The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
The Gonzaga Women play in the tough West Coast Conference (WCC). The recent coaches poll sees the Zags pegged to finish 9th. Last year the Zags went 0-6-2 in conference and 7-10-2 overall. We spoke with assistant coach Derek Pittman in the Q & A session below to learn more about the 2012 Bulldogs.
GW: How would you describe your incoming class?
Derek Pittman: We are very excited about the 8 incoming freshman not only because of their talent but also because they will have the opportunity to fill a lot of needs for us this season, from providing depth at GK to adding strength to our back line and midfield, as well as goals in the attack. With the unfortunate loss of Cassie Geerdts again in 2012 due to another knee injury, the door will be open for a number individuals to step up to contribute this season. The 3 freshman that we are expecting to contribute out of the gate would have to be Southridge High School’s Heather Johnson at attacking midfield, Las Vegas native Sila Tuiofea at forward, and (Marysville, WA) Becca Lentz at defender.
Our main goals during this preseason are not much different from years past. We aim to finish in the top half of the WCC and give ourselves a chance to earn an NCAA tournament bid. We have a great plan in place this preseason that will provide a build up in strength and fitness, as well as an in depth, starting to implementing our technical and tactical foundations for the games to come. Our style and system of play continues to improve so our fans can look forward to an attractive attacking team that will defend well as a group and create plenty of scoring chances going forward. Set plays have always been a big part of our offense, so we will spend plenty of time perfecting our timing and execution of those in order to take advantage of every scoring opportunity. What’s new?? The sport of soccer continues to evolve each and every year so with the recent 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2012 European Championships, and the current Olympic games in London we are always trying to use video to educate our players on new styles of play, systems, and ways to study the game. One of those ways is the use of technology, so this year we have upgraded to the new Polar 2 Heart Rate Monitor System as well as using our BioForce technology to better monitor our players training readiness and individual recovery from games and practices. We expect these two pieces of equipment to drastically help our team in areas of long term injury prevention and overall peak performance when it matters most.
What are the challenges / opportunities inherent in your 2012 match schedule?
We are very happy about our 2012 schedule because we feel it provides a great balance of winnable opportunities along with plenty of highly competitive matches that will challenge our young but talented roster. With road games against regional rivals WSU and Idaho in the first 2 weeks, we will expose our young players to difficult environments to test their mental and physical preparation. We are excited to travel to Nashville to play out-of-region SEC competition against Vanderbilt as well as home matches versus Washington and Seattle U. Then we’ll round out a tough stretch at PAC 12 opponents Oregon State and Oregon. The WCC is always very difficult and this year will be no different. We have rivals SMC at home on October 7 to open conference play as well as NW rival Portland on the following Thursday, October 11. It will be a lot of fun to play at BYU for the first time and experience their passionate crowd and then finish the conference season at 2012 NCAA Final Four host San Diego.
Who are 3-4 players you’ll rely on this season for success? Why are they important?
We have a solid group of returners and seniors coming back with lots of experience this season, and we look for them to provide the young players with tons of positive leadership all year. The 4 players that the fans will mostly recognize in their Zag jersey will be Seniors Emma Dolcetti at forward, Susan Brown in goal, Morgan Manchester at center back and one of our more exciting players from 2011, Sophomore Katey Pennington (KP) at outside back or winger. Susan and Morgan will provide consistency and plenty of experience to our defensive organization, while we look for KP (with her speed and quickness) and Emma (with her scoring threat on crosses and set plays) to be very dangerous on the attack in 2012.
Where do you see your program in terms of competing within your conference? What other season goals do you have?
Every year our #1 goal is to put ourselves in position to receive a bid for the NCAA tournament and 2012 is just the same. With our non-conference and WCC schedule, we know there will be no easy games but if we show passion and our true competitive spirit every time we step on the field we will give ourselves a great chance to win each match. Our soccer program continues to take steps in the right direction and we know it won’t be long before the gap becomes much smaller with the top teams in our league. We expect 2012 to be that year and hope fans will come out and support the Zags in 2012!
2012 Gonzaga Women’s Soccer Schedule