The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

August 31, 2012

Southern soccer team opens with confidence

There are two remnants of a strange and memorable 2011 season which should help propel the Missouri Southern soccer team this autumn.

First, the Lions return 13 veterans from that team, which did not win until the final game of September and then finished one game shy of qualifying for the national tournament.

Second and perhaps just as important, coach Alese Woolard believes, is the confidence gained from the Lions’ late-season surge. Missouri Southern started the season with an 0-7-1 record, then won nine of its final 12 games and finished second in the MIAA Postseason Tournament.

“We have a little different mentality this year and a lot of that comes from the returners,” Woolard said. “They know how close they were to the national tournament last year and they’re a little more focused. It’s no longer, ‘I think we’re good, but I’m not sure.’

“We have work to do, but we have the talent.”

The Lions open their season today with a 5 p.m. match at Missouri-St. Louis. They visit Quincy, Ill., for a noon game on Sunday. Quincy is one of three national qualifiers on this year’s schedule, joining Abilene Christian and MIAA regular and postseason champion Central Missouri.

Woolard and assistant Michelle Dimza, a four-year regular who spent the summer with a professional team, are building a team with both depth and versatility. There are 22 players on the roster and Woolard has plans for all of them.

“Our lineup will probably change from day to day,” Woolard said. “We didn’t get to play as many preseason games as I would have liked. Our incoming players (three transfers, six freshmen) are very good and they have come in and challenged right away. So we don’t really have a starting lineup.”

The heart of the team is a class of five senior veterans who all started the majority of the games a year ago: Defenders Corinne Tebbs and Cortney Sanders, midfielder Candis Clark, midfielder-forward Alicia Vonderheid and forward Megan Stueve. A sixth senior, forward Natascha Lord, is a transfer from Culver-Stockton.

Stueve was second on the team in scoring last year with 16 points (seven goals, two assists) and Tebbs led with nine assists. Vonderheid had a goal and two assists.

Junior defender-midfielder Dana Wilhelm started and scored three goals. Classmate Abby Risner split time in goal, recording 56 saves. Forward-midfielder Kelly White played in all 20 games, with two goals and two assists.Defender Megan Jenisch is another junior veteran.

Two more juniors are forwards and transfers from Division 1 programs. Ali Amayo, a Joplin native, redshirted last season with the Lions after previously attending Oral Roberts University. Tiffany Laughlin played two seasons at Missouri State. Laughlin joins four other former Pattonville High School players on the Southern roster.

Defender Stephanie Zoltanski started half the games last year. She and fellow sophomores, forwards Kelsey Haist and Katelyn Robertson, each had one goal. Sophomore Beth Hammons is battling Risner for time at keeper.

Freshmen challenging for playing time include twin defenders Kimberly and Kacie Hulse, midfielders Kayla Gajewski and Hannah Ishmael, forward Karley Thomas and defender-midfielder Michaela Altvater.

We’ve had a good team chemistry,” said Woolard. “The newcomers are meshing really well with the returners. It seems like everybody is on the same page and ready to go.

“It’s a much different team in many ways, but my expectations are the same ... of being in the national tournament. No matter who we have, those are going to be my expectations.”

The Lions make their home debut next weekend. They will entertain Southern Nazarene at 7 p.m. next Friday and then meet nationally ranked Abilene Christian at noon on Sunday. Sept. 9, at Hal Bodon Field.

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