Saturday, September 9, 2006
For Immediate Release
Spartans Young but Talented
Langley, British Columbia
– Two years removed from their CIS title the 2006 version of the TWU women’s soccer team looks to be a squad that has a blend of experiences and youth. How far this group goes will be in large part determined on how quickly the younger players adapt to playing in the CIS and how well the squad can perform as a unit.
TWU has only six players left from their title team. The rest of the team is in their first or second year as members of Spartans.
“I’m very excited about the depth and talent of this year’s team. We have a good blend of mature returnees, some very good second years, who are going to have to step in and contribute regularly, and a solid rookie class. This is probably our most talented and athletic team that we have had,” said TWU Head Coach Graham Roxburgh. “Overall we are in a position where we can be successful. The big question will be how quickly we can gel together as a team and how quickly our young players adapt to playing at this level.”
With one second year and two rookies the battle for the starting keeper spot could take a while to get itself sorted out. “We are the deepest that we have ever been at the keeper position and their will be a real challenge to determine who our number one keeper will be,” said Roxburgh.
The back line is the most experienced and physical part of the Spartan squad. “We have built our success through are defenders,” said Roxburgh. “As a unit they have demonstrated that they can really defend, they can play the ball well and if necessary they can be hard nosed and can win the ball in the air.”
The middle of the park for the Spartans has a nice mix of experienced talent and rookie athleticism. “We have a lot of youth in the midfield, but we have a lot of pace and quickness,” said Roxburgh. “Lindsay Rohla will be the focal point of our midfield. We will keep her home a bit more and use her skill to possess and to distribute the ball to her teammates.”
Up-front the Spartans have a good blend of players who can receive the ball with their backs to the goal and players with pace up top. “We are very deep up front and have lots of very good options,” said Roxburgh. “Because we have players who can be targets up front and players who can run past defenders we will be able to have some quality combination play.”
Returning players include keeper Ali Penner ( 2nd year, Abbotsford B.C.), defenders Whitney Agassiz (4th year, Salmon Arm, B.C.), Brittany Heinrich (4th year, Kelowna, B.C.), Erin-Marie Higgins (4th year, White Rock, B.C.) and Stephanie Stewart (5th year, Langley, B.C.), midfielders Lindsay Rohla (4th year, Langley, B.C.), Andrea McLachlan (2nd year, Maple Ridge, B.C.), Melanie Ingwersen (2nd year, Abbotsford, B.C.), Christine Gerig (2nd year, Walnut Grove, B.C.) and Katie Smart (4th year, Surrey, B.C.) and forwards Dana DuMerton (2nd year, Abbotsford, B.C.), Carlee O’Brien (4th year, Nanaimo, B.C.) and Hilary Braacx (2nd year, Burnaby, B.C.).
New to the Spartans this season are keepers Veronika Rogina (1st year, Surrey, B.C.) and Nikki Turner (1st year, Langley, B.C.), defenders Christine Walker (1st year, White Rock, B.C.), Alison Johannesen (2nd year, Edmonton) and Heather Stevenson (1st year, Newport, Calif.), midfielders Chantal Esperanza (1st year, Surrey, B.C.), Rachelle Lynch (1st year, Coquitlam, B.C.) and Kassi Plummer (1st year, Calgary, Alta.) and forwards Rebecca Ferguson (1st year, Calgary) and Kelli Anne McCabe (1st year, Tswassen, B.C.).
Here is a look at the 2006 Spartans broken down by position.
The Spartans have grown in strength at this position with the addition of two talented young keepers – Rogina and Turner – that will push returnee Ali Penner. All three keepers are very good shot stoppers and they each have strengths that will help them challenge to be the starter. “Certainly we are deeper in this position than ever before and it will be a matter of young players growing and learning quickly to deal with the pressure of Canada West and the university level,” said Roxburgh.
“Veronika is a very athletic and quick goalkeeper who has shown that she has a lot of the tools needed to play at this level. I have been impressed with her work ethic and her desire to learn and prepare,” said Roxburgh. “She commands her box well and deals with crosses nicely. She can become a top rate keeper at this level.”
“Nikki is also a young but very talented keeper. She has made some great saves so far in preseason and is fearless in the box,” said Roxburgh. “She will also challenge for a lot of playing time this season.”
The Spartans have been rock solid in the back for the past few years and it should be business as usual for this coming season. The Spartans will be anchored by Erin-Marie Higgins, Whitney Agassiz, Brittany Heinrich, and Stephanie Stewart. Added to this core of defenders are 2nd year defender Alison Johansson and newcomer Christine walker.
“Brittany and Whitney are two very solid defenders that have loads of experience and anchor is in the back,” said Roxburgh. “They are strong and defend well and represent a great threat going forward.”
“Erin Marie is so solid in covering and has the ability to distribute and to get forward to provide important service from deeper positions,” said Roxburgh.
“Stephanie has been fantastic so far in preseason,” said Roxburgh. “I am so excited that she is providing a tenacious defending role and also making great decisions going forward.”
A combination of quickness, young talent and a mature influence will help the Spartans be solid through the midfield this season. Lindsay Rohla has already demonstrated that she can have a huge impact on the way the team plays by controlling the tempo of play and providing an important influence from midfield. Add to Rohla the creative attacking skills of Andrea McLachlan, and Chantal Esperanza and the threat of wide players Melanie Ingwersen, Christine Gerig and Katie Smart. This gives the Spartans a solid core of options across the midfield.
“Lindsay is such a smart player and her ability to distribute and keep possession for our team is so crucial. It has been good to watch her be such a helpful influence on the players around her,” said Roxburgh. “She reads the game well, finds her teammates consistently and with her vision and ability on the ball she can create lots of good opportunities for us. Defensively she helps organize and has the ability to soak of pressure in midfield.”
“Andy is a great attacking midfielder who has the creative mindset that can beat people with her skills and vision. She understands the way we want to play and is excellent on the ball,” said Roxburgh. “She showed last year glimpses that she can be a very influential player in midfield for us, and with a year of experience we are anticipating that she will have a great season.”
“Chantal is an exciting addition to the squad this year, and has great potential to be an impact player. She has very good talent, is quick and has loads of energy,” said Roxburgh. “Already she has shown in preseason that the potential is there for her to make her mark on our team and in the league. She loves to get forward and has also shown an ability to be a ball winner for us in the middle of the park.”
“Mel demonstrated last year what a dangerous player she is with her pace, work ethic and ability to take players on. She is very versatile and can play on either wing, or through the middle,” said Roxburgh. “She will provide a lot of options for us as she links with our front runners and has the ability to provide important service from wide positions.”
Overall the Spartans will be a dangerous threat to score goals this season because of the options that they have up front. The attack will be led with a combination of pace, solid finishing and the ability of the frontrunners to link with their teammates. The mainstays of the front line will be Carlee O’Brien, Dana DuMerton and Hilary Braacx. Add to these returnees Rebecca Ferguson and Kelli McCabe, both first year players who will push for playing time this season and give the Spartans good options and cover in the frontline position.
“Carlee returns for her 4th year and her pace and ability to finish will be so crucial to a young team,” said Roxburgh. “I have been impressed with her movement and attacking running so far. Her touch around the box has been very good so far this season.”
“Dana is a strong player who has a great ability to keep the ball and create for us. She has elevated her game and is a very good target,” said Roxburgh.
“Hilary is a strong target that can score goals as well as create for others,” said Roxburgh. “It is good to have her feeling healthy and fit because she has the ability to be a dominating player.”