Contact: Greg Murphy
CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Cleveland State women's soccer team kicks off the 2012 campaign when the Vikings play in three exhibition contests this week, beginning with a 3:00 p.m. match at Michigan on Tuesday (Aug. 7).
The Vikings then return home to host Oakland on Thursday (Aug. 9) at 3:00 p.m. and Buffalo at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday (Aug. 12).
"We've got some core values as a program and there are a few of them we have to nail by the time we see Michigan on Tuesday," head coach Derrek Falor said. "On defense, we need to be compact and work together as a group. We also want to keep good possession of the ball and attack down the flanks a bit. After that, hopefully we can firm things up in the front third a bit.
"The good thing is with three exhibitions, we've got some time to kind of pick and choose what we're working on instead of rushing any one topic. It will be exciting to get out on the field and see what we have with these three matches this week."
The Vikings are coming off a program-best 10 win season and fourth place finish in the Horizon League. Back from that team are eight starters and 14 letterwinners who are joined by 14 newcomers in what is widely considered one of the top recruiting classes in the 10 year history of the program.
Junior Taylor Vidovic, a second team All-Horizon League selection last year, returns to highlight the Viking offense. She finished her sophomore campaign with a team-high seven goals and 15 points.
Senior Valerie Stahl returns to anchor a Viking defense that allowed a school-record low 22 goals last season. Also returning on the back line are senior Carla Ragone, juniors Frederike Dubeau and Sarah Zawie and sophomore Sabrina Abram. In addition, sophomore Lynsay Strahorn moves from forward to defense and will give the Vikings an attack minded defender.
Freshman Sarah Wood, who was injured in the second game of the 2011 season, is back as CSU's starting goalkeeper. The tall, athletic Wood is very explosive off the live and has a commanding presence in the net.
"It is my belief that Sarah is a game-changer as a goalkeeper," Falor said. "I think she is much stronger, even after the injury last year because she had the chance to sit, grow and mature and it really showed in the spring and this preseason."
One key to the season will be replacing four-time All-Horizon League selection Natalie Daniels in the midfield, but Falor has plenty of options with players who have a plethora of experience.
Leading that group is senior Jaime Avona who has started 51 of the 53 games she has played in at CSU. Also bavk in sophomoreShea Levi, an All-Horizon League Newcomer team selection last year and sophomore Kelcey Fischer who made 16 starts last year. A wild card could be senior Rachel Strongoli who is back with the team after a two-year hiatus.
The regular season opener is on Friday (Aug. 17 at 7:00 p.m. against Kent State at Krenzler Field.