Women’s spring soccer: the preseason of repeat champions?

After+winning+the+Horizon+League+championship+and+having+a+few+months+off%2C+the+Oakland+women%27s+soccer+team+looks+to+start+its+spring+season+on+Feb.+13.%C2%A0
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Women’s spring soccer: the preseason of repeat champions?

After winning the Horizon League championship and having a few months off, the Oakland women's soccer team looks to start its spring season on Feb. 13. 

After winning the Horizon League championship and having a few months off, the Oakland women's soccer team looks to start its spring season on Feb. 13. 

After winning the Horizon League championship and having a few months off, the Oakland women's soccer team looks to start its spring season on Feb. 13. 

After winning the Horizon League championship and having a few months off, the Oakland women's soccer team looks to start its spring season on Feb. 13. 

Ally Racey

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The 2016 women’s soccer spring schedule is out and runs from Feb. 13 to April 9. The Golden Grizzlies will compete in five matches with four in-state, beginning with Western Michigan (Feb. 13) home at the Oakland Sports Bubble.

The team is coming off a Horizon League Tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015, posting an 8-6-7 record overall, including a 6-1-2 league record.

Oakland’s other in-state matches are at Eastern Michigan (March 12), home against Saginaw Valley State (March 19) and against Michigan State at Ultimate Soccer in Pontiac (April 9). Their one out-of-state match is at Bowling Green on March 26.

“This team has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the game, which makes it a pleasure to be around on a daily basis,” head coach Margaret Saurin said.

Last season, the team won its first Horizon League Tournament title before falling to Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament. Saurin said Notre Dame has been a motivating factor in how they planned their spring season.

“There are elements to our game we are addressing each week and we have a strong focus on what we are doing in the weight room to prepare for opponents we would face in the tournament,” she said. “But we cannot get ahead of ourselves.”

Leadership

Leading Oakland are junior forward Alice Palmer and junior defender Aly Rawson. Rawson was voted captain as a junior because of her vocal leadership and her ability to help the players around her to do their job, according to Saurin.

Rawson said her goal is to become comfortable playing with people that haven’t had as much experience on the field and to develop a team unity that can be brought to the fall season and make for an easier transition once the new freshmen come in August. 

Saurin said Palmer, who was named to the All-Horizon League First Team last year, is not as vocal as Rawson, but is great with players one-on-one.

“We are encouraging Alice to take on more of a leadership role this year,” Saurin said.

Also leading the team are sophomore Devin Tomlinson, freshman Lauren Bos and senior Jordan Sargent. Sargent will be returning for a fifth year because of an injury last season.

“It all starts now,” Rawson said. “All of the progress we make in the spring will lead into the fall and hopefully set us up for an even more successful NCAA appearance.”

Newcomers

Four Golden Grizzlies — Sarah Reynolds, Brianne Horne, Jamie Horne, and Katy Wagner — have graduated and will not be returning this year.

Rawson said they have a great group of underclassmen that will definitely step up and fill major rolls on the team

“Leadership isn’t possible without people to follow you and we have a great group of followers,” Rawson said, “a great group of girls that will jump on board and help both Alice and I to accomplish our goals of winning another championship here before graduating next year.” 

Saurin said this year’s newcomers, who cannot be named until they have signed and sent their official National Letter of Intent, would have an impact at some point during the season.

“I think in order to get on the All-Freshman team you have to show your strengths and they have to affect statistics because that is what people see,” she said.

Last year goalkeeper Emily Zweng and Maria Zandi were elected to the All-Horizon Freshman Team. Saurin said they both factored in later in the season and made huge impacts during conference play.

Zweng was ranked first in the NCAA for a goals-against-average of 0.21 in the regular season.

The team will also be without Joan Sieja, the 2015 Horizon League Tournament MVP who provided the game-winning assist that secured the title last year.

Preparation

Saurin said that last year the team had a competitive spirit and that this year will be a little different. But she said the competitiveness will remain present.

“I believe last year’s class left that as their legacy,” she said.

“We not only expect to go to the NCAA tournament once again,” Palmer said, “but we plan to break some records.”  

Saurin said they have a plan for the spring, but they know they won’t have it all figured out for the Feb. 13 game against Western Michigan.

She expects each team member to treat the spring like preseason for the fall, and to train accordingly.

“I am excited to see what the future brings for all of our players,” Saurin said.