Women Prepare To Defend Championship

The Saint Louis University women’s soccer team knows what it wants this season, and won’t settle for anything less.

Coach Tim Champion said, “We hope to repeat as Conference USA champions. But our major goal is to get into the NCAA Tournament.”

“I’m sure that we can,” Champion added. “We’re such a deep team.”

The Billikens are a young, but experienced team, with most of the starters returning.

SLU returns with Kelly Young, Melissa Gossman, Katie McDonnell, Shannon Myers and Megan McNiff starting in the backfield, in front of goalie Meghann Burke. The unit brings experience and will play major roles in continuing the stingy Billiken defense that ranked ninth in the country last season.

Burke looks to continue her outstanding play from last year. She posted a 14-3-3 record with a 0.65 goals against average and 10 shutouts.

Midfielders Jenny Kehl, Katie Zaegel and Kathleen Schager will help the Billiken offensive attack. Kehl and Zaegel provide speed and quickness on the wings while Schager provides a steadying and physical force in the middle. All three will be scoring threats and will move the ball into the offensive zone quickly.

Kehl scored three goals and added five assists for 11 points during her freshman season. Zaegel sat out last season with a knee injury suffered in the fourth game of the season. Schager scored six goals and added seven assists for 19 points.

Kathy Musschoot and Mandy Trokey return at the forwards. Both are legitimate scoring threats whenever they touch the ball, possessing the ability to score on their own, or set up teammates with quick, accurate passes.

Musschoot scored two goals and six assists for 10 points last season. Trokey recorded seven goals and added three assists for 17 points last season.

The Billikens have one of the deepest teams in the program’s history. Ismahan Mohsen, Lori Richardson, Beth Moberg, Sara Swindle, Barrett Berzon and Jenni Toth look to see considerable playing time off the bench. Freshmen Carrie Carlson, Beth Nabozny, Lindsay Potrafke, Erin Schwetye and Anne Lucier will also make contributions and gain valuable experience that will be an asset near the end of the season.

With so many experienced players returning from last year’s record-breaking squad, SLU feels that the NCAA Tournament is an attainable goal. Then, once the team reaches the tournament, they feel they can make some noise.

The Billikens desire for excellence is fueled by the team’s success last season. The Billikens are determined to build on their regular season C-USA Championship. And it shows.

Trokey said, “Everyone’s work ethic is so much stronger. Everyone cares. There’s much more desire.”

“We have such great drive now,” Trokey added. “I hope that we can sustain it. It would be a great asset to have, especially near the end of the season.”

SLU will look to its senior starters to lead them to the NCAA Tournament.

“Schaeger and Young have to provide the leadership we need,” Champion said.

The Billikens have improved the level of competition this year, and they are looking forward to the challenge.

“We improved the schedule so that if we win throughout, we can get in without having to win the conference tournament,” Champion said. “We have tough road games that will toughen us up for the national tournament.”

One of the toughest additions will be a match at Southern Methodist University on Oct. 6. SMU is currently ranked ninth in the nation.

Young said about the SMU game, “We can see how we stack up against a good team.”

Trokey added, “When we play a team like SMU, the level of play increases. They challenge you to be a better unit.”

Other games that highlight SLU’s schedule include home matches against Evansville, Cincinnati-SLU’s only C-USA loss last season-and a rematch with Southern Miss, who beat SLU 2-1 in the C-USA Tournament.

Schager said, “We’re really excited to play Southern Miss at home.”

Myers added, “The Southern Miss loss really helped us. We realized that in any game, any team can win. We know that we need to play our game every game.”

Burke said, “To establish ourselves we need to show Southern Miss that they got lucky last year. Great teams rebound from what happened.”

Road games against Iowa, Southwest Missouri State, and Wisconsin also will challenge SLU to play their best on the road and surpass their seven wins on the road last year.

The Billikens plan to maintain the same philosophy of play that they employed last season-playing suffocating defense and moving the ball quickly and accurately. By maintaining possession throughout the game, SLU constantly applies pressure on other teams and forces opponents to make mistakes.

Young said, “We’ve really improved the way we move the ball. We want to play more of a passing game this year. We can beat teams that way.”

The Billikens displayed both their stingy defense and precision passing in their first two games of the season. SLU thrashed Drury 6-0 in their home opener at Robert R. Hermann Stadium on Aug. 25.

SLU scored early and often against the hapless Panthers. Drury never looked comfortable on offense.

Myers scored the first goal of the game in the fifth minute. Musschoot hit a corner kick to Myers who outjumped the Drury defense to bury a header inside the near post.

The Billikens found success off again in the 10th minute. Megan McNiff scored off a corner from Musschoot.

SLU’s lead swelled to 3-0 off a goal from Gossman. Zaegel hit Gossman with a good pass. Gossman hit a 40-yard blast that soared over Drury goalie Sarah Reichert’s hand.

Kehl added a goal 26 minutes into the game. She gained possession from Drury. She turned the corner on the Drury defender and scored just inside the far post from 10 yards out on the end line.

The Bills continued to attack Drury and scored two minutes into the second half. McNiff scored her second goal of the game off another corner kick from Musschoot.

Musschoot hit a high pass to Schager for a header. The goalie played the header that never happened as the pass soared high. McNiff collected the ball and scored in a virtually wide open net.

Moberg rounded out the scoring for SLU midway through the second half. Anne Lucier was taken down on a breakaway. Moberg was chosen to take the corner kick and beat Drury’s goalie inside the far post.

Champion said, “I’m really happy with the way we played. We played like we needed to. We scored some beautiful goals. We kept the pressure on, even when we subbed.”

“Drury isn’t a bad team,” Champion added. “They just couldn’t run with us. It was good for us.”

Young said,”If we pass like we did today (throughout the season) we’ll be able to score more goals. We won’t lose many games.”

SLU faced Creighton on Aug. 27. Creighton wilted under SLU’s constant pressure and the extreme heat as the Billikens prevailed 2-0. It was a hard-fought, physical contest. In the end, SLU’s speed was too much for the Bluejays.

The Billikens set the tone early, scoring in the ninth minute. Zaegel hit a restart to Trokey. Trokey attacked and brought goalie Jaimie Thompson away from the nets. Trokey made a good fake to open a passing lane and found Kehl.

SLU scored with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Myers hit a restart from 35 yards out that sailed over Thompson.

The goal capped off a critical series of plays that changed the momentum of the game and helped seal the Bills’ victory. Just before SLU scored their second goal, Creighton’s Heather Houska turned the corner on the defense and hit Franny Hylock with a pass.

Hylock’s shot hit the crossbar and came back to her. Burke stopped the next shot and cleared the ball downfield to set up the second goal, a goal that was a backbreaker for Creighton.

Champion said, “This was a hard game to play. We didn’t play as well as on Friday, but Creighton is a better team. Our backs played well. You’ll have games where you won’t play as well. The main thing is that we played through it and won.”

The pair of wins gained national attention for the Bills. The team was voted fourth in the region. The Billikens also received votes in the Top 25 in Soccer Buzz magazine.

Next, the Billikens face Kansas on Friday, Sept. 1.

Champion said,” It will be a hard, physical game. They have good strikers and should do well in the Big XII. If we come out and play hard, we can beat anyone. It will be one of the hardest games on our schedule. With a win, we could move into the Top 25.”