Women's Soccer Preview Day 2: The Midfielders

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Aug. 18, 2009

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The fortunes of the 2009 UCSB women's soccer team rest with several areas. A talented and deep front line is one of those areas. Another is a midfield that returns several key players, but also suffered the loss of an all-conference player.

First team All-Big West choice Sami Svrcek, who played about 80-percent of the minutes at the holding center midfield position, is gone after starting for three of her four seasons. Replacing her will be a challenge, but head coach Paul Stumpf's believes he has the players to do so.

At the top of the list of UCSB midfielders is junior Jacqui Simon, also a First Team All-Big West player after scoring six goals and eight assists for 20 points. An attacking center midfielder, Simon will be joined in the role by sophomore Katy Roby, who scored two goals in limited playing time in 2008.

"Jacqui really came into her own last year," said head coach Paul Stumpf. "She is an all-conference level player and really gives us a great place to start when talking about our midfield."

Roby's hard work in the off-season has put her in a position to become a major factor for the 2009 Gauchos. That wasn't the case in 2008.

"She hardly traveled last year," Stumpf said of Roby. "When she did play, she could only go for four or five minutes at a time and when players like that get the soccer taken away from them, because they didn't do the work, they either quit and go away, or they dig their heels in and go to work. Katy Roby spent the summer."

The payoff?

"Katy is such a good playmaker," he said. "She has a great understanding of time and space and she can manipulate soccer balls to get into spaces that make our attackers successful. In addition to that, she is one heck of a shooter."

Stumpf expects that, at times, the Gauchos will play with both Simon and Roby in the lineup.

"There are going to be times when we are going to play the two of them next to each other at attacking mid," he said. "That configuration can really give us some firepower."

Battling for time at the center midfield position will be senior Sarah Stoltz, sophomores Brooke Salyer and Cory Yoshida, and freshman Erin Ortega. Stoltz started 17 of her 22 matches in 2008, scoring a pair of goals. In fact, it was her successful penalty kick in a first round Big West Tournament shootout against Cal Poly that propelled the Gauchos into the Big West championship match and ultimately the NCAA Tournament. Yoshida played in all 22, making six starts, and scored two goals. Salyer missed the 2008 season because of injury. As a freshman in 2007, she played in 17 matches and started 14.

"All four are very similar," Stumpf assessed. "They are quality soccer players, their fitness is great, they're ball-winners, good on the ball, composed, and competitive. All of them can play and that depth is going to help us late in games and in Sunday games from the 40th minute on."

Stumpf expects Stoltz to earn one of the starting spots. The other is up for grabs.

"The other three are really competing hard right now," he said. "Right now, I would say it is a dead heat and the competition has been great, but regardless of who emerges as the starter, I expect them all to play."

One other player who could, at some point, play a role in the midfield is junior Nicole Romanowski. But as the season kicks-off, she will start out at the center back position.

"Romo (Nicole Romanowski) is going to be sliding back to the center back spot," Stumpf explained, "She could be a factor in the midfield, but I expect that she will be very successful on the backline."

In addition to depth and skill, another reason for Stumpf's optimism in 2009 is has team's conditioning. For that, he credits first-year Director of Sports Performance Jeremy Bettle.

"Jeremy has done a fantastic job," praised Stumpf. "At the beginning of the summer, when he showed me the fitness package that he'd designed for us, I noticed he only had the team running twice a week. I wanted them running five days a week, but he said `Paul, your just going to have to trust me on this one. Your players will pass all of the fitness tests, and be ready to deal with the rigors of soccer with this program.' The program included running, plyometrics, and weightlifting. He did give me a third day of running every week and overall the results have been incredible."

Stumpf is hoping for the same results in 2009.

Tomorrow: Defenders and goalkeepers.

Women's soccer fans, new this year, donations to The Gaucho Fund - regardless of the sport it supports - will be part of the "One Donation is Gold" system. This allows donors to purchase priority/premium seating and parking at UCSB games across several sports in addition to other benefits.

If you donate to women's soccer, you will have the opportunity to purchase tickets in the Gold Zone (priority/premium seats) at Harder Stadium for men's soccer, which includes priority parking and cushioned chair-backed seating. No longer will separate donations need to be made to secure priority seating to different UCSB sports. One donation, one fund: The Gaucho Fund.

Season tickets for the 2009 men's soccer season are on sale for only five bucks a game. Fans who purchase 2009 season tickets will be guaranteed the opportunity to buy tickets for the 2010 Men's NCAA College Cup hosted by UCSB at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium Dec. 10-12, 2010. To accompany the successful "Soccer Town, USA" slogan as part of the College Cup bid, a discounted family valued offer is also available where a family of five can catch games for only $2.50 per game! Family Plan package also includes three free youth t-shirts and memberships to the new UCSB kids club: GKids . Fans can easily buy tickets online or by calling 805-893-UCSB. To purchase your tickets click here.