The Jacks have plenty of depth for an NCAA Tournament run in 2011.
Like the Tom Petty song says, “waiting is the hardest part” for the Jackrabbits soccer team.
After getting bounced from the Summit League Tournament on their home field for the second-straight year and with last season ending in the semifinals at the hands of rival North Dakota State, SDSU is preparing to get over the hump in 2011 with veteran leadership at each of the four regions of the field.
The 2010 season was bookended by home losses – a home loss to Drake opened the year and the season-ender to NDSU in the Summit League Tournament. In between, the Jacks were 11-1-5 and created an electric attack on the pitch. That attack was led by Summit League Offensive Player of the Year Danni Healy and Kaitlin Justice, both of whom have graduated.
SDSU scored three or more goals in six matches last year and went 6-0 in those scenarios.
“We’ve had players this spring who’ve demonstrated that we can be very lethal on the attack for us this fall,” said head soccer coach Lang Wedemeyer, the only head coach in program history.
The Jacks bring back a solid defensive line, led by Steph Peterson and Stéphanie Bérubé, and hope to repeat last year’s defensive effort. Emily Quigley and Courtney Higgins will round out the defense that led the Summit League in the goals against average, allowing just under one goal per game.
“We’ll be looking for some real consistency game in and game out because we had some tremendous defensive games last year, and we had some where we gave up multiple goals,” Wedemeyer said. “We want to shore up our defense with better coordination between those four players.”
The midfield will also be strong for the Jackrabbits, as Cori Bonte and Christa Nyblom figure to lead the squad’s core. SDSU will look to complete their middle as Darci Miller and Danielle Neuhalfen will battle for a starting spot.
“Cori (Bonte) is very tough and has taken to that role very well and Christa (Nyblom) is a creative midfielder and both will be able to lead us at the midfield position,” Wedemeyer said.
SDSU will leave the attacking responsibilities in the capable hands of Kayla Braffet, Kelsey Ferguson and Courtney Higgins. The trio combined for 26 points last season, with Ferguson doing most of her damage off the bench.
While Elisa Stamatakis was steadfast for the Jackrabbits in her freshman season, with 11 wins and eight shutouts, she was injured during the spring and was unable to train during the offseason. Wedemeyer expects her to be ready when the season begins Aug. 12 with an exhibition against Nebraska at Fishback Soccer Park.
“It was a bit unnerving but she had a great fall and we hope that she gets healthy and gets back on the field for us soon,” Wedemeyer said.
The season officially opens with a pair of College Cup qualifiers, first at home on Aug. 19 when SDSU hosts Creighton, before heading to Minnesota two days later on Aug. 21.
“We’re returning a lot of starters and we’ll have a lot of experience on the field for us,” Wedemeyer said. “We’ve got a good mix of young dynamic players and older experience, and we’ll lean on getting the right mix for strong results.”