Oct. 5, 2000
By Mike Kreiger, WSU Sports Information
There's a youth movement occurring in Pullman, and it has its grip on the Washington State women's soccer team. The young Cougars are starting four freshmen this season, with three others contributing off the bench.
Starting such inexperienced players could pose a potential problem for the team, but Coach Dan Tobias couldn't be more excited.
"We played seven freshmen (in the opening road trip)," Tobias said. "They all played well, and I told them after the opening weekend, `you aren't freshmen anymore.' By having freshmen stepping up in the training and earning their spot in the top eleven, it just picks up the play of everybody, and raises the level of the whole training sessions."
Starting in the midfield for the Cougs are Rachel Rodrick and Kim Morgan, from University Place and Seattle, respectively. Rodrick is the team's primary playmaker, while Morgan is the high-energy spark the team needs.
"Rachel has good field vision and plays with a bit of flair and creativity," Tobias said. "She does a good job helping us keep possession of the ball."
Morgan had her first career assist in the Cougars' 3-2 double-overtime victory at Utah. Her pure athletic ability allows her to jump up and get a head on balls which otherwise would go to the opposing team. Morgan's impact has already been noticed by the WSU coaching staff.
"She's a ball-winner and does a lot of the defensive work," Tobias said. "She's a real high-energy, high work rate player. She does a ton of things that will never show up in any boxscore like getting an extra touch on the ball that allows us to keep possession. Her play in the Utah game was excellent. She won some balls in the midfield area and then started our attack."
The freshman midfielders admitted a little uneasiness going into the first game.
"It was scary," Roderick said. "I must say that it was pretty nerve racking." Despite the nerves, they played well, especially considering the fact they haven't had much experience playing together.
"Rachel and Kim compliment each other real well in the midfield," Tobias said with a confident grin. "They're learning how to play together and learning each other's strengths and weaknesses defensively. Offensively, they have a pretty good understanding of their roles and how to combine with our strikers. Defensively, they're having a little bit of trouble understanding each other, but it's stuff that can be fixed."
The midfield combo feels they have bonded together quite well. They even have their own "special handshake", which includes hand slapping, finger snapping and a "Cougs" chant.
"We're working really well together," Morgan said. "We're communicating and working on our spacing."
Both players have noticed a major difference in the level of play from the high school to collegiate level.
"The speed of play is a lot quicker," Morgan said. "People are a lot more aggressive. You get knocked off the ball a lot easier."
The last line of defense for the Cougars is composed of California native Shay Hobby and Mariette Boyce from West Linn, Oregon. The two players are polar opposites, yet they compliment each other quite well. Hobby is 5-6, slender, and lightning quick Boyce, on the other hand, is 5-10 and very strong. Tobias likes what he has seen so far from the defensive duo.
"Shay's a really composed, bright defensive player," Tobias said. "She's quick, and she does a good job positioning herself and organizing the defense in front of her. We just need her to be a bit more vocal. She's off to a good start as being one of the cornerstones of our defense."
Boyce, with her strength and size, is the enforcer on the team. Her play will be vital to the Cougars' success.
"(Mariette) starts on the right side as one of our outside backs. She's a player with good size (5-foot-10), so she's very good in the air. She's a smart player and is good with the ball as well."
The defenders are excited to be in the position to play as freshmen.
"It's unbelievable," Hobby said. "It's a great opportunity to play with great players and it's just awesome to be out there." Boyce agrees.
"It's something you never really imagined," Boyce said with a huge smile. "I planned to play soccer in college, but I never thought I'd start as a freshman."
The two acknowledge and work off each other's strengths, much to the satisfaction of the coaches.
"Their development is recognizable already, and I think they're going to keep getting better," Tobias said.
"We just try to work with each other and help each other out," Hobby said. "She's bigger than me, and she's really powerful."
"She's so fast, she can get to any ball," Boyce responded.
There is an obvious disadvantage of starting inexperienced players, but Tobias likes what these freshmen bring to the table in terms of their work ethic.
"The energy level is really high," Tobias said. "They're anxious and want to do well. They're now in the starting spot, and they want to contribute as much as they can because they want stay in that starting eleven. We want to harness that energy, so they're not out of gas after 15 minutes. They need to be a little more efficient."
With these four players each earning their starting spots for different reasons, they all have similar goals.
"We want to be the playmakers," said Morgan. "We want to push it and keep the team together."
"We just want to work hard, because the harder we work in the middle, it seems to work easier for the rest for our team," Rodrick said. "We can pick the pace of the game, so we want to raise the level of play."
The defenders have big plans in mind for the Cougar soccer program.
"I just want to play my heart out," Hobby said. "We want the program to work up and be a better team. We want to come out and stand out this year, not just be another team in the Pac-10. We just have to take it step-by-step, but we're in the process of getting there."
"Our goal is to get to the NCAA playoffs," Boyce said. "We're working to get there, and so far, I think we're off to a good start. We just want to go out there as a team and play 100 percent the whole time."
With a nucleus of young, athletic, and intelligent players leading the way, the Washington State soccer program looks as if it will have many bright moments in the years to come.