GOSHEN, Ind. – With the largest recruiting class (18) and largest roster (36) in program history, the Goshen College women's soccer begins the 2012 campaign in Milwaukee Friday night.
Head coach Fabio dos Santos looks to his first true recruiting class, coupled with an experience roster that lost just two starters from last year, to move his program forward.
"We were able to bring great players in to combine with the great athletes we already have," dos Santos explained. "So the new combination brings in new flavor and new experience which makes us better right off the bat. We are going to surprise many schools, we have talent and we have experience so we expect to do well and make big progress this year."
The Maple Leafs were 5-13 overall in dos Santos first season last year, going 1-8 in the Mid-Central College Conference. That one conference win, though, a 3-1 victory over Saint Francis, was Goshen's first in conference play since 2007. They also lost three MCC contests by a single tally, including a double-overtime defeat to Taylor University.
The second-year head coach points to his team's preseason trip to Alabama as the first step in molding the newcomers with the returners and ultimately turning those close losses into victories.
"(In Alabama) the girls ate, breathed and thought only soccer and so this for them was a good transition," he said. "We were able to get that chemistry of the team really good. The key thing for this year is we are going to be able to get the new players with the ones we already have together and learn to capitalize when the chances appear."
He continued, "We are going to play harder, we are going to play tougher and we are going to go after the results we are looking at. They are eager and they are looking to close those games. Mentally they are ready to go beyond that threshold."
The blend of newcomers and returners is evident in each are of the pitch.
In goal, senior Lynn Weaver (Goshen, Ind.) is a three-year starter and ranks fifth in program history with eight shutouts and fifth in career saves with 313. She is joined by freshman Sierra Bitterling (Central Point, Ore.) who will be poised to take over next year after a year of experience.
Up front, it is also a great mix of returners and recruits. Junior Emily Fretz (Centennial, Colo.) led the 2011 team with six goals and 16 points, while senior Marina do Valle (Sao Paulo, Brazil) added three goals and three assists in her Maple Leaf debut season. Transfer Mary Person (Mogi-Guacu, Brazil) and freshman Naomi Moreno (Goshen, Ind.) will add speed and technical ability to the attack force.
The Maple Leafs open the season at the Cardinal Stritch University Tournament, facing off against Viterbo University (Wisc.) and William Penn University (Iowa). Their first home match is against Andrews University on September 11 and they begin Crossroads League play when they host Mount Vernon Nazarene University on September 25.