UWSP women’s soccer set for 2021 season with confidence and depth
For the Gazette
STEVENS POINT -The UW-Stevens Point women’s soccer team gets set to take the pitch this week for the first time since playing in the NCAA Tournament in November 2019. Head Coach Dawn Crow enters her seventh season and optimism is as high as it’s been in her tenure. Led by 2019 All-WIAC first-team selection Kati Frierdich (Neenah), the Pointers are fraught with experience and depth at every position.
“We’ve learned to not take anything for granted,” stated Crow. “If COVID had a positive effect, it’s just us coming out competing and getting better every day. The players have embraced it and held each other to a higher standard.”
Frierdich leads the way up top after leading UWSP in goals and points in 2019 Her experience will be coupled with a few new players in the mix. Lauren Johnson (Wisconsin Rapids) scored three goals in 2019 and has a season of collegiate action under her belt. Newcomers McKenzie Johnson (Green Bay) and Jessica Camarato (DeForest) figure to play a big role in the UWSP’s offense as well in 2021.
In the midfield, Bridget Kauzlaric (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) returns after 15 starts in both 2018 and 2019. She has three goals and five assists in the two seasons. She will be joined by Hannah Kroupa (New Berlin, Wis./West), a transfer from DI Northern Illinois and the duo has been dynamite in the air this fall.
Additional depth and flexibility will be provided by Gabby Dunn (Dallas), Madison Culli (Arlington Heights), Mackenzie Jones (The Woodlands) and Shea-Lynn Gerred (Fond du Lac), all of whom can play at midfield or up top.
“This is the deepest team we’ve had,” continued Crow. “When we go down the bench, the level of play doesn’t go down.”
On the back line, the Pointers look to replace All-American Meaghan Ambelang (Stuttgart). Jacqueline Aleman (Lemont) will likely move to the back line as a solid left-footed option. Aleman has five career goals and has 34 career starts. At center-mid, Sophia Reddan (Madison) and Hannah Luginbill (Sheboygan) have locked down time. Freshman Mara Gustafson (Green Bay) has taken the lead on the other outside back position. Depth is also plentiful on the back line with Olivia Piloni (Rochelle), Gina Wasniewski (Ironton), Chiaki Vogt (Appleton), Savannah Reed (Waukegan) and Chloe Martin (Kaiserslautern) all vying for playing time.
The Pointers return a pair of experienced upperclassmen goalkeepers in Brookelyn Heiss (Marietta) and Miranda Nieman (Wisconsin Rapids). Nieman has the most on-field experience with 14 career appearances and four victories, including WIAC Defensive Player of the Week honors, in 2019. Heiss enters her third season with the team and will complete her degree early. Her opportunity is now with the two keepers competing for time in goal.
“If you want to be the best, you gotta play the best,” commented Crow on her team’s schedule for 2021. Beginning with the season opener at Wartburg on Wednesday, the Pointers face a pair of ranked foes on the road in the first week of play.
Crow also commented that the consistency in the coaching staff with assistants Matt Davis and Eric Wiberg has helped grow the team chemistry. Additionally, the fact that the team is fully vaccinated will give Crow’s side an advantage when they travel to away matches regionally and on their trip to Texas for a pair of matches in mid-September.
After a season-opening game at Wartburg on Wednesday, the Pointers open the home slate with matches against Hamline and St. Olaf on Saturday and Sunday.