New seasons, new expectations

The UW-Eau Claire women’s soccer finished strong Saturday as the team scored three goals in the final 20 minutes against Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minn. to collect a 3-0 season-opening victory.

After giving up a goal in the final minute of the WIAC championship semifinal against UW-Stevens Point last year, head coach Sean Yengo said the team has learned a valuable lesson: finish strong, which the Blugolds did to win the first game of the season.

“Play to the end,” Yengo said. “Don’t be a clock watcher, don’t assume anything, play to the last whistle.”

As for strategy, he said not much will change — play up-tempo soccer and push the pace of the game.

The Blugolds finished second in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference behind UW-Whitewater last year. According to WIAC preseason polls, they’re predicted to do the same this year.

Yengo said he relies heavily on senior captains Allie Stone and Kara Ryan.

“It’s a player’s game,” he said. Because there are no timeout opportunities, the leadership positions must take action quickly and on the field, however everyone has a voice on the team, he said.

The team has 17 letterwinners and eight starters returning in 2013. Ryan, a native of Plymouth, Minn., said experience is a strength coming into the season.

“When you have people people returning, they know the system and that adds leadership to the team that helps the newcomers on and off the field,” Ryan said.

The Blugold’s 6-2 conference record was second-best to Whitewater’s 8-0 last year, who are unanimously expected to take first place again this year. The Warhawks earned 17 first place votes from WIAC head coaches and sports information directors. The only other first place vote went to UW-Stevens Point.

“They’re a good team and deservingly to be the favored,” Yengo said, who added they are well coached and their intensity has to be matched in order to compete with them.

Ryan said the Blugolds always have tough competition in the conference and though no one team alarms them, they try to show the same focus no matter the opponent.

There are 14 freshmen on the roster this year, which Ryan said is more than her freshmen year, and they are a good addition to the team.

“Our team chemistry has never been an issue,” Ryan said. “We’ve always been a really close team and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

Maddie Janssen, a freshman from Blaine, Minn., said her goals are to not get pushed off the ball and to play as a team as she suited up for her first college level game against Gustavus Adolphus last Saturday, a game in which the Blugolds won with goals coming from junior Teighlor Tvedt, sophomore Caroline Henderson and Ryan.

“We started the game fairly well,” Yengo said, but at halftime he instructed the women to play with more intensity and to continue for the full 45 minutes to avoid a repeat of last year’s disappointing loss in the final minute.

Janssen said although she is nervous about playing at a new caliber of soccer, she is excited at the same time and fits in well with the team.

“I love all the teammates, There aren’t really any cliques at all, we’re all one big family, as we like to say,” she said.

The Blugolds will play their first home game tonight at 5 p.m. at Bollinger Field against Hamline University.