UWSP women’s soccer looks to build on 2017 success
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) women’s soccer team racked up nine wins in 2017, its most since 2012, and return several players on offense from last season’s team.
All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) selections Maddy Hardyman and Alexis Petersen are among the nine returning starters on this year’s team.
“I can see that this team has put in the work we’ve asked them to,” said UWSP women’s soccer head coach Dawn Crow. “Now they are making it difficult for us to come up with a lineup.
“It makes for a very competitive year, and that is going to be a big thing for us as we move this program forward,” she said.
The Pointers have two experienced goaltenders on the 2018 team in senior Olivia Mecham and sophomore Lexi Pawlowski, both of whom saw playing time last season. Mecham played in played in two matches and held a 0.00 goals against average, and Pawlowski also played in two games and did not allow a goal.
“Either way, the team will feel comfortable with whichever goaltender is back there,” said Crow.
Petersen returns from an All-Conference season to anchor the defensive line for her sophomore year.
She has been moved to a center back position and will be relied upon to alleviate the opposing offenses before they can reach the goalkeeper. She started 18 of the 19 matches a season ago and recorded her first career goal against St. Norbert Sept. 3.
Joining her as a center back is fellow sophomore Meaghan Ambelang of Germany, who had a stellar freshman campaign. She helped the Pointers record eight shutouts and finish with a 0.81 team goals against average in 2017, while she tallied three goals in her freshman season.
Senior Lexi Aherns made a successful transition to the back line a year ago and looks to be a starting outside back this season. A member of the 2017 WIAC All-Sportsmanship team, Ahrens played the fifth-most minutes among field players last season and notched an assist.
All-WIAC defender and former Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln standout Kaitlyn Hess joins the Pointers after a solid freshman season at UW-Stout. A likely candidate at outside back for UWSP this year, she led the Blue Devils with seven goals and 18 points a season ago.
Hope Garbison, Sophia Reddan, Brooke Scheuble and Bri Widmer of D.C. Everest will all vie for playing time and provide depth on the back line.
“We have three of our four starters back this year,” said Crow. “We’ve done it a little bit different with moving Alexis and Meaghan to the center-back spots.”
The Pointers have a number of experienced options at the midfield, led by senior Kortnee Hass, who scored twice and had a pair of assists last season.
Junior and former Nekoosa standout Kassidy Spees scored four scored four goals in 2017, including game-winners against UW-Eau Claire Oct. 11 and Edgewood Oct. 22, while she also had two assists last year.
Sophomore Nora Hargett led the Pointers with six assists and was the primary taker on set pieces last season, while sophomore and former Wisconsin Rapids Assumption standout Gracie Wendels tallied five goals and four assists.
Freshman Bridget Kawzlaric has shown that she has the ability to fill in as a central midfielder, while Garbison could also see time at midfield.
UWSP has a number of options up top in 2018, led by All-WIAC junior Hardyman, who scored seven goals and added four assists before a season-ending injury late in the conference season last fall. Despite missing the final four matches of the season, Hardyman had the second-most shots on the team.
Sophomore Francesca Hamilton returns after she led the Pointers in scoring last season, with nine goals and three assists as a freshman, while junior Amanda Maestas had four goals and an assist.
Senior Olivia Bohnert had a goal and was second on the team with five assists last season, while sophomore Charity Shaw will move to forward this season, with freshmen forwards Jacqueline Aleman and Esme Reinders also looking to contribute.
“Overall, from a team aspect, we have gotten so much more athletic than we have been in the past,” said Crow. “You can tell they have put in the work and now they are making it difficult for us to make a lineup.”
The Pointers face a nine-game, nonconference slate to start the season, before they open conference play at home against UW-Stout Sept. 29.
UWSP kicks off the season on the road at St. Olaf College (Minn.) at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, and the next day will have its home opener against Lawrence University at the Pointer Soccer Bowl at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1.