Women's soccer team ready to take on any challengers

Written by: Sartaj Aujla

The University of Akron’s Women’s Soccer team battled through a daunting 2011 season, and with some changes made to the program, are ready for the challenge ahead with the upcoming 2012 season.

The Womens Soccer team finished 7-9-2 in 2011, with posting a 4-2-1 record at home, but had a 2-7-1 record on the road.  The team made the MAC Tournament for a third consecutive year, but fell short with a loss to Central Michigan 2-1 in the MAC tournament Quarterfinal.

Some changes to the coaching staff have been made to the program since then, as the team’s Head Coach, Chris Pfau,  is no longer with the team.  Vernon Croft will take his place as Interm Head Coach for the season.

“We are excited that Vernon will lead our women’s soccer program during the upcoming season,” Akron Director of Athletics Tom Wistrcill told gozips.com.  “He has quickly built a rapport with our student athletes, and his head coaching experience will allow us to progress towards the top of the Mid-American Conference.”

“it is a fantastic opportunity to be involved with such a program as the women’s soccer program.” Vernon Croft said about the opportunity to coach the team.

Vernon Croft, who was hired as one of the teams assistant coaches in February, brings quality coaching experience to the sidelines. Croft spent two seasons as an assistant women’s coach at Miami (Fla.),  and prior to that, spent nine seasons as the Women’s Soccer Head Coach of Indiana State in 1999.

Vernon Croft is the Indiana State Sycamore’s all-time winningest coach. He was also rewarded with the MCV Coach of the Year in 2004.

The Women’s Soccer team have also named two new assistant coaches: Keri Sarver, Mike Lambeck.

“We’re very excited to have Keri and Mike join our staff,” Croft told gozips.com. “With these two additions, we have every piece of staff in place that will allow us to be successful as a program.”

With the new staff in place, the Women’s Soccer team is ready to take on the upcoming season. The team was the first University of Akron fall sports team to report to practice on August 1st.

“The players bring so much this past spring and we have a very good group of freshman that just arrived on campus.” said Interm Head Coach Vernon Croft. “with the two groups coming together in pre-season we expect to have the same soccer mentality and philosophy from the spring and bring in some more competitive fire for the fall.”

Along with the coaching changes, the team roster has seen some changes as well.

The team has a total of twenty-one players returning to the team. Those players are: Karina Atinkson, Taylor Ballard, Brooke Carrel, Kelly DeNiro, Rachel Dennis, Kaitlin Flanagan, Alexandra Frawley, Kyarah Foushee, Lexa Green, Gillian Gross, Ashley Hughes, Brianna Kanz, Amber Kern, Hailey Kirkwood, Alex Luevano-Harden, Liz Moyer, Carli Pimm, Danielle Raymann, Maggie Rusnak, Kristen Shulte and Katie Wise.

The team has lost a total of eight players, but have added twelve players to the roster. Eleven of those twelve new players are Freshman.

The expectations for the Women’s Soccer Team are set high, due to the fact that the program has qualified for the Mid-American Conference Tournament in the last three seasons.

“The biggest soccer challenge is as with any team in the MAC is to move beyond the first round of the post-season tournament.” Coach Croft explained. “We have qualified each of the past three years and now we need to move forward from that.”

In addition to the challenge of advancing in the MAC tournament, Interm Head Coach Vernon Croft also mentioned some basics that any team needs to consistently train.

“A challenge for any program for a season is staying healthy” Croft said. “as long as we are smart about training rhythm, recovery and fitness; we should be moving in the right direction.”

The Women’s soccer schedule was released on April 17th, 2012, with some key highlights for the team.

The team will host eight matches at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field, five of which are Mid-American Conference contestants.  The season opener will be against Morehead State on August 17th, which Akron is 2-1 all-time against.

Also worth highlighting on the schedule is an October 7th showdown with rival Kent State, which will be part of the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge.  The team will also be in the University of Tennessee Tournament against Virginia Commonwealth and William & Mary.

Additionally, Akron will be facing Big-Ten School Michigan State for the second straight season on September 2nd. Michigan State were 5-0 winners over Akron last year.

With a new coaching staff, partially new roster, and new challenges awaiting the Women’s Soccer Team this season, the program is aiming for a successful season.

“We have a lot of winners here in our program,” Coach Croft said. “from the players, to the staff, to the support staff… now we mesh these winners with the challenges and thus we create an environment where challenges become easier to overcome.”