Last fall, Jasmine Ruiz was honored as Big East Freshman of the Week at Villanova, Kara Blasingame tied for the Texas A&M University-Commerce team lead in assists and Maddy Lambert and Taylor Peck acclimated well to the college game after having just finishing their senior seasons in the spring at Oswego East.
Their departure, and quick success at the next level, tells you a lot about what the Wolves will miss this spring.
What it doesn’t tell you is that the program remains in pretty good hands.
“We are very technically sound, and we have a lot of ballhandlers and distributors,” Wolves coach Juan Leal said. “Our weakness is that we don’t have an established goal scorer.”
Ruiz had 19 goals and nine goals last spring for the Wolves while Blasingame, the program’s record holder for assists, delivered 12 and added six goals while Peck finished a four-year career with 46 goals and 18 assists.
With so much to replace offensively, Leal acknowledges that a resilient defensive effort is going to play a huge role in whether or not the Wolves can piece together a winning season after finishing 12-8-1 in 2017 against a formidable non-conference schedule.
“We are very optimistic as we have a solid defensive line that has experience working together along with two seasoned veteran goalies,” he said. “We are looking to possess and keep our opponents out of our defensive third. As we don’t have an established goal scorer, we are going to be asking all of our players to find a way to contribute.”
A few midfielders saw significant minutes last spring and will be asked to play a more prominent role. That includes senior Molly Schiltz (three assists), junior Sydney Conway (four goals, four assists) and sophomore Haley Lewis (three goals, two assists). Sophomore defenders Allison Adams and Madison Frazer will have the huge task of anchoring the defensive back line.
Opportunities to play will be there for the Wolves and many of those minutes could be taken by up-and-coming freshmen, including midfielders Samantha Anderson and Abigail Scott and forward Alexandra McPhee.
“I definitely think we’re ready to go,” said Schiltz, the only Wolves senior to be on the team since her freshman season. “We’ve got a lot of new players, including three new freshmen who are doing great and there’s also some sophomores and juniors and seniors. Everyone who has joined the team has an amazing skill set of their own and each is unique and can help the team.”
Schiltz acknowledges that the Wolves will definitely miss some key contributors from a season ago, especially on the scoring front, but that simply means others now need to step up.
“We have such a variety of impact players and everyone can make a difference,” she said. “We’ve been practicing a lot on our offense. I think scoring and creating those opportunities are something we’ll be particularly good at and our defense is obviously working hard.”
Yet again, the Wolves have a formidable schedule,opening with Downers Grove North which took four in the state in Class 3A.
“The schedule really helps us,” Schiltz said. “We’realso playing in a showcase in St. Louis this year against two of the top-rankedteams from Illinois and Missouri. So this gives us a lot of exposure to better teams to see where we’re at.”