2015 women’s soccer preview


Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

The women’s soccer team suffered an early exit in the opening round of the conference tournament in 2014 after finishing tied for second in the regular season. The Wildcats won 11 games in the season and only lost five times, with three of those losses coming to teams that played in the national tournament. They won four more games than in 2013 and found ways to win games down the stretch.

Now, the 2015 squad has to find a way to replace eight seniors and 11 of its 33 goals from last season. This includes the All-American and 2014 first team all-conference defender Shelby Schiraldi, who played in 78 games over her four years and assisted on 15 goals, including 8 assists in 2015 and 3 goals. Schiraldi was a four-time All-American for the Wildcats.

Schiraldi will serve as a graduate assistant for the team this season alongside head coach Davy Phillips in his second season. Schiraldi was known for her aggressive play, but juniors Krista Hooper and Keeley Atkin don’t see the team losing the spark that Schiraldi brought to the field.

“I don’t think feistiness will be a problem with this team at all,” Hooper said. “Everyone is pretty aggressive.”

Baker also loses second team all-conference and three-year starting goalkeeper Rachel Theobald, whose career was highlighted by 18 shutouts in 67 matches between the pipes. This defensive group also loses Schiraldi’s counterpart on the back line, Lesley Johnson, who played in 70 games for the Wildcat defense and earned third team all-conference honors in 2014.

The 2015 goalkeeper position stands open until the first game, but the front-runners will be sophomores Rachel Hunt and Sarah Fritz. Hunt played in just two games for Baker last season and has the most returning goalie experience.

In the defense, Baker was blessed with veterans over the past two seasons, but now the experience is going to have to occur on the fly for a few freshman. They will have junior Taylor Baum returning on the outside. Baum started every game for the Wildcats last season and had one assist. Baker also returns sophomore Taylor Yates and junior Jessica Hillebert in the middle of the defense. Yates started in every game but three as just a freshman and will look to be the aggressor in the middle of the defense.

“It’s going to be a young back line so they’re going to have to get some experience,” Hooper said. “It’s all about learning.”

Offensively and in the middle of the field, Baker loses Alexa Fryer, Ashley Mauck and Bailey Sosa. Fryer scored 28 goals in her four seasons, with a team-leading 16 in 2012 and 2 in 2014. Sosa played in 72 games and assisted on 3 goals this past season. Mauck played in 76 games and scored 10 goals over four seasons with 3 goals in her final campaign.

Kayla Infanti and Hillary Yoder are the final two seniors and both scored goals in 2014. Yoder scored the thrilling game-winning goal in the team’s first game of the season against Ashford.

The Wildcats return lone senior Jenna Carducci in the attack. Carducci was a third-team all-conference performer after scoring a tie for the team lead in goals with 5. Carducci is part of a trio of returning all-conference players from 2014. Hooper was a first-team all conference midfielder after scoring 4 goals with 1 assist in 17 starts. Atkin and Carducci were the only Wildcats to score more than Hooper last season. Atkin joined Carducci with 5 goals and earned third team all-conference honors as well.

“We still have some work to do on our attack,” Atkin said. “We have some strong players to help so I think our attack will be pretty good.”

The midfield and forwards will be the most similar from 2014 to 2015. Atkin will mostly play as a forward with Hooper playing as a center-mid. Sophomores Megan Johnson and Kara Doctor will return to the middle. Johnson will play more in the attack with Doctor likely playing as a defensive-mid. Johnson played in 17 games in 2014 and scored 3 goals with an assist. Doctor also had an assist and saw the majority of her starts down the final stretch of 2014.

“I don’t think there’s going to be anything really missing,” Atkin said. “I think this is just a different team and we have a lot of incoming players that are filling roles.”

The Wildcats will have to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net more than they have the past two seasons in order to be successful. The Wildcats did improve from 2013 to 2014 in goals scored, but still finished fifth in the conference in goals scored in 2014. The conference champion Benedictine College Ravens scored 72 goals in their road to the national tournament, more than two times Baker’s 33. Atkin hopes that some of that scoring is started with her — as her personal goal this season is to get into double digits.

The Heart of America Athletic Conference expanded over the offseason with the additions of William Penn University and Grand View University. Evangel University also added soccer for the first time and will be new to the soccer side of the conference.

The league title still runs through Benedictine as the Ravens were selected to finish first in the preseason poll. After tying for second with Missouri Valley in last year’s regular season, Baker was picked to finish third.

The Wildcats open the season at 5 p.m. on Aug. 22 at Bethany College in Lindsborg. Then they play two more road games on Aug. 29 at Midland in Fremont, Nebraska, and at Ottawa on Sept. 2. Their first home game is at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 5 against Oklahoma Wesleyan in Baldwin City.