Team has Big 12 Championship goals, making for a difficult spring schedule
The average CU student is probably sound asleep at 7:30 a.m. on a typical weekday. The CU women’s soccer team is at Prentup Field practicing by then.
Coming off a successful 2006 campaign where they reached the sweet sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, the team returns a solid young core to compete for the Big 12 title next season.
Head coach Bill Hempen makes it clear the team has specific goals for the upcoming season.
“Realistically and historically we have always done one thing a little bit better the next year,” Hempen said. “We certainly want to get back to the Big 12 Championship game, give it another crack and hopefully host three rounds in the NCAA Tournament.”
CU hosted the first two rounds of the tourney last season before bowing out in the third round to the No. 1 seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Buffs journey back to the NCAA’s will not be easy, as they lost three influential players in Katie Griffin, Allie True, and Laura Munnelly.
“The toughest thing about losing those girls is their leadership,” freshman defender Jess Quador said. “They had great leadership skills and made a huge impact on the team. It will be really hard to replace them.”
Coach Hempen thinks that the spring season is an important time to get a feel for the team and see who is going to step up and lead.
“Is it a senior or is it a freshman? Conventional wisdom would say that it is not a freshman,” Hempen said. “That is a big part of what the off-season is about. Trying to let that leader evolve and standout above the rest.”
The off-season might sound like a break for these student-athletes, but the work never really ends.
“We practice every morning for two hours and we lift two days a week,” Quador said. “We have been going hard since a week after last season ended.”
Although CU graduated three key components, rising sophomore sensation in forward Nikki Marshall is back. Marshall was the Big 12’s leading scorer last season with 17 goals and 3 assists. She was also the 2006 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
Marshall had an eventful off-season, as she was invited to attend training camps for the U-21 and U-20 U.S. National Soccer teams.
“The biggest thing I took away from the whole experience was confidence and more field awareness,” Marshall said. “The game is just so much faster at that level and I learned a lot.”
The 2007 season will feature a difficult schedule for the Buffaloes. The team is set to play against eight teams that made the 2006 NCAA Tournament field. Big match ups include a September 14 road date against the University of Virginia and a September 21 game against the Stanford Cardinals.
Sophomore midfielder Alex Cousins is excited to play such a challenging schedule.
“I always love to play new teams,” Cousins said. “I mean the Big 12 is fun because every game is hard, but playing new teams is fun because you get to see what other styles of play are out there.”
No matter the opponent, the CU women’s soccer team has worked hard throughout the school year to improve their game and compete at the highest level.
“Especially with Bill, we approach every game the same,” Marshall said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, we go out and work our butts off every single game.”
The Buffs quest for the 2007 title begins on Friday, August 31, at the University of Denver.
Contact Campus Press staff writer Ben Dignan at firstname.lastname@example.org.