INDIANAPOLIS – It could be the dawn of a new era in the Horizon League. Or, it could be more of the same. Perhaps no Horizon League women’s soccer season has begun with as many as this one, the 21st in the League’s history.
Most of the questions arise from Milwaukee, where the Panthers must start the year with a new coach and without the most dominant offensive player in Horizon League history. Over Sarah Hagen’s four years, the Panthers reached the NCAA Tournament in each season as Hagen wrapped her career with 93 goals and finished with 212 points -- both figures that are among the elite in college soccer history.
Also gone is head coach Michael Moynihan, now the head coach at Northwestern. The final in a family legacy that saw a Moynihan head the program for over 20 years beginning in 2011.
In his place is Greg Henschel, who will turn to seniors Helen Steinhauser, Jamie Forbes, Demi Price and Sammy Voyos to lead the squad and usher in Henschel’s style of play.
Milwaukee has captured 12 consecutive Horizon League regular-season titles and will be turning to Forbes in goal for the second straight year to guide a young defense.
Still, there were enough questions that the League’s coaches voted Milwaukee into a tie atop the preseason poll with Detroit, marking a resurgence for the Titans program.
This year's crop of Titans features 12 newcomers but returns the team's top five scorers from an offense that led the Horizon League during the regular season with 44 goals. Seven starters return from that team that went 12-6-2 (5-2-1 Horizon League) and helped Detroit enter the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed.
Abby McCollum and Kaitlyn Quarrell will headline the Titan front as both were named to the All-Conference first team a year ago. McCollum, Quarrell and Alyssa Riley finished in a three-way tie for the team lead in goals last year as each had six. McCollum's eight assists vaulted her to the top of the team in total points with 20 while Quarrell was right behind her with four assists and 16 points.
It is not a coincidence that the first and second team all-league performers in goal last year are on the teams ranked in the top two of the conference this season, as Nora Abolins will be between the posts for the Titans.
The middle of the pack was tightly contested in the preseason poll, and there is no reason to think the Horizon League season will not feature the same prospects.
Coming off an eight-win campaign in 2011, including a third-place finish within the Horizon League, the Valparaiso women’s soccer team heads into the 2012 season with high hopes of making a push for the top of the league standings this year. The Crusaders return 15 letterwinners from last year’s squad, including seven regular starters.
As with Milwaukee and Detroit, solid goal keeping will help anchor the Crusaders’ back line, as Nicole Manski returns for her junior year.
Wright State, 10-8-3 overall last year, advanced to the Horizon League's championship game in 2011 and notched its seventh straight season with at least 10 wins. Head coach Pat Ferguson has posted nine straight 10-win seasons with an overall coaching mark of 154-109-25.
The Raiders return 15 letterwinners from last year's squad. Defender Allie Metzler returns after being named to the All-Newcomer Team in 2011 and also returning to anchor the WSU defense is three-year starter Lauren Patterson and two-year starter Brooke McCurdy in goal.
Cleveland State was tabbed fifth in the poll and will turn to junior Taylor Vidovic to continue being one of the top offensive threats in the Horizon League. Earning second team All-Horizon League accolades last season, Vidovic led the squad in goals (7) and points (15) last season, ranking second in the league in goals. She begins her third season ranked fifth on the all-time career list at CSU in both goals (8) and points (19). The junior was honored with a spot on the College Sports Madness Preseason All-Horizon League first team, the lone Viking to earn a spot on the squad.
In Barry Bimbi’s second season with the Ramblers, he will rely on Second Team All-League selection Jessica Hubly and all-newcomer choice Moriah Schwarz to solidify the midfield while fellow all-newcomer pick Valerie Gonyo controls the back line.
Green Bay continues its youth movement, but the Phoenix return nine of its 11 starters and 17 total letterwinners from the 2011 squad under head coach Trevor Warren. Warren will still field a young roster, with underclassmen comprising 23 of the 29 Phoenix players.
Youngstown State will look to turn its forwards loose with Allison Ludwig and Jade Flory leading the way. Both players earned Horizon League All-Newcomer Team honors, with Ludwig a 2010 selection and Flory last year.
Ludwig tied the YSU freshman record with eight goals scored in 2010 and ranks fifth all-time with 11 career goals. Last year, Flory led the team with seven goals and three assists for a team-high 17 points as a freshman. She also led all Horizon League newcomers in goals, and scored more goals than 20 of 22 member of the all-league team and scored more points than 19 of the 22 member of the all-league squad.
Non-conference play will begin on Friday, Aug. 17, with the first conference matches taking place on Sept. 21. The Horizon League Tournament will feature the top six teams in the League, beginning on Oct. 30 and culminating with the League Championship on Nov. 4.
Tags: Cleveland State - Women's Soccer · Detroit - Women's Soccer · Green Bay - Women's Soccer · Horizon League - Women's Soccer · Loyola - Women's Soccer · Milwaukee - Women's Soccer · Valparaiso - Women's Soccer · Wright State - Women's Soccer · Youngstown State - Women's Soccer