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August 31, 2011

Women's Soccer Looks For Move Up NWC Standings

As the 2011 season quickly approaches, the Pacific Lutheran University women's soccer players are set to propel themselves up the conference standings and make a push for the top half.  The Lutes have lost several key components from the 2010 squad, and will look to their youth to fill in the gaps left by the departing talent.  Leading the push, however, is a strong senior class that has gained valuable experience in Northwest Conference play over the past three seasons.

After four straight seasons in the lower end of the standings, PLU hopes to improve and jump up the NWC table in 2011.  Conference coaches are not so sure, listing the Lutes at the bottom of the standings in their preseason poll, so that gives the team even more incentive to prove those coaches wrong.  

In the back for the Lutes, sophomore sensation Mariah Rasmussen (Ojai, Calif. / Villanova Prep) leads a group of hard-nosed defenders.  Rasmussen started 18 games in her first collegiate season in 2010 and will look to shore up a defense that allowed 44 goals in 19 matches a year ago.  Joining her will be senior Kristina Snaring (Maple Valley, Wash. / Tahoma HS), a dependable left-back that tallied four assists last season, and Kristi D'Allessandro (Clovis, Calif. / Buchanan HS).  The sophomore right back suffered a broken arm in 2010, but she showed her ability during her brief playing time.

Senior Danielle Williams (Snohomish, Wash. / Snohomish HS) and junior Erica Boyle (Lakewood, Colo. / Wheat Ridge HS) both have experience as defenders, and both also have the ability to help transition the ball into the offensive end. 

Among the newcomers who figure to have an impact on the defensive end of the field are Blake Warner (Wheat Ridge, Colo. / Wheat Ridge HS), Emma Wayerski (Bellingham, Wash. / Bellingham HS) and Brenna Sussman (Corvallis, Ore. / Corvallis HS).

In the middle of the park, the Lutes are retuning a strong contingent of players from 2010. All-NWC standout Karli Hurlbut (Everson, Wash. / Meridian HS) and Mimi Granlund (Lake Oswego, Ore. / Lake Oswego HS) remain in the heart of the midfield for 2011.  Hurlbut, a senior, led the Lutes last season with five goals en route to earning second team All-NWC honors.  After starting every game for the Lutes in 2010, Granlund returns as the leader in minutes played from a season ago.  She finished the 2010 campaign with three goals and one assist, and will hope to improve upon this tally in the coming season.

Sophomore Alex Murray (Bonney Lake, Wash. / Sumner HS) had a solid year in 2010 as the holding midfielder for the team.  At five feet 10 inches, she brings a dominating presence to the field, and uses her size to effectively shut down opposing attacks.  "We expect these players (Granlund, Hurlbut and Murray) to continue their success in the midfield," head coach Lynnette Buffington said about the veteran experience in the midfield. Sophomore Taryn Dee (Beaverton, Ore. / Southridge HS) and Dani-Rae Edwards (Orting, Wash. / Orting HS) gained valuable experience in 2010, and frosh Kelsey Wyre (Vancouver, Wash. / Evergreen HS) will add depth to the position.

The area that will require much attention leading into the 2011 season will be up top.  It has been since the 2005 season that a PLU player scored at least 10 goals in a season, and over the last five seasons the Lutes have averaged barely over 1.1 goals per match.  To solve that problem, the 2011 squad will bring a mix of veteran experience and youth to the Lute attack. "In the front we'll rely on veteran forward Olivia Lee (Sammamish, Wash. / Bellarmine Prep) to help build our attack," Buffington said.  Lee hopes to improve on the form that led to five goals in 2009.  Another returnee is Samantha Benner (Chimacum, Wash. / Chimacum HS), who will benefit from a year in the PLU program.

While the score sheet figures to be aided by the midfield players (Hurlbut has 11 total goals in the past two seasons), the team will need an additional spark from a handful of solid newcomers. Sarah Gamache (Spanaway, Wash. / Wilson HS) and Erin Nobach (Portland, Ore. / Beaverton HS) provide speed up top, and Hannah Bush (Tacoma, Wash. / Stadium HS), Katrina Graven (Salem, Ore. / Sprague HS) and Ashlie Thompson (Puyallup, Wash. / Rogers HS) will figure into the offense.

In goal, senior Lauren Chambard (Yakima, Wash. / La Salle HS) will be the top shot-stopper for the Lutes for the third straight season.  Chambard started 15 games last season, allowing 37 goals but posting 99 saves on the year.  That mark was good for eighth best in single-season saves in PLU women's soccer history.  Sophomore Laurie Reddy (Seattle, Wash. / Ingraham HS) is an able reserve in goal.

Pointing to her outstanding recruiting class, Buffington said "We are very confident with the players we have been able to bring in this year and feel that they will immediately step right into the gaps left by last year's departing players."  For the Lutes to have success in 2011, these new players will need to have an immediate impact on the field.

"Our biggest goal is to increase our goal-scoring opportunities and decrease our goals against," Buffington added. The veteran leadership, coupled with the youthful drive, should make this feat a real possibility.

The Lutes open their season with non-conference home matches against Cal Lutheran and Montclair State, then dive into the conference schedule with home contests against Lewis & Clark (Sept. 17) and Willamette (Sept. 18).

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