By Kyle Cape-Lindelin Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
For freshman Rebekah Kurle, playing in front of over 4,400 screaming Pilot fans at Merlo Field is a dream come true.
"It's a blessing and an amazing opportunity to start as a freshman," Kurle said. "I'm so nervous and excited at the same time. I've probably only played in front of 60 people at once so this is a drastic change."
Kurle and the rest of the 2011 women's soccer team started the season off with a bang, beating No. 4 ranked Florida State 2-1 and Northwest rival Washington State 1-0 at Merlo Field. However, the thrill of beating two quality teams soon vanquished when the Pilots lost 1-0 on their first away game of the season against San Diego State.
"We put ourselves in the best position to win. Unfortunately we couldn't get a goal," head coach Garrett Smith said. "It really proves to us that it is a different game away from Merlo, and we need to be prepared for both as well as any team we face."
The Pilots struggled on offense in all three games, not looking at all like the goal-producing machine that was the 2010 team led by captains Sophie Schmidt and Keelin Winters. The Pilots are now trying to integrate eight sophomores from last year's top recruiting class with veterans like seniors Danielle Foxhoven, Halley Kreminski and Kassi McCluskie as well as talented freshmen like Kurle, Emily Sippel and Kassi's younger sister, Lorielle McCluskie.
As a result, the Pilots demonstrated a lot of confusion offensively whether it was having to rally from behind to beat FSU, going 65 minutes without a goal against WSU or failing to score and losing against USD.
"The fact is that we have nine players at new positions and eight sophomores still learning what they need to do to help our team," Smith said. "Information is still being learned and we're happy it is being learned by players as talented as our sophomores because they are our team and our future."
One offensive powerhouse that the Pilots will be able to depend on is forward Foxhoven who has scored 49 goals throughout her three years at UP. She displayed her scoring talents again against top-ranked FSU, scoring both of the Pilots goals, the first coming off a quick freezing move against FSU's goal-keeper and sharply shooting it in. Her second goal came in the 44th minute as she scored on a penalty kick to win the game.
Offense was again an issue against WSU as the team went the first half with only one shot attempted. It wasn't until the second half that the Pilots came out aggressive and exhibited constant pressure, firing off 15 shots in the period. One of those was the winning goal by sophomore Amanda Frisbee, who broke away from the Cougar defense in the 65th minute and shot the first game-winning goal of her career in the lower left post area.
"The first half we really struggled to get it going, but we came out aggressive in the second half and kept grinding until we got an opportunity," Frisbee said. "That breakaway felt great and I knew that was our chance. I'm really happy that it turned out to be
While offense has struggled early, the defense is still dominating. The Pilots have allowed only four goals so far this season with senior goal-keeper Hailee DeYoung leading the charge. DeYoung's experience, athletic ability and solid physique (5'10'') allow her to have the upper edge on most opponents as well as being a leader to her younger teammates.
"I just play for the love of the game and stay focused on my job," DeYoung said. "You can't just learn to be a leader when you're young. It comes with experience and I have the experience now, so I try to help the younger ones out on and off the field and lead by example."
While the loss to San Diego State was harsh this early in the season, the Pilots need to get refocused and prepared for the annual Husky Fever Classic in Seattle, WA. The Pilots will go up against Seattle University on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and play again on Sunday at 11 a.m. against Boston University.