UHH soccer preview: Lady Vulcans look to build on breakthrough
Kristine Pasek stuck with it. So did Danalynne Llacuna, Moressa Lindsey, Taylor Wright, Alexandra Marin and Lauren Grace-Finley.
They entered the University of Hawaii at Hilo as freshmen in 2011, and unbeknownst to them, one of their college majors would be Overhaul 101.
They played for a different coach in each of their first three years, but something finally clicked last season under Director of Soccer Lance Thompson.
“I think everything that has happened in the past is for a reason and it led us to coach Thompson,” Pasek said. “We really appreciate that he’s here and all the work he’s done for us. We’re definitely coming out hard and ready to work for him and our whole team.”
So for enduring all the turmoil, Pasek and her fellow senior survivors have a reward: stability.
“I think we exceeded expectations last season,” Pasek said. “It was a comeback year and now we’re adding it.”
Thompson’s goal is to raise the bar a notch higher in year 2, but even he admits it will be tough to top a breakthrough 2013 campaign that saw the Lady Vulcans go 10-4-2 and carry postseason aspirations into the final game of the regular season.
“What was interesting was last year’s group really had a reason, the ‘why’ factor,” he said. “I think we’re still trying to figure out our ‘why’ up to this point.”
A senior-laden roster could be the answer for team tabbed to finish seventh in the Pacific West Conference. But just to make sure nobody’s resting on their laurels, Thompson added what he considers a strong group of ready-for-action transfers.
Another change is the Vulcans have dumped mid-afternoon kickoffs, starting with the season-opener at 7 p.m. Thursday against Cal State Los Angeles at the campus baseball field.
“It should change the atmosphere and game climate,” Thompson said.
Last season, he installed a deliberate style designed to help his team protect its end of the field, and the system certainly worked. UHH thrived season by allowing only 15 goals, and 11 of those came during a three-match losing streak midseason.
After being hired in mid-August last year, the only player Thompson had time to bring in was goalkeeper Jenna Hufford, and all she did as a freshman was post nine shutouts. But junior transfer Kayla Clarke could push Hufford for playing time.
“The big difference with this group is we created more competition with ourselves with our recruiting class,” Thompson said. “It changes the whole dynamic of the group.”
In addition to Hufford, the backbone of the team is its defense and the backline off Wright, Marin, Llacuna and another senior, Kassandra Talamantez.
“The back works well as a unit. Athletic, they communicate and don’t beat themselves,” Thompson said. “It’s already tough enough when the other team is trying to beat you.”
He wasn’t as crazy about the 19 goals the Vulcans generated last season, which is why the Vuls are seeing more of face-lift at forward and midfield.
Pasek has shown a knack for scoring ever since her first game as a freshman, tying for the team-lead last season with four. Thompson sees a similar finisher’s touch in junior Ashley Boria-Roese, a former Division I recruit at Long Beach State.
“Collectively as a group we need to do our part to increase output,” Thompson said. “Our formations will allow us more support for our forwards to take some risks.”
The search for a play-maker is on after the graduation of Lindsey Poulsen. Grace-Finley, a Kealakehe graduate, and senior Caroline Stromick (two goals last season) will see time at midfield, and Thompson expects a big impact to be made by three transfers: Jessica Heade, Ronnie Richter and Catrina Flores.
“There is a lot of fire out there” Pasek said. “Girls are coming out ready to work and giving it their all every time.
“There is a lot of knowledge and chemistry.”
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