Soccer teams hope to build on last year’s success
A strong core of returners should have Baker University’s men’s soccer team challenging for another conference crown.
The Heart of America Athletic Conference champions in 2008, the Wildcats’ record was spoiled by five ties during their 11-3-5 season in 2009, a year after reaching the NAIA Sweet 16.
“We need to learn the lessons from our numerous ties we had and have a little more of a killer instinct,” Wildcat coach Nate Houser said. “I think we can be just as dangerous as we were before. Last year we tried to attack everybody. This year we will be more disciplined and do what we did two years ago.”
The Wildcats’ top returner is first-team all-HAAC defender Matt Griffin, a senior from Olathe. Griffin (6-3, 190 pounds) was named the conference’s defensive player of the year in 2009 and a third-team NAIA All-American.
“He is disciplined and offers a physical presence that no other team in conference really brings,” Houser said.
Other key players on defense are senior goalkeeper Alex Burton and sophomore defender Laethe Hamil. Both were selected to the all-HAAC third team last fall.
Houser expects several other players to contribute, including sophomores Nick Aguilar, Ethan Bauer and Odaine Sinclair. Bauer, the top high school player in Kansas in 2008, has healed from a foot injury, Houser said. Burton, Griffin and fellow seniors Jacob Chiarelli, Blain Snipstal and Andrew Harrington should provide strong senior leadership.
Top freshmen are Andy Griffin, Ben Coyle, Conner Brehm and Cameron Zimmerman. Coyle was a standout with the Wizards Juniors program.
“He can do anything,” Houser said. “He could potentially start at any of three positions.”
Two players who transferred before the spring 2010 semester — freshman Yoshi Taka and sophomore Michael Sheridan — should have immediate impact, Houser said.
Houser believes in 2010 the Wildcat can convert ties into wins.
“We outplayed our opponents in four of the five ties,” Houser said. “I felt we gave some of those games away.”
The Wildcats open the season at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Southern Nazarene at Liston Stadium in Baldwin City.
Three first-team all-HAAC performers — Christine Janssens, Chelsea Dunn and Alix Schiraldi — return to lead the Wildcat women’s soccer team, 13-7 in 2009.
Dunn, a defender, was the conference defensive player of the year and received honorable mention for the All-American team.
“As senior leaders, Christine and Chelsea are fantastic,” Houser said. “One leads from front, one leads from back. They understand how to battle.”
On Schiraldi, Houser said, “I think she is ready to break out. I think she’ll let go a little bit and score a few more goals.”
For the first time in program history, Baker cracked the national rankings, climbing as high as No. 15 last fall before finishing at No. 21 in the final poll.
“We’ve been getting a step better every year,” Houser said.
Top newcomers are Amber Pickering from Sapulpa, Okla., and Jordan Dolbin, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton
Ashley Ukena, Topeka, and Erin Kraus, Lee’s Summit, Mo., are other key players.
The Wildcats open at 5 p.m. Aug. 28 against Southern Nazarene at Liston Stadium.