The Ridiculously Early Worldwide Season Analysis
The fall season for sports is barely underway for soccer and not officially underway for field hockey and volleyball yet at all, but we have had a chance to see all of these teams on their respective fields of play, so it's time for a ridiculously early analysis of what we've seen.
Justine Sowry's stick squad has two exhibition competitions to base our observations on. First a Saturday mid-day tilt against Iowa, who finished last season in 18th in the RPI, missing the 19 team cut for the NCAA tournament. Nonetheless, the Hawkeyes traditionally have put up some reasonable competition, but it wasn't to be found Saturday.
|Midfielder Elisa "Chili" Garcia|
A 4-0 win in regulation surely inflated the expectations of the Trager Defenders. This heightened expectation would have only been slightly dimmed by Iowa's sudden victory goal in the 7v7 overtime session that they played despite a non-tied regulation outcome. The 3-1 victory in the 1v1 shootout also would have served to encourage the team as well.
The next day saw the alumnae return to the field and a bit of a deflation of that excitement. Sowry thought the team came out flat (listen to the radio show Saturday for the comments), and an early goal by the alumnae may have brought the competition back into focus for the current team. Conditioning certainly helped as well as the current squad went on to thoroughly control the second half with a winning score of 7-1
What We Saw
We saw a team that plays a solid defense and makes chances on offense...a good basic recipe for a solid season result.
We did see some minor problems on penalty corners, though. Specifically we saw some technique issues on stopping the ball inbounded from the baseline hashmark. Ideally, the ball gets stopped and then hit by another player, either at the goal, or over to another player or two to take a shot. Several times in the two games, however, the ball popped up into the air when it was stopped. This drastically limits the options on the attack, and unsurprisingly, the team did not score on these bobbled attempts. This is an issue that should be readily resolved with some targeted practice on the technique.
We have an excellent 1v1 goalkeeper in case of shootouts in Ayeisha McFerran, which also translates into defense of fast breaks, which I don't think we'll see much of, but it's good to know that we have a GK that can handle them.
A Reasonable Goal
Elite Eight, or Final Four appearance
With two exhibition games completed as well as two regulation games in the books, we may have the best sense of where the soccer team is.
A crazy goal at Northern Kentucky handed the team an exhibition loss, so we'll put that one aside for a moment. A good pre-season win against IU is encouraging, and a 2-1 win over Wright State in the season opener is also encouraging. The second regulation game saw a very good Washington team get the 2-1 win.
What We Saw
We saw a team that creates some real chances on offense with reasonable protection on defense. This is, clearly, an overall young team, but there is some leadership to help out.
|Senior Forward Casey Whitfield|
It's fantastic to have senior Casey Whitfield back, and she has already proven her value with several assists, but has yet to find the back of the net herself. A mere 2-1 win over Wright State may sound a bit disappointing, but there was a significant barrage of shots that technically weren't on goal, but bounced off of the posts and crossbar. Keep that up, and points will start showing up on the scoreboard.
This team has some potential this year. I'm not going to hold my breath for a national championship, but we should see a better outcome than last year, and that's the definition of progress.
A Reasonable Goal
Return to the NCAA tournament. Win a tournament game.
We've got the least data on volleyball, with only an intra-squad scrimmage in the rear-view mirror. That also means any scores are pretty much meaningless as players switch back and forth between the two sides of the competition pretty much on every play in the Red & Black Scrimmage.
So, let's get directly to...
What We Saw
Passing and digging was much improved over what we saw last year. We already had some evidence that this was the case based on some interviews and getting to see an early practice, but it's encouraging to see it in person in more of a game-type of setting.
We also saw, however, a number of service errors, and some hitting errors as well that need to get cleaned up if we're going to have a strong season.
A few things that I saw that I really liked...we have three left-handers on the squad, which gives other teams a different and slightly unusual look to attacks that can throw off their spacing a bit. Southpaws also tend to put a bit of a different spin on serves, which can cause the other team some problems. Speaking of serving, I saw Gabbie Wiley, one of the lefties, serving a jump serve in pre-season practice last year, but she didn't use in during the season. I saw more work on it in pre-season practice this year, and she brought it out for the scrimmage. I'm hopeful we'll see it during the season as well.
|Freshman Right Side and Setter Morgan Miller|
Freshman Morgan Miller, also a leftie, looks pretty good on the right side, and is a competent setter as well, so I would expect to see her on the court in that right side position and giving the squad almost a double-setter look. Might we even see Katie George take a swing if Miller has to take the set? It's possible. Incidentally, the other leftie is our backup true setter Kali Eaken.
Erin Fairs and Maya McClendon both can play full rotation as left side and back-row attackers which makes for more balance in the attack, and more options for our setters. Our middles, primarily Tess Clark and Maggie DeJong are just as amazing as they were last year.
A Reasonable Goal
Return to the NCAA tournament. Maybe a sweet sixteen appearance.