Women’s soccer squad favored to win HAAC
Coming off its first appearance in the NAIA semifinals, the Baker women’s soccer team will enter the season ranked No. 1 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever come into the season as the favorite,” Wildcat head coach Nate Houser said. “We have a strong returning cast. We’re really excited to see some of these seniors lead our team.”
Seniors Alix Schiraldi (Lenexa, Kan.), Maggie Dupes (Fallbrook, Calif.), Ashley Ukena (Topeka, Kan.), Bre Hoener (Shawnee, Kan.) and junior Jordan Dolbin (Miranda, Calif.) bring a bevy of experience that will combine with a talented recruiting class.
Schiraldi led the Wildcats with 13 goals last season to go along with being named to the all-HAAC second team. Dolbin paced the Wildcats in their run to the NAIA Fab Four with four goals while being named to the 2011 NAIA national championship all-tournament team. Dupes returns in goal for the Cats‘ after posting 77 saves with a 3.35 goals against average in 2010.
Finding a new identity will be key for the Wildcats entering 2011. Houser knows the expectations will remain high, but the team will need to learn how to play with a bull’s-eye on its back.
“We need to take some of the lessons we’ve learned and have some success right away,” Houser said. “We’re going to be deeper this year, and I’m really excited to just see the girls move forward.”
With the added pressure of the preseason ranking, the Wildcats are determined to return to the NAIA semifinals.
“I definitely think if we get ourselves in the right position for the postseason,” Houser said, “the girls will understand how to get past the hurdles we’ve had to jump over before. It’s a whole different story being the target and running at the front of the pack. Our goal is to obviously try to win every game we play, but at the end of the day we just want to be the best team we can be.”
The Wildcats open the season against Westminster College (Utah) on Aug. 26 in Salt Lake City. Their home opener is on Sept. 16 against Oklahoma Baptist University at 3 p.m.