Women's Soccer Heads to No. 19 Illinois - Season Preview
The Broncos, recently picked to finish third in the MAC West behind Central Michigan and Toledo, battle a tough test in the 19th ranked Fighting Illini. WMU returns 12 of its 15 letterwinners from last season, including eight of its 11 regulars.
Departed is the program's career goal-scoring record holder Stephanie Skowneski. The Broncos do have returning a total of nine goals from their forwards in Brittney Pavlica, Diana Dedvukaj, Aubrey Sudomeier and Sarah O'Connor. Pavlica tallied four times and each goal scored by the senior proved to be a game-winner. Dedvukaj was used primarily as a substitute during her freshman season and scored three goals off the bench along with two assists. Her classmates Sudomeier and O'Connor also chipped in with goals. Returning from injury is senior Megan Matula. She suffered an injury in the first game of the season last year after having a successful sophomore season that saw her tally four goals.
The big departure from the midfield is former two-time All-MAC honoree Nikolette Rivera. Rivera was the engine for the Bronco midfield for the past four seasons. The 5-foot center-mid was adept at winning balls for the broncos and also occasionally chipped in a goal or two. Despite the departure the Broncos remain very strong in the midfield. First-Team All-MAC selection and Academic All-American Anina Cicerone heads into her senior season after a career-best season last year that saw her lead the team in goals with nine, tying the program record. Megan Putnam played in all 22 games, starting in 21, and netted a goal but tallied three assists from the midfield. Sophomore Rachel Chaney started out her freshman season as a substitute but by the end was starting for the Brown & Gold during their quest for a MAC Championship.
Nicole Hatcliffe appeared in 17 games as a substitute and Ariana Donahue can provide pace on the flanks. Freshmen Lacey Zahn, Kylie Nylen and Taylor Pirrone will add depth to the midfield for the Broncos.
For the first time in four seasons the Broncos will not have Caitlin Henderson somewhere on the back line. Henderson appeared in every game possible in her career, totalling a program-record 82 games played. Three key members of a back line that helped produce a program-record 12 shutouts return. Second Team All-MAC selection Kelsey Baskins returns for her senior season, while the flanks are sured up by Lauren Fearday and Stefana Ciraulo. Freshman Lindsey Lee started the exhibition game against IPFW alongside Baskins, while Allyson Brady, Bree Dobbins, Heather Piccariello and Tiffany Woodruff ad depth off the bench.
Michelle Watson returns for her junior season after a career-best year. She helped the Broncos to program-record tying win total of 14, while she finished the season with a 14-7-0 record. She was in net for all 12 shutouts, made 88 saves and allowed just 18 goals.
Watson is backed up by Maddie Reed and freshman Kaitlyn Collin.
The biggest change of all was made recently as Nate Norman was hired to replace Suzie Grech, who departed for Houston. Norman assisted Grech during the 2010 season in which the Broncos made the MAC Championship game and Skowneski was crowned MAC Offensive Player of the Year, a first for the program.
Kyle Roelke was hired from Belmont University to assist Norman, while former Bronco defender Ashleigh Carpentier will also assist the first-year coach.