The California State University, Stanislaus’ women’s soccer team had a historical season in 2013 with a record of 18-1-2, which included an undefeated season up until the NCAA tournament where they picked up their first loss of the season against Cal State San Bernardino.
Now in 2014, the Lady Warriors look at a new season without standout player Karenee Demery in the lineup, yet return nine of 11 starters from last season.
While Demery was a key figure and athlete for the Warriors the team must move on and the fact is that repeating a season like in 2013 could be a tough road, but head coach Gabe Bolton feels his team is up for the challenge.
“It (2013) was a great season. The team had spring to take big steps in tactically knowing the game and I came back with new ideas and last fall was a byproduct of the development that the team did,” said Bolton. “It was exciting to see that growth and progress. It was a special year for us. It changed the standard at Stanislaus.”
Bolton and his staff were prepared for Demery’s departure.
“One of the reasons we made some of the changes we did last spring is the anticipation and we knew Karenee would graduate and we knew we couldn’t fill those shoes and score over 20 goals,” said Bolton. “Last year she had the least amount of touches and played the least number of minutes and was a minor part of offense as previous years, but we also did the best we have ever done.”
Bolton praises his team’s ability to play so consistently, especially on the defensive side and figures this year will not be any different and that defense and possession will be key to success once again.
“The big thing we learned was learning to play differently and more like a team and not rely so much on one player,” said Bolton. “It benefited the team last year and we played some great programs in the spring so I think we are seeing the results of our system of play and our program.”
Other than Demery, the majority of the team and defense is returning with All-Region goalkeeper Chelsea Lewandowski leading the way behind a very stingy backline that returns four of the five starters from last year.
“It’s interesting because we had the best year defensively last year, but had less to do with defenders than us with being attacking,” Bolton said. “We keep so much possession and that’s a huge emphasis with us. We see it as the other team doesn’t have the ball, well then they can’t score.”
As a team the Warrior Ladies allowed only 12 goals in 21 matches and scored a hefty 53 as a team against their opponents.
“We feel strongly that we have great players and a great team and we will compete for another championship,” Bolton said. “The mentality was were keeping the ball and I think we will be strong defensive because were good with the ball and we take care of it.”
A big asset to the team’s offense will be Katelyn Nebesnick working up with Tina Benson and former Turlock High Bulldog and transfer Sara Latham, who was unable to play last season due to NCAA rules.
Karli Nestler and Maryssa McDuffy will also be the undoubted big defenders to look out for this upcoming year, but don’t be surprised to catch any young guns out there.
“Big thing of missing big players is seeing the other players step up and the younger girls step up and seeing who evolves and making the connection is exciting to be a part of,” Bolton added. “I am excited for the roster and players and what we can accomplish.”
One thing that is different this year for the Lady Warriors is the fact that they will be playing every opponent from conference only once rather than playing them twice in the regular season, adding on seven non-conference games.
“We can get to test other conferences and different teams and that’s a lot different. I think it will be good,” Bolton said. “Never had this before, we play different and try out new things and I think it will make the conference season much more special and I’m excited about that and everything.”