Women’s soccer preview: Balance and depth

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Women’s soccer preview: Balance and depth

Oakland women's soccer are the reigning champions of the 2015 Horizon League Championship title.

Oakland women's soccer are the reigning champions of the 2015 Horizon League Championship title.

Nowshin Chowdhury/ OP Archives

Oakland women's soccer are the reigning champions of the 2015 Horizon League Championship title.

Nowshin Chowdhury/ OP Archives

Nowshin Chowdhury/ OP Archives

Oakland women's soccer are the reigning champions of the 2015 Horizon League Championship title.

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As the new school year approaches, head coach of Oakland’s women’s soccer Margaret Saurin prepares for the new season.

The Golden Grizzlies will enter as Horizon League Champions, but they have to get through the rest of summer and an 11-game non-conference schedule before they can defend their title.

The team

Oakland comes back with depth and experience, losing only five players from last season.

“The core group of players that are returning did a wonderful job last semester of buying into our style of play,” Saurin. “There were a lot of players that hadn’t played a ton of minutes prior to January through April, and they trained extremely hard.”

The message last season was team defending, which was key to a Horizon League Championship and a trip to the NCAA Championship.

“It’s something that we have preached from day one,” Saurin said. “Sometimes your best defending is when you have the ball and possess it and the other team has to keep chasing.”

This practice helped Oakland shut out nine opponents last season, which tied first in the Horizon League.

Both goalkeepers from last season return. Redshirt junior Allison Holland had one shutout last season, and sophomore Emily Zweng had seven shutouts and a national-best goals-against-average of 0.21.

With a base of team defending, Oakland incorporated a new element into their style of play: team attacking.

“Now we are getting to that point where we’ll have this great balance moving forward,” Saurin said.

The Golden Grizzlies have their leading goal-scorer, senior Alice Palmer, returning. She scored five goals last season.

Junior Cecilie Dokka is another notable player. She scored four goals and had 11 points last season.

“The only pressure that we put on ourselves is to perform well,” Saurin said.

Schedule

Oakland begins with two exhibition games at home against in-state rival and Mid American Conference opponent Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m. on Friday, August 12. Two days later it’s IPFW at 1 p.m. on Sunday, August 14.

“We use those two games to help us give new players an opportunity and try some different things,” said Saurin. “Whether it’s a formation or putting players in different positions.”

The regular season starts Friday, August 19, when Oakland travels to Purdue to play Montana. This will be the first meeting on the pitch between the two schools.

Oakland’s first home game of the regular season is against Saginaw Valley State at 7 p.m. on Sunday, August 21.

Oakland will play five MAC teams, including Western, Eastern and Central Michigan.

“We always have good rivalry games against them,” Saurin said. “A lot of our players have played with or against those players so it adds a little bit of something to the game.”

The Golden Grizzlies start conference play at Youngstown State on Friday, September 16, at 7 p.m.

Some spotlight home games are one during Homecoming weekend on Saturday, September 24, when they take on Cleveland State at 7 p.m.

Oakland wraps up the season at home during Senior Night against Wright State at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 28.