Coming off a 2012 season in which his team battled injuries on a seemingly never-ending basis, Spring Hill College head women's soccer coach Christian DeVries enters the 2013 campaign with an optimistic attitude. "This is the year when we are done with rebuilding," he says. "We now have the pieces and it's just a matter of making them work."
On offense, DeVries welcomes back his leading scorer and Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) All-Freshman team member sophomore Courtney Harlan from Mobile at forward. "Courtney is pivotal in our attack and really focuses the action," DeVries says. "She has really picked up where she left off last year in our early season workouts." Joining Harlan in the attack will be sophomores Sidi Genus of Great Bay, Jamaica, and Jaimie Breitweiser from Daphne, Ala., and both are showing rapid improvement. "Sidi and Jaimie are both moving into roles that help our flanks on our attacks," said DeVries. "I'm also excited about how Darby Rasch is fitting into the mix. Her speed up top will cause some issues for our opponents."
In the crucial midfield positions, juniors Erin Claxton from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and Erin Brennan of St. Louis, Mo., return with two years of experience each. "Both Claxton and Brennan are wonderful at calming down the play when things begin to get hectic on the field," says DeVries. "That's a valuable talent to have with such a young team." Aedan Stranahan of Eureka, Calif., returns to the Badger midfield where DeVries expects her to be a leader. "Aedan really changes the point of attack," he says. "She also possesses at great long shot ability and can knock some people around when it's needed."
Junior Haley Vierling of Gulfport, Miss., Freshmen Jamie Townley from Pace, Fla., and La'shelle Lett of Pensacola, Fla., will also see time at the forward/midfield positions in support of the SHC starters.
DeVries has a number of weapons to turn to when it comes to his defensive midfield. "We have several players that are competing for starting roles at the moment," he says. Senior Molly Cowley of Jefferson City, Mo., comes back to the roster after sitting out 2012 with an injury while sophomore Kaitlyn Blais of Lynn Haven, Fla., will move from her center-back position. Fellow junior Theresa Carr of St. Louis also returns to fortify a deep SHC midfield.
Senior Lindsay Aleman of Covington, La., and sophomore Kari Vitucci of Cedarburg, Wis., return with playing experience and will provide much needed depth. The midfield is only strengthened by the addition of freshmen Darian Price of Carencro, La., and Jessica Keelen of Metairie, La. "Darian is a tremendous athlete and along with Jessie in reserve. This year is the deepest we've been."
If SHC is to have a breakthrough year in 2013, the Badger defense might be the difference-maker. "This is the strongest back line we've had since I've been at Spring Hill," Devries says. "We have had some great individual players, but as a unit, this one is special." Juniors Haley Funderburg of Pell City, Ala., and Tatiana Gonzalez of Ocean Springs, Miss., are returning two-year starters who are strong leaders and possess sound decision-making abilities. Add to the mix the talented freshmen Kaitlyn Eichorst of Cave Creek, Ariz., and Lauren Clement of Scottsdale, Ariz., and DeVries believes that his defense is prepared. "With our defensive improvement we will no longer have to rely on Tatiana so heavily. That will free her up to do more things on the field and make her just that much more dangerous," says DeVries. Sophomore Hannah Michael of New Orleans will also make significant contributions. "Hannah is our Energizer Bunny," says DeVries. "She just never stops; her motor just keeps going."
In goal, DeVries is faced with a problem. Both junior Abby Massengale of New Orleans and sophomore Maggie Dalessio of St. Petersburg, Fla., have proven themselves worthy of their coach's faith. "I honestly don't know which one of our returning goalkeepers will be the starter," he says. "This is the best corps of keepers I've been around in 15 years of coaching. It's been a dogfight for the starting job, but the good thing is that either one is the right one to have on the field." Freshman Stephanie Alvey of Middlebury, Conn., is recovering from an injury, but could also see time in goal as the season progresses.
Freshmen Emily Marcotte of Mandeville, La., and Audrey Sanchez of Miami, Fla., will add to the strength of the Badger reserves as they earn valuable experience.
The Badgers will open the year at home on Saturday at 11 a.m. on Library Field versus non-conference foe Texas College in Day Two of the annual Classic on the Hill invitational.