Columbus, Ohio “It’s not going to be one person scoring goals for us,” head coach Lori Walker said 24 hours before the team’s first action of the 2008 season: an exhibition game vs. Kentucky. “Lots of people are going to score goals.”
The next night Ohio State went out and had four different players score goals and three different players record assists in a 4-0 win over the Wildcats. While it was only an exhibition game and many players 47 total were used by both teams, there is no denying that four goals by four players was a most positive start for a team that is experiencing a new offensive mindset this year after the departure of 27-goal and 89-point scorer Lara Dickenmann.
The players are tuned into the coaches’ thoughts that everybody is going to be counted on to produce this year. No more will the team rely on one person to kick-start the offense. There will be no more waiting around. Everyone is a candidate to score. And as we saw against Kentucky, everyone is going to be trying to score.
“I think we are going to do big things this year offensively,” said senior forward Lisa Collison. “We have depth in the attacking half of the field and we also have many attacking players in our defensive end who are able to come forward. We’ve been spending a lot of time on our finishing in practice, so hopefully we’ll be able to capitalize on that this year.”
“We have so much depth that we won’t be relying on just on person,” said senior forward Caitlin Colfer. “I think that we are going to be able to play well even if one person is having a bad game. It’s going to be a team effort this year.”
28 Goals for Collison
Expect Collison to be a team offensive leader. She has more career goals than everyone on the team combined 28 for Collison and 21 for the rest of the team and she displayed a confidence this spring that Walker has not seen since her freshman year when she tied the school season record with 13 goals.
“We worked a ton this spring on the placement of Lisa’s shot as opposed to her just ripping it as hard as she can,” Walker said. “Lisa also worked on connecting with the other players in the attack. She understands there will be freshmen in that mix but she feels one of her strengths is to be able to bring people together. We need her to score and we need her to create the connection between players.”
“It’s my senior year and everything I do is going to be the last time,” Collison said. “This is it for me. I have motivation for my team. I’m willing to go out, go at it and do what I have to do to help the team.”
Assist to Colfer
Colfer will also be counted on in a big way. She is experienced, savvy and she understands Ohio State soccer. She has played in 49 games, started 27 times and her nine career assists lead all current Buckeyes and rank 16th all-time at Ohio State.
“Caitlin is a vocal leader, she leads well and she enjoys the responsibility of leading,” Walker said. “Everyone on the team respects her willingness to speak.”
Like Collison, Colfer is aware that this is her last go-around with collegiate soccer and she is determined to make this season one that will be remembered.
“Our goal is making the season last as long as it can,” Colfer said. “We definitely want a Big Ten championship and to win games in the NCAA tournament.
“We have both a speed component and a technical component to our offense this season and together those will enable us to score magical goals. Hopefully we’ll have lots of combinations give-and-gos and through-balls.”
Experienced Sophomores & Dynamic Freshmen
Sophomore forwards Genna Brand and Laura Roberts played in 20 and 17 games, respectively as freshmen and had three goals between them. Brand, who scored twice in 2007, is creative and has an innate ability to be in great goal scoring position, according to Walker.
Roberts, hampered early in the season by injury, still made seven starts, including six vs. Big Ten teams, and was dynamic in the 1-0 win over Michigan, scoring the only goal of the game.
Ali Schwach returns after missing the 2007 season (injury). She can score she tallied twice in 2006 and create space through hard work and constant motion and movement.
Speaking of dynamic, two highly regarded freshmen from the Internationals Soccer Club out of Cleveland Paige Maxwell and Taylor Moront will be pushing for playing time right away. Maxwell was an NSCAA/adidas high school and youth All-American in 2007.
Midfielders Oh Bowyer...
A critical part of the Buckeyes’ 2008 offensive success will be the play of the team’s midfielders. The group is off to a terrific start: four midfielders Ashley Bowyer, Courtney Jenkins, Alex Burzynski and Caitlyn Martin scored in the second half of the Kentucky exhibition game.
Midfield is the most experienced line for Ohio State heading into the season with five letterwinners from 2007 returning and led by Bowyer, a key player to watch in 2008. The junior Bowyer, who has participated two consecutive years at the U-20 National Team training camp, is talented, poised and ready for a breakout season after starting all 42 games the last two years and totaling 12 points off four goals and four assists.
“Ashley is coming off a great spring season,” Walker said. “Her ability and willingness to instruct others, and to get others to do what they need to do to be successful on the field, will be a critical part of our success this season. She has terrific leadership qualities.”
And Some Super Sophs
Three sophomores who combined for 26 points in ’07 and a fourth who played in nine games provide Walker and the coaches with depth and skill at the position.
The versatile Burzynski led the team with six goals in 2007 and was second with 14 total points. She started 20 games and she led all players who had at least 10 shots with a shots-on-goal percentage of 54 percent.
Jenkins battled through an injury-plagued ’07 to also start 20 games and to play well enough along all three lines to make the Big Ten all-freshman team and the Soccer Buzz East Region all-freshmen team. She scored four goals and recorded one assist.
Emily Esbrook is an attacking, playmaking midfielder who has terrific vision and who has a dangerous final pass. She picked up three assists last season and played in 22 games.
Shawn Skladany played in nine games last year and is coming off a spring season where she gained a tremendous amount of confidence by “letting the game come to her,” according to Walker, and by working extremely hard.
True freshmen midfielders are Martin and Brooke Taylor from strong Ohio club programs Ohio Premier (Columbus) and the Internationals, respectively.
Up Next: 2008 Women’s Soccer Preview, Part III: “Lauren-I-tis” Leads This Defense, Too