UVU soccer: Wolverine women's soccer prepares for 2013 season
With the departure of Regan Benson, the 2012 GWC Offensive Player of the Year and owner of a team-high 10 goals last season, it seemed the UVU attack would have a substantial gap in production to fill. But the forward position looks to be one of the deepest on the Wolverines' 2013 roster. A quartet of veterans will pace the attack, while a trio of fresh faces with potential are primed to contribute.
Headlining the returning forwards is another former GWC Offensive Player of the Year — senior Natalie Baker. The Springville, Utah, native had a record-setting 2011, tallying 10 goals and six assists for a single-season UVU record of 26 points. The sophomore season was enough to earn her the GWC's top offensive honor. But after an injury riddled season in 2012 left her with a total of only five goals, Anderson says the now healthy senior is looking better than ever.
"Natalie is going to be one of our most dangerous players and she's looking stronger than she ever has," Anderson said. "She has great speed and is hungry to score. And she has been connecting well with (fellow forward) Haley Curtis all preseason, which I believe can be a deadly combination."
A senior captain, Curtis (Yakima, Wash.) is another key forward that Anderson will rely on in the attack. The 2012 second team All-GWC selection scored six times last season and has been playing at what Anderson describes as a mature level, "showing for the ball at the right times and connecting her passes at dangerous angles to free other players" throughout preseason camp.
Rounding out the depth chart at forward is Kali Stubbs (St. George, Utah), a sophomore who scored one goal in seven matches in 2012 and will challenge for playing time; Kristen Bailey-Yoo, a redshirt freshman from Irvine, Calif.; as well as true freshmen Sheridan Fox (Rescue, Calif.) and Taylor Kirk (Pleasant Grove, Utah), both of whom have shown a strong technical ability in the preseason.
Junior Robison, a first team All-GWC and preseason All-WAC selection, will be called upon to anchor what could be a very dynamic midfield for the Wolverines. The Orem product started every game as a sophomore in 2012, scoring four goals with three assists, and has been selected by her teammates as a captain this season.
Working alongside Robison is Kim Stratford (Springville, Utah), another junior that could fill a holding midfield role. Stratford will look to build on a solid conclusion to the 2012 season where she scored and assisted twice in the year's final three contests.
"Kim has worked very hard over the last year and has improved her touch on the ball and her distribution abilities a great deal," Anderson said.
Riding a pair of goals in UVU's lone exhibition match last Saturday, sophomore Jamie Brown (Lindon, Utah) looks ready to fill the third midfield spot. Brown appeared in just two games last season, logging 66 minutes, before an injury sidelined her for the remainder of the year.
Sophomore Lexi Felis (Sandy, Utah), a strong ball winner with plenty of composure in possession, will continue to see time in the midfield after transitioning there from center back midway through 2012.
Among the newcomers who have impressed Anderson in the early going has been true freshman Chelsea Dunn (Kaysville, Utah). The younger sister of captain and center back Lexi Dunn, Chelsea has been described as one who works hard in the midfield and isn't afraid to challenge the ball. Rylee Gritton (Sandy, Utah), another true freshman, has also shown potential in the midfield.
The back line may be the most inexperienced group of the 2013 Wolverine roster, with Lexi Dunn (Layton, Utah) the only projected starter with more than one season under her belt. Still, Anderson remains convinced that his defensive squad will be up to the task of stifling the attacking play of this season's opponents.
"We're going to have a young defense, but it's a group that is strong and athletic," Anderson said. "Also, with Lexi back there keeping things organized and under control, I expect our defense to be a solid presence on the field."
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