Talented youth leads the way for 2012 women’s soccer squad

At a glance:
2011 Record: 9-9-1 Overall; 6-4-0 Great Plains Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Lisa White
Record at School: 18-17-2 (two years)
Returning Starters: 6
Key Returners: D Kyleah Bowder, F Jordan Donohoue, D Emily Fleming
Key Losses: F Mallorie Blanck, GK Ariel Harris, MF Molly Humlicek, MF Kelly Ross, F Jamie Sanchez
2011 GPAC All-Conference (*denotes returnee): Mallorie Blanck (Second Team), Rachel Gordon (Honorable Mention), Ariel Harris (Honorable Mention), Molly Humlicek (Honorable Mention), Kelly Ross (Second Team), Jamie Sanchez (Honorable Mention)

Head coach Lisa White believes Concordia women’s soccer is hitting its stride as she enters her third year at the helm in 2012. While the Bulldogs saw seven student-athletes graduate at the end of the 2011-12 academic year, a host of underclassmen that logged heavy minutes in 2011 returns in hopes of boosting the program to new heights under White.

“I think we’re definitely in a spot where we can improve on (last season’s record),” White said. “I don’t have any reservations about us. I would love to hit that 10-win in a season mark. That would be great for our team, which has high expectations again and demands a lot of themselves. For that to happen, we need to continue to implement the learning we did in the offseason and have our freshman class get on the same page very quickly.”

White will look to senior defender Kyleah Bowder (Lincoln, Neb.), junior forward Jordan Donohoue (Manhattan, Kan.) and junior defender Emily Fleming (Gretna, Neb.) to provide the leadership necessary to bring a youthful, but talented roster up to speed. Collectively, the trio missed only one game in 2011 for a squad that finished 9-9-1 overall and 6-4-0 in the GPAC (tied for fourth).

“Ky has been so consistent in the back and she really anchors us back there with having some youth around her,” White said. “Her ability to communicate and direct people around her has increased over her years here. Ky is going to be phenomenal back there for us.”

Bowder brings 41 career starts into her final season. As one of just two seniors on the roster, Bowder understands her role as the team’s most experienced veteran.

“I struggled a bit at first with being vocal on the field,” Bowder said. “But I learned as much as I could from the girls above me. I really care about everyone on the team and they know that. I have high expectations for them and we’re all dedicated to achieving those expectations. I try to lead by example and let things fall into place.”

The hard-working Fleming is not far behind with 34 career starts over the past two seasons (and one of just three players to start all 19 games in 2011). The steady combination of Bowder and Fleming will make life tough on opposing attackers.

On the flip side, Donohoue’s versatility and athleticism gives her the capabilities to play a variety of roles, but she hopes to become an even more feared striker in 2012. With the departures of Mallorie Blanck (nine goals in 2011) and Jamie Sanchez (seven goals in 2011), Donohoue is the team’s leading returning goal scorer after finding the back of the net six times last season.

Among the returning sophomores-to-be who saw significant action as freshmen are midfielders Marcie Sindt (eight starts in 2011) and Rachel Mussell (18 games played in 2011). Sindt started both games during the Bulldogs’ run in the GPAC Tournament and Mussell started the season finale, a 3-1 loss to Hastings.

“The maturity they gained and the experience they gained is going to be huge for our team,” White said. “We graduated seven players last year. That’s a lot of seniority, but I feel like our sophomore class is already playing with the mentality of juniors because of the experience they had last year. I’m excited to see what strides they make this year. And again, there are high expectations for them as well.”

Defender Katie Janis (St. Charles, Mo.) and midfielder Jaimi Stelk (Grand Island, Neb.) headline the group of eight incoming freshmen.

“Both of them come into areas where we’re going to need some development,” White said, “and what’s exciting about having those two coming is we’re going to need some people to fill some roles in the next one to two years. They’re both players that will look to teammates and follow suit with what teammates are asking them to do and really take in what’s going on around them. Katie is probably a little more quiet and a little more shy than Jamie is, but I think they’re both going to be great players for us.”

At the keeper position, junior Jessica Clifford will get first crack with the graduation of Ariel Harris (87 saves, .696 save percentage as a senior), who played nearly every minute in goal in 2011. Clifford first must fend off competition from a pair of newcomers.

While Bulldog fans will see a decidedly youthful team in 2012, Bowder believes they already have developed a great chemistry. About half of the team participated in a mission trip to New Orleans over the summer that helped Bowder and her teammates form a tighter bond that should in turn make them a stronger squad.

“Our biggest strength is our unity and our culture,” Bowder said. “We took a trip to New Orleans this past summer that really impacted us. Being able to serve the Lord together brought us closer. We’ve come to realize that our identity is in Christ. Just having that common ground and faith has been great.”

Bowder and the Bulldogs open their season Thursday at home versus the College of Saint Mary in an exhibition contest. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. The team’s first official game is Aug. 20 at Benedictine (Kan.) at 7 p.m.