Lake Erie College women's soccer returns seven starters as its looks to improve on its 6-12-2 mark from a season ago. However, third-year head coach Jim Buchan will have his work cut out for him with a squad which features only one upperclassman and 12 freshmen.
"I'm not expecting miracles from the get go but I'm expecting us to compete and be in each game," said Buchan. "It's a very, very young squad and that's both a good thing and a bad thing. The girls are enthusiastic and work really hard but they still lack experience. We need to control our emotions and level out the ups and downs over a demanding college season."
The Storm's top two offensive forces from a season ago, sophomore forward Kaitlyn "Skeeter" Holland (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington North) and sophomore midfielder Valerie Urbanik (North Ridgeville, Ohio/North Ridgeville) both return to form a potent threat on the Storm frontline. Holland netted eight of the team's 21 goals last season while Urbanik, a co-captain, added five goals and a team-high three assists.
"Our biggest strength is we'll be able to score goals this year," stated Buchan. "Skeeter has tremendous work rate and nice skill on the ball and Val is a workhorse in the midfield."
Sophomores Colleen Bednar (Brunswick, Ohio/Brunswick), Taylor Yurick (Olmsted Falls, Ohio/Olmsted Falls) and Jenna Hanford (North Royalton, Ohio/North Royalton) will look to shore up the Lake Erie defense in front of junior Chelsea Giesen (Grants Pass, Ore./North Valley), who appeared in all 20 games last season, including 15 in goal, as she allowed 2.01 goals per game. Hanford and Giesen will serve as team co-captains.
The freshmen class is going to be relied on to fill the gaps as all 12 newcomers all have the ability to see playing time. In particular, forwards Ally Miller (Mantua, Ohio/Crestwood), and Paige Nemic (Mantua, Ohio/Crestwood), midfielder Misty Porter (Reno, Nev./North Valleys) and defender Lauren Gaitsch (Huntley, Ill./Huntley) will look to make an impact from the outset.
"There are players coming in who will make us better and are ready to play now," said Buchan. "I expect us to utilize more of a team concept rather than any individual who can make it happen alone. Everyone's not going to be able to rely on one person to score goals or keep the ball out of the back of the net, but if everyone works hard and plays their game, we'll be fine."
Lake Erie's youth will be thrown into the fire quickly as it enters its first campaign as a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). With that comes the ability to make it to the conference post-season tournament, a task which won't come easy in a conference which includes Grand Valley State, the top-ranked team in the country in NCAA Division II.
"We want to make the playoffs but only time will tell," said Buchan. "I'm comfortable that we'll have an opportunity to get into the final fifth or sixth spot and will be competing in the final few games."
Lake Erie will get no breaks from the schedule, as 11 of its 18 games come on the road, including a six-game stretch from September 10-28. Lake Erie opens the season at Wheeling Jesuit University on Thursday, September 2 and comes home on Wednesday, September 8 at 2:00 p.m. when Ashland University travels to Painesville for Lake Erie's first home GLIAC contest.