The 2011 women’s soccer season has been circled on every calendar in the MIAC as the one where Concordia will finally come back to the rest of the conference.
After watching last year’s seniors tear through the conference by winning 32 conference games, earning four MIAC regular season or playoff championships and making three trips to the NCAA Tournament the league is ready to take their swings at a program which lost 10 players to graduation. Not only did CC lose quantity from last year’s team which won the conference postseason tournament, they also lost a boatload of quality. Gone is two-time All-American Sam Johnson as well as four-time All-Region midfielder Sue Obermiller and two-time All-Region defender Erika Swenson.
The 2011 season might finally be the year where Weiler will finally have to coach instead of just filling out the lineup card and sitting down to watch a talented group of players overpower their opponent.
Despite the high turnover from 2010, there is still room for optimism in the Cobber camp. Concordia will return several players who have been solid players the past couple of seasons but have stood in the shadows of the class of 2011. The top two returners bookend the field and will give CC a solid core to build upon. Juniors Ali Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) and Sarah Rounds (Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata HS) are two-year starters who are ready to step forward and take over “star” status. Nelson has started in goal in 40 games over the past two seasons. She has amassed 18 shutouts over her career and has a career goals against average of 0.67. Last year she had a 0.69 GAA and was named to the NSCAA All-North Region Second Team. Rounds led the team in scoring in 2010 as she netted 13 goals and added nine assists. She has 64 points in her first two years in maroon and gold – a pace that is 17 better than Johnson had in her first two years. Rounds earned All-Region honors for the first time in her career last season.
The biggest whole to fill for the Cobbers will come in the midfield where the departure of Obermiller pn the wing and Abby Habein and Brittany Mayer in the middle will create a void in the Cobbers’ ability to keep possession and also slow down the opposing team’s offensive attack. The only returning starting midfield player for CC is sophomore Gina Weiss (Monticello, Minn.) who was fourth on the team in scoring with five goals and eight assists. Weiler will have to decide if he is going to train more experienced players who played other positions to take over the midfield or turn the center of the park over to newcomers.
Despite the lack of experience in the midfield, Concordia will return three of its four starting defenders. Senior Kelsey Swagger (Burnsville, Minn./Apple valley HS) as well as junior Nikole Koehn (Fargo, N.D./Fargo South HS) and sophomore Jessica Scherr (Great Falls, Mont.) have all started on the back line since they stepped on the CC campus. Swagger has been a starter for over 60 games and her presence on the wing will help the Cobber wing midfielders ease into the season. Koehn is the most versatile of the three as she can play in the middle or on the wing. Scherr has a year of experience under her belt and should make the loss of Swenson less severe.
The key for Weiler and the rest of the Cobbers will be to get through the early part of their conference schedule where they will face defending regular-season champion Carleton and last year’s MIAC semifinal foe St. Thomas in back-to-back games. Weiler will be hoping that tradition and experience in pressure situations will help Concordia continue their winning ways as they try and reload the dynasty they have established over the past seven years.
Complete 2011 MIAC Women’s Soccer Preview
2001 MIAC Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Carleton (10) – 120
2. Concordia (2) – 110
3. St. Thomas – 94
T4. Saint Benedict – 88
T4. St. Olaf – 88
6. Macalester – 76
T7. Augsburg – 50
T7. Bethel – 50
9. Gustavus – 39
10. Saint Mary’s – 30
11. St. Catherine – 24
12. Hamline – 23