Mon, Aug. 20, 2012 - [Women's Soccer]
BATESVILLE, Ark. - Despite graduating 11 seniors from his 2011 squad, Lyon College women's soccer coach Ben Parman
is cautiously optimistic heading into the 2012 campaign on Wednesday against No.7-ranked Martin Methodist College.
The second-year Scots coach has reason to be optimist, with six returners, which will anchor the team defensively, led by sophomore goalkeeper Stephanie Spiteri
(Hayward, Calif.). Other defensemen that will help shore up the Lyon squad include senior defender Lea Pascal
(Aarhus, Denmark), senior midfielder and captain Amanda Marra
(Las Vegas, Nev.), along with sophomore Chandler Rae
(Harrison, Ark.) and senior Kelsey McGuirk
(Broken Arrow, Okla.).
Combine that nucleus with five freshmen that played on National teams in Guatemala, another newcomer from Ireland (Grainne Byrne
) and two players from Mountain Home, Ark. (Shelby Frazier
and Hannah Osmon
) that scored all three goals in scrimmage action last week, and the Scots could turn the 14-freshmen squad into a contender in the American Midwest Conference this year.
Lyon College is coming off a 10-9 campaign a year ago and starts with two nationally-ranked teams in its first five matches, while also meeting NCAA D-I Arkansas-Pine Bluff in that run. After visiting former TranSouth partner Martin Methodist in Pulaski, Tenn. on Wednesday (7 p.m.), the Scots will take on an Oklahoma Wesleyan squad that received votes for the NAIA Top 25. Lyon will also visit UAPB on Sept. 2 and travel to No.24-ranked University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma on Sept. 8.
Parman said he believes the tough non-conference action will help his squad get ready for the inaugural season in the AMC.
"I think we'll definitely have a strong non-conference schedule, opening up with Martin Methodist, who is No.7 in the country," the Lyon coach explained. "We also have USAO, who is nationally ranked and play University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, who won the SWAC last year. And we played a competitive Division II team in Harding. They'll all be good tests for us.
"I'm really excited about joining (the AMC) this season," Parman stated. "It's definitely going to be a challenge, especially not having played these teams we'll be going up against. I think, at the same time, it's a good challenge. The conference is strong top to bottom, so just like we did in the TranSouth, we'll have to be ready to play every game."
Three of the nine schools in the AMC will be in their first two years of collegiate competition. Columbia College and Stephens College (both in the St. Louis area) are first-year programs and Benedictine-Springfield (Ill.) started its program last year.
"I see Park (University, Parkville, Mo.), Hanibal-LaGrange (University, Hannibal, Mo.) and Columbia in the top three. Where we fit in is probably in the middle somewhere. But soccer is a funny game, and as competitive as the conference is, who knows where we'll end up."
Last season Lyon ranked 26th in NAIA in goals scored per game (2.58) and 29th in total goals scored (49).
Defensively, the Scots will be anchored in the goal by Spiteri, who started all 17 matches in 2011. She worked 1,630 minutes, surrendering only 1.44 goals per match. She finished with 75 saves and will be depended on to keep opponents' shots out of the net.
"Stephanie is a fantastic goalkeeper and we're real lucky to have her," Parman added. "We're really looking for her to anchor our back line and really excel this year. I look for her to earn all-conference honors, she's that level of a goalkeeper.
"I think the confidence of a team will come off the confidence of the goalkeeper. If a team doesn't trust the goalkeeper and have confidence in her, the whole team will more likely be on ‘pins and needles.' The goalkeeper that communicates well with her back line and the rest of the team will help the rest of the team play better and move forward."
Other returners the Scots will be looking to help Spiteri on the defense end are Pascal in the back and midfielders Marra and Rae (13 points in 2011).
"Lea is a strong outside back," the coach explained. "She likes to get forward and this past spring we used her as an outside midfielder with her ability to get forward. Her speed and fitness definitely brings some experience to the back line.
"Amanda is going to be helping to anchor one of those back lines. With two freshmen starting in the back line, her experience, along with Lea, will help shape Vicky King
(freshman, Port of Spain) and Kara Blackwell
(freshman, Conway), who both started our last exhibition game.
"I have high expectations for Chandler. She got a lot of playing time under her belt last year, so I look for her to improve at a high rate and do some good things as well."
Despite coming into the program as freshmen, the international players have the advantage of having played for National teams in their country already.
"The international girls will add a different flare to our team chemistry," Parman said. "They'll add more experience than a traditional 17- or 18-year old freshman. Coming from Guatemala, they've played at a high level for a while now, so they're adding more to our team in that respect.
"I think any time you represent your country you see a lot of benefit from that. They also see a high level of competition in the tournaments they play in."
Parman says the overall youth of the Scots will be the biggest obstacle of the team in 2012, but still feels that his squad's first year in the AMC could be groundbreaking, not to mention what they'll build for the years ahead as the team will have only three seniors.