Women’s Soccer Ready to Begin 2015 Season on Friday
The Spartans head to Niagara to open the 2015 season.
EAST LANSING - Michigan State head women’s soccer coach Tom Saxton is no stranger to Spartan soccer. Embarking on his 25th season at the helm of the MSU soccer program, assisted by Tammy Farnum and Stacy DeLonge, Saxton admitted to designing his nonconference matchups to best prepare his team for the Big Ten conference play.
“I intentionally scheduled one of the toughest non-league schedules that we’ve ever had in our program’s history,” Saxton said. “We may not be as fortunate to go 6-0 [like last year], but hopefully from playing strong opponents, we’ll be better prepared for conference play which is what we want to emphasize this year.”
Along with a grueling schedule with three straight games on the road, Saxton says the team has altered its mentality in order to prepare for the upcoming season.
“From a psychological standpoint for the players themselves, there are crucial moments in games that come at the beginning and end of each half and certainly down the stretch,” Saxton said. “Unfortunately, down the stretch last year at a very important part of the season in the early Big Ten season, we gave up crucial goals that cost us games.”
The team recognizes the lessons of the several close losses. Playing with a renewed spirit, the Spartans will focus heavily on rest and recovery in order to be in prime condition in October to be better in Big Ten action.
Bringing in “one of the most versatile players we’ve ever recruited,” freshman Lexy Warner’s speed and aggression has earned her a spot in the starting Spartan lineup. Having played every position on the field other than keeper, Saxton credits his “explosive” newcomer as a “great insurance policy” due to her speed. Along with Warner, the team returns its three top scorers in sophomore Jamie Cheslik, senior Allyson Krause, and senior Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz.
Along with sophomore Morgan McKerchie, Saxton plans to use another talented freshman Michaela Kovacs as a defensive midfielder.
“She adds athleticism and bite to our midfield–she’s a tough, hard-nosed player which is something we need,” Saxton said. “She’s also a very good distributor.”
The pairing of senior Sarah Kovan and Kovacs is something that Saxton has been pleased with.
Anchoring the Spartan Backline
Despite being an offensive threat, Fiebernitz, who will be playing her final year of collegiate soccer, will be garnered with the job of leading the Spartan backline.
Saxton praised Fiebernitz for her contribution to both offense and defense, “a rare defensive player.”
“Normally, a centerback just wants to do their job defensively and stay organized, smart,” he said. “She does all those things and has a good group around her so that she does her job defensively first and foremost, but what she can do offensively makes her special. She’s featured on set pieces with her airgame. She takes our penalty kicks. She takes our deadballs. She’s a true player, and one of the best I’ve ever coached, honestly.”
Saxton also said that while senior Gabrielle Gauruder will most likely be starting in goal, the position, like all others on the field, is one in which will be a competition for playing time.
Transfer Kaitlyn Collin will not be eligible for gameplay until the Baylor game Aug. 24.
On the upcoming Niagara game Aug. 21
Against what Saxton calls a “quality program,” the Spartans will kick off their regular season this Friday, Aug. 21 against Niagara University. The team is heading out a day early in order to allow time for “team bonding” before a game that the Spartans are not taking lightly.
“We’re excited,” Saxton said. “It’s the first time we’ve ever played out that way. Niagara is a team that’s done very well in their conference over the years.”