UMSL junior midfielder Brittany Harbaugh is among the women's soccer returners from the 2011 team. She paced last year’s squad with eight assists to go with two goals.The team will kick off its 2012 season on Aug. 31. (Photo by Danny Reise)

There is no doubt about it. The 2012 University of Missouri–St. Louis women’s soccer team is young. With just two seniors on the roster, the majority of the team is composed of underclassmen, including 11 freshmen.

“Even though we are so young, we are going to need those players this season,” said fourth-year head coach Bobby Lessentine. “We are still trying to sort them out and determine where they will fit in best and where they will make the biggest impact, but so far they have come along nicely.”

The UMSL Tritons are coming off their best season under Lessentine, finishing the 2011 campaign with a 9-9 record, including an 8-7 mark in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. UMSL also earned a bid to the league’s postseason tournament for the first time since 2008.

Only four starters return from that squad, however, meaning the youngsters will be forced to gain experience early on.

“The expectations are always high coming into each season and we always want to compete to make it to the GLVC Tournament,” Lessentine said. “We haven’t done our goal setting yet, but I am sure that will be one of our targets.”

The veterans

While the roster may be dominated by underclassmen, the team’s experienced players will still play a key role in determining how quickly the team can adjust and excel.

Among the returners is junior midfielder Brittany Harbaugh, who paced last year’s squad with eight assists to go with two goals.

Defensively, senior backs Jaime Morton and Kelly Goehring return to anchor the defense, while junior Kaitlyn Smugala is back after moving into the role of starting goalkeeper for the final 11 games of the 2011.

Morton and Goehring helped the Tritons to seven shutouts, while Smugala recorded 40 saves and six shutouts, allowing 11 goals.

“Kelly and Brittany are our captains this year, so we are expecting great leadership from them both, as well as Jaime and Kaitlyn,” Lessentine said. “These four are all important pieces of the puzzle this year and have done an excellent job in bringing the team together to build the chemistry we need.”

Other returners

The roster features six other holdovers from a year ago, including a trio of sophomores who saw significant playing time as freshmen.

Midfielder/forward Libby Shriver started nine of 16 games she played in, while fellow midfielder/forward Liz Drennan drew four starts, appearing in 17 games. Forward Jordan Sasek came off the bench in 16 contests.

Other returnees include junior goalkeeper Christine Lips, sophomore forward Kayla Thorpe and sophomore back Chanel Thorpe.

Lessentine also welcomes the return of sophomore Michelle Cissi, who did not play last year, but started 10 of 16 games in the midfield as a freshman during the 2010 campaign.

“We have high expectations of these other returners as well,” Lessentine said. “They understand the program and what we are trying to do, but we still want them to continue to progress. The freshman are pushing them, and if they want to step into key roles, they need to work hard to stay ahead of the game.”

The newcomers

FORWARDS

Three of the newcomers will vie for time up front for the Tritons, including Hannah Kaloupek, Kali Thomas and Maddi Hines.

Kaloupek earned first team all-state honors as a senior at Olathe Northwest (Kan.) High School after scoring 14 goals and recording 14 assists, while Thomas was a first team all-conference selection as a senior at Rockwood Summit (Mo.) High School after scoring 18 goals and recording five assists. Hines prepped at Cedar Rapids Washington (Iowa) High School, where she scored 14 goals and recorded seven assists as a senior, while earning first team all-conference and all-metro honors.

MIDFIELDERS

Four newcomers will look to make an impact in the midfield, including Jessica Mincher, Cassie McFadden, Annie Paloucek and Caroline Claywell.

Mincher was a two-year all-conference selection at Fort Zumwalt East (St. Peters, Mo.) High School, where she recorded five goals and nine assists as a senior, while McFadden earned all-state honors as a senior at Alton (Ill.) Marquette Catholic High School after scoring 26 goals and recording 18 assists.

Paloucek prepped at Webster Groves (Mo.) High School and graduated as the school’s all-time career goal scorer with 44 goals. She scored 22 of those goals as a senior and was a four-time all-conference honoree, including a three-time first team selection.

Claywell also prepped at Alton Marquette, scoring nine goals and recording six assists as a senior, while twice being named an all-area selection.

BACKS

The Tritons defense welcomes five new freshmen in Amy Stewart, Mary Hoffmann, Laura Hurlburt, Haley Larson and Jaylon Griffith.

Stewart earned first team all-conference honors at Troy (Mo.) Buchanan High School, while Hoffmann earned first team all-conference honors at West Des Moines Valley (Iowa) High School.

Hurlburt was a two-time all-state honoree at Blue Valley North (Kan.) High School, while Larson was a four-time first team all-conference selection at Des Moines East (Iowa) High School, recording 22 goals and nine assists as a senior.

“The freshmen are definitely coming along – at all of our positions,” Lessentine said. “In the long run, we are going to be in great shape with this class and in the short term, quite a few of them are going to play significant roles right away. I am excited about this class.”

The schedule

UMSL’s 2012 schedule consists of 17 matches, highlighted by nine home contests. The Tritons have just two non-conference games before a 15-match GLVC slate.

“With so many young players, those first two games will not only help us prepare for the GLVC schedule, but will help us see how they compete in game form,” Lessentine said. “Every GLVC game is a tough one this year and we start off with the top team in Bellarmine on the opening night of league play. Looking at our schedule, we can’t take anyone for granted.”

The season will kick off on Friday (Aug. 31) at home against Missouri Southern State University (Joplin).

Click here or below to view an interview with Bobby Lessentine, head coach of the women’s soccer team.

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Mary Ann Mitchell

Mary Ann Mitchell

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