Utah State Soccer 2012 Outlook
Aug. 15, 2012
LOGAN, Utah - The Aggies begin the 2012 season on Friday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m., at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah against in-state rival Utah.
Overview Finally. The 2011 Utah State soccer team used a mix of seasoned veterans and eager newcomers to make history. The Aggies won their first WAC Tournament title and made their appearance in their first NCAA Tournament, producing seven all-Western Athletic Conference honorees.
Having won three WAC regular-season titles in the last four years, the 2012 Utah State soccer team looks to close out their eight-year stay in the WAC in style, despite losing four all-WAC honorees, including two-time WAC Offensive Player of the Year Shantel Flanary.
"Overall, the 2011 season was a special season in our program's history. Going into 2012, our big focus is to take it one day at a time and make sure that we are better every day than we were the day before. We have some holes to fill. We had some fantastic players graduate, but I am really excited about the corps that we have. It is really about becoming the best team that the 2012 team can be," USU head coach Heather Cairns said.
After going 15-5-2 last season with a 5-1-1 conference record, the Aggies set a school record for wins. This season, Utah State was picked to finish second in the WAC Preseason Coaches' Poll behind WAC newcomer Denver.
This is the first season for the new-look WAC as Fresno State, Nevada and Hawai`i depart. Entering the conference this season for soccer will be Denver, Seattle, UTSA and Texas State. UT Arlington is also joining the WAC but does not have soccer.
For the first time, Utah State will host the WAC Soccer Tournament November 1-4. The top six teams in the league will face off in Logan at Chuck and Gloria Bell Soccer Field.
"I am really looking forward to hosting the conference tournament this year. I think that will be a big plus for to be at home during that week, assuming that we qualify," Cairns said. "I think that the WAC this year is going to be very competitive, maybe more so than it has ever been because there is less of a gap between teams."
Notes -- The Aggies will play several teams that finished in the top of their conferences last season, including Portland State and Northern Colorado (T-1st, Big Sky), Creighton (2nd, Missouri Valley Conference), Denver (T-2nd, Sun Belt Conference) and Wyoming (3rd, Mountain West Conference).
-- This season, Utah State returns senior defender Natalie Norris, who was the 2010 and 2011 WAC Defensive Player of the Year and sophomore defender Taryn Rose, who was the 2011 Freshman of the Year. Also back for the Aggies is junior midfielder Kendra Pemberton, who was named first-team all-WAC in 2011.
Forwards The Aggie offense will have the tough task of having to replacing Shantel Flanary, the program's all-time points leader who ended her storied Utah State career with 85 points scored. USU will look to a trio of sophomores for offensive firepower in Libby Lundquist, Lauren Roundy and Jade Tarver.
What Cairns Said About The Forwards... "In the forward position, in particular, we are going to look a little different. We are looking for more minutes from Jade Tarver as her health improves. Libby Lundquist is also coming back from an ACL injury. Lauren Roundy has done a fantastic job of stepping into that forward role after a year's experience."
Notes -- The Aggies return 24 of their 34 goals scored from last season. Flanary is the only goal scorer from last season not returning for 2012. Pemberton is the top returning goal scorer back with seven goals.
-- Junior Mari Miyashiro will see time as both a forward and a midfielder. The Hawaii native scored three goals last season in an injury-shortened season. Utah State will also look to get help from freshmen Danielle Gaztimbide and Kaitlyn Wilcox.
Midfielders The Utah State midfield brings back three starters in junior Jennifer Flynn, Pemberton and Miyashiro, but will have to replace four-time all-WAC honoree Chandra Salmon-Christensen. Both Flynn and Pemberton both started over 20 matches last season for the Aggies.
What Cairns Said About The Midfielders... "We return three starters in Jennifer Flynn, Kendra Pemberton and Mari Miyashiro. Our attacking midfield is looking pretty strong, like a good corps of returners with experience."
-- The midfield welcomes local talent junior transfer Robin Hansen this season who comes to Utah State from Iowa Western Community College as the native of Hyde Park, Utah native returns to Cache Valley.
Defenders The strong tradition of the Utah State backline will continue this season with the return of both Norris and Rose. The Aggies allowed only 15 goals in 22 matches last season.
What Cairns Said About The Defenders... "In the defense, obviously we are very excited to return Natalie Norris, the WAC Defensive Player of the Year, and Taryn Rose, the Freshman of the Year. We are excited to have that corps back as well as Jessica Hoskin and Brooke Larsen who had a lot of experience last year."
Notes -- The Aggies have always been known for their solid defensive play,and the 2012 version of Utah State looks to continue that strong tradition. Last season, the blue and white allowed only 15 goals for a stellar goals against average of 0.66.
-- Three of the seven Aggies to earn all-WAC honors last season came from the Utah State backfield, including Norris, Rose and departing senior Summer Tillotson. This season, another Tillotson will roam the USU backline as Summer's sister, Jackie Tillotson, transfers from UNLV.
Goalkeepers Three-year starter and WAC Tournament MVP Molli Merrill will be difficult to replace in net for Utah State this season. Senior Ashlyn Mulford is the only of the quartet of Aggies to have seen time in a USU uniform.
What Cairns Said About The Goalkeepers... "It is important for the back four to gel quickly because we are going to have a new face in goal. Regardless of who is in goal, we will have a new face replacing Molli Merrill, so it will be great to have that experience in front of them."
Notes -- Mulford played in two games for Utah State last season, allowing only two goals. She has a career GAA of only 1.30. Mulford played the last three seasons with Merrill who earned first-team all-WAC honors as a senior last season.
--The Aggies have three other netminders that will join Mulford in the goalkeeping corps in a trio of freshmen, redshirt freshman Kassidi Nudd, along with true freshmen Jeannie Woller and Natalie Stoven.