo debut this year, looking to add depth to the duo of Lutz and Hudson. Olsen is the all-time leading scorer at Elmira High School west of Eugene, Ore., as well as a three-time All-League First-Team selection. Saucedo also boasts an All-League First-Team selection for Sonora High School in La Mirada Calif.
 
The Pioneers start the season on the road against Whittier and Chapman on Sept. 2-3. The home opener is the following Friday against Oregon Tech before a match with Cal Lutheran on Sept. 11.
 
Northwest Conference action starts at George Fox on Sept. 14, whose team came in ninth in the NWC last year. After playing its first three games on the road, Lewis & Clark returns to Griswold Stadium for the NWC home opener against Pacific Lutheran on Sept. 25. PLU was second in the conference last year, giving the Pioneers two losses. In the NWC Women's Soccer Pre-Season Coaches' Poll, Lewis & Clark was picked fifth, slightly ahead of Whitman College.