Contact: Greg Murphy
CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Cleveland State women's soccer team reported for its first day of preseason training on Wednesday (Aug. 1) in preparation for the 2012 season.
The Vikings will play three exhibition matches leading up to the season opener against Kent State on Aug. 17 at 7:00 p.m. at Krenzler Field.
CSU's first exhibition match in on Tuesday (Aug. 7) at Michigan at 3:00 p.m. The Vikings then host Oakland at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday (Aug. 9) and Buffalo at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday (Aug. 12) to round out the exhibition season.
Following is a preview of the 2012 season.
As the Cleveland State women's soccer team prepares to start the 2012 season, the Vikings find themselves in an exciting position of blending a talented group of upperclassmen with a large rookie class.
Entering his ninth season at CSU, head coach Derrek Falor returns 14 letterwinners from a team that won a school-record 10 matches and finished fourth in the Horizon League.
Joining the returnees are 14 fresh faces in what is widely regarded as one of the best recruiting classes in program history. Falor is hopeful that the blending of old and new talent will bring a renewed energy to the team and enough depth off the bench to push the Vikings up the league ledger.
Freshman Sarah Wood, who was injured in the second game last season and missed the remainder of the season, returns as the starter this year.
A tall, athletic player, she is very explosive off the line and has a commanding presence in the net. Before being injured with just under two minutes to play in the second contest last season, Wood flashed the skills that made her a two time all-league selection at Lewis & Clark H.S.
Falor on the Goalkeepers: "It is my belief that Sarah is a game changer as a goalkeeper. 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."
The CSU defense is expected to be a strength this year as four starters and several key reserves are back from last year's squad that allowed a school-record low 22 goals.
Falor and his staff made a few changes to the defense during the spring season, moving senior Valerie Stahl to the defensive midfield and junior Frederike Dubeau and sophomore Sabrina Abram into the middle of the defense.
Stahl's move will allow her to hunker down and sit in front of the back line. She has the ability to win balls in the air and will control the middle of the field with short passes, linking and switching the ball.
Dubeau and Abram are extremely physical defenders and Falor feels confident that the duo can handle whatever opposing offenses bring at them.
Sophomore Lynsay Strahorn, who tallied two goals and two assists last season, has made the move from forward to right back this year, giving the Vikings an attacking presence from the defense. She is still working to polish up her defending skills, but continually improved as the spring season wore on.
Falor has several choices to plug in at left back, but several of his options are nursing injuries, meaning it could be a left back by committee situation. The positive is that he has a plethora of experienced players, including sophomore Kelcey Fischer, seniorCarla Ragone and junior Sarah Zawie, to choose from.
Zidonis has a year in the program as a redshirt last season. The duo of Jankowski and O'Toole were named to the All-Ohio squad last fall, while Oathout was a first team all-region selection in each of her final three seasons.
Falor on the Defense: "I feel that we will be as good, if not better, than we were on defense last year. We have five players who are capable of starting and we can go seven deep back there and the quality of play won't be lost at all. I think we are in a good place with the defense with the ability to mix and match some different combinations with players who can provide us with different skill sets."
Replacing four-time all-league selection Natalie Daniels will be key, but Falor believes he has several quality returnees and newcomers ready to step right in and solidify the position.
Senior Jamie Avona is the most experienced midfielder and will move from the middle to the right side, allowing her to utilize the open space to move forward and join the attack. Avona was third on the team with seven points last year on three goals and one assist.
Sophomore Shea Levi, an All-Horizon League Newcomer team selection last season, moves into the middle, which is her more natural position. This transition will allow her to work with the ball at her feet and find second and third options in space.
Falor and his staff are still a bit unsettled on the left midfield, but have several options and it could change from game to game depending on if they are looking for more offense or defense.
Fischer, who started 16 games in the midfield last year, is an option if she is not playing back on defense. Senior Rachel Strongolicould also play on the left side. She returns to the team after a three-year hiatus when she started 16 matches in 2008.
Sophomore Emily Cowan is another option after she played in eight matches her rookie season, while freshmen Brittany Koester and Lauren Mesaros, who both redshirted last season, and Chloe Fadenholz and Samantha Sarmento are also possibilities. Fadenholz was a second team all state performer at Berea H.S. last season, while Sarmento helped Sylvania Southview to the state semifinals last season en route to all-league and all-district honors.
Falor on the Midfielders: "We have a lot of talent in the midfield and have been able to move some people back to their normal positions where they feel comfortable. There is a good mix of offensive minded players who can attack and create scoring opportunities, but also some players who can slide back and help defend.
Junior Taylor Vidovic returns to headline the forwards after earning second team All-Horizon League honors last year when she led the team in goals (7) and points (15).
Already one of the top forwards in the league, Vidovic has become much more comfortable with the ball at her feet and will not have to solely rely on her quickness to beat opponents.
Freshman Vickie Havas is the early favorite to join Vidovic up front after scoring 87 goals in her high school career. A quick athlete who can play with the ball at her feet, Falor expects Havas to have a big impact as a freshman.
Junior Taylor Miller and freshmen Haleigh Shingary and Allie Sieradzki will also fight for minutes up top. Shingary scored 32 goals in her high school career, while Sieradzki gives the Vikings a physical forward who can finish with her head or the ball on the ground. She finished her high school career with 41 goals and 18 assists.
Falor on the Forwards: "Our front line has the potential to be very dangerous this year. We have a number of players who can create and finish, something we haven't had the last few years. The players we have up front will allow us to use some strong partnerships once they learn how to play together and off one another. I think the run of play up front has the potential to be very dangerous this season."
The Vikings open the season with three exhibition contests, the first coming at Michigan on Aug. 7 followed by home exhibition matches against Oakland (Aug. 9) and Buffalo (Aug. 12) at Krenzler Field.
The regular season opener is on Aug. 17 when CSU hosts Kent State before the Vikings hit the road for five of their next six contets. After hosting Longwood on Sept. 16, the Vikings open their seven match league slate at Loyola on Sept. 21.
The Horizon League Championship starts with two first round games on Sept. 30 with the semifinals on Nov. 2 and finals on Nov. 4 at the top seed.