Cougar Soccer is Among the Nation's Best
March 11, 2013
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In 2012, the Washington State University women's soccer program firmly solidified itself as one of the nation's top programs. Under the guidance of first-year head coach Keidane McAlpine, the Cougars earned their fourth trip to the NCAA postseason the last-five years.
The Cougars won 12 matches, the sixth time in the last-eight seasons they posted double-digit victories. Washington State recorded a school record 0.22 goals against average at home and tied the school record for victories in Pullman with eight. One needs to look no further than the departed senior class to find the root of the Cougars' success.
"Our senior class was one of the most successful in school history," McAlpine said. "It did a great job of teaching the team what it takes and what it means to be a Cougar. Brandi Vega has her name all over the school record books. We will miss the leadership of Ariana Byrd. Shannon McFadden is one of the smartest soccer players I have coached. Zoe Jeffers became a very good soccer player during her short time with us and Mariah Cameron was an all-around warrior and the heart of our team."
With spring season already underway, the Cougars can take comfort in the fact several members of the 2012 squad will be back in uniform next fall. Washington State returns 81 percent of its starts, 75 percent of goals, 67 percent of assists and 73 percent of points. In net, Gurveen Clair played 69 percent of the minutes and earned 67 percent of the victories last season.
"If you would have told me before the season started we would have done what we did, I would have signed up for it without a doubt," McAlpine said. "Having gone through it, I wanted more out of it, but it has to be labeled a success. Moving forward, success needs to be improving our standing in the league and becoming a top 25 team. That will give us a chance to host a first round match in the postseason and improve our chances to reach the third round, something we have not done before."
Make no mistake, McAlpine and his staff sees what needs to be improved and have a plan to implement the steps necessary to achieve the program's goals.
"Physically, you can see the change already," McAlpine said. "This offseason, we have become faster and our team has a better understanding of what we are trying to do. I am an attacking coach and I think we need to evolve and become more dangerous in the attacking end. From an attitude standpoint, we need to be more detailed oriented. Our kids have adapted to our system very quickly and now we can focus on the little things."
The top offensive performer returning for the Cougars is Micaela Castain. An All-Pac-12 Second Team and NSCAA All-Pacific Region Third Team honoree last fall, Castain scored 11 goals (ninth in WSU history), including five game-winners (tied for third in Cougar history). In her career, she ranks second all-time at Washington State with 10 game-winning goals, fifth in goals (22) and eighth in points (47).
"Micaela is definitely a goal scorer and the team has a better understanding of how to use her to make her more dangerous," McAlpine said. "The conference also knows her, so we are going to have to find other players to compliment her offensively."
Jocelyn Jeffers (5 G, 3 A, 13 PTS) could be called upon to play a bigger role in the offense and help replace the production of Vega (8 G, 5 A, 21 PTS), and All-Pac-12 Second Team honoree.
"Jocelyn has transformed herself physically and mentally understands what we require as a staff," McAlpine said. "Fitness at a high level is something we have to have to play the style we want to play."
"Lauren and Nicole are not afraid to leave their mark on any game," McAlpine said. "They are two of the more physical players in the conference. Mesa is changing her makeup and Kayla is as healthy as she has been in her career. We have some interchangeable parts that allow us to maintain a high level of production."
The backline is anchored by centerback Rachael Doyle, an All-Pac-12 Second Team and NSCAA All-Pacific Region Third Team award winner last fall. She is flanked on the outside by Delaney Zalud and Jamie Schnieders, who both stepped in starting roles last season. Katie Turney and Susie White, the latter a redshirt last season, should both see a significant increase in playing time next fall.
"Our backline will benefit from having a full year of playing together," McAlpine said. Despite having to replace Mariah Cameron, we feel good about where we are. Jamie and Delaney had to adjust to an increased amount of running required in our system. I think they will be better prepared for next season."
In net, the Cougars have an experienced goalkeeper in Clair. The British Columbia native ranks third in Washington State history for goals against average (0.83), fourth with 20 wins, tied for fourth with 11 shutouts and sixth with 143 saves.
"Gurveen has done a good job of improving her game," McAlpine said. "She is an important part of our team and is the only goalkeeper we have who has seen game action. Matisse Hemingway and Alexis Thode challenge her in practice every day and help us get better."
The Cougars open their 2013 season, Aug. 23 at Seattle.
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