Memphis Women's Soccer Fields Young Team in 2012
Aug. 15, 2012
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Experience and leadership have helped Memphis women's soccer claim five-straight Conference USA titles, but head coach Brooks Monaghan and staff field a young team in 2012.
Statistically the second-youngest team in NCAA Division I Women's Soccer, Memphis fields a team with five upperclassmen, consisting of four seniors and one junior. Morehead State and Virginia Military Institute are the youngest teams at the D-1 level with four upperclassmen each. The U of M lists 16 freshmen on the roster with 12 of the 16 being true-freshmen.
The Lady Tigers also are young in between the posts as three inexperienced players are vying for the goalkeeping job. Two redshirt-freshmen, Becca Brown and McCall Gardner, are joined by true-freshman Christa Strickland at the position. Brown played 150 minutes of the exhibition schedule while Strickland played the final 30 minutes.
In the back, Monaghan and staff are also faced with the loss of two key starters. Seniors Christie Kline, Bailey Pembroke and Averi Hallman are expected to see the bulk of the minutes at defender. Sophomore Carly Cassady provides experience at the position as well after making 23 starts as a freshman. Former midfielder Kelley Gravlin has been moved to the center back position and is likely to see minutes in the back. Katie Donahue got a starting nod in the two exhibition games as well as freshman, Marissa Duguay. Elysia Masters, Alex Craig and Samantha Keane could also see minutes in the back.
Monaghan and staff look to the midfield position as the key to success in 2012. With the loss of sophomores Kylie Davis and Natalia Gomez-Junco for up to four games, midfield will be an area of concern entering the season opener. Redshirt-sophomore Alena Strnadova offers experience at the midfield position, but she is the lone player with any collegiate experience in fall camp. Strnadova is currently sidelined due to injury, but is expected to return to action soon. Freshmen Sarah Daane, Madison Oyer, Emily Adamic and Courtney Neville saw valuable minutes in exhibition games and Brooke Oxentine, Christi Padgett and Gisenia Utreras add depth at the position.
Of any position on the roster, forward may be the most experienced group in 2012. Reigning C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Christabel Oduro highlights the group, but she will miss up to four games due to play in the FIFA U20 World Cup with teammates Davis and Gomez-Junco. Senior Taylor Isenhower offers the most experience with 30 career starts and sophomore Kaitlyn Atkins played in 24 games last year, making seven starts. Freshman Diamond Simpson started both exhibition games up top and is expected to be a valuable asset this season. Sophomores Kaisa Marshall and Nicole Zeidler along with freshmen Lucy Cunningham and Tine Schryvers add needed depth to the position.
The Lady Tigers open the season on Friday at Missouri and then have a two-week layoff before a challenging opening weekend at home. Arkansas State visits Mike Rose Soccer Complex on Friday, August 31 and No. 5 Oklahoma State visits for a top-15 battle on Sunday, September 2. The schedule doesn't get easier from there as the squad has two road games against SEC foes before closing out the non-conference schedule with a pair of home games.
Memphis will play six of 11 conference games on the home pitch, but after a four-game home stand to open league play, the Lady Tigers play five-of-the-next seven on the road. The 2012 C-USA Tournament will be hosted at UTEP, October 31-November 4 in El Paso, Texas.