Spread the word: the Northwestern women’s soccer team is no longer a doormat in the GPAC. The program hosted its first ever postseason match after they earned third place in the conference in 2012.
The women went 9-7-2 in 2012 under Blake Wieking, who stepped down as head coach late this summer. Ben Karnish, who was previously the JV coach on the men’s side, replaced Wieking and inherited 14 letter winners on this year’s squad.
Junior defender Kari Hilbrands said, “Karnish brings a lot to the team because he has so much knowledge of soccer. His youth makes him able to practice with us, and he has wisdom and humility that makes him a great leader for our team.”
Depth and experience rule at every position for NW.
Senior Ariel Watts will be the starter between the posts again this year. She had six shutouts last season and was named to the second team all-conference squad.
Five defenders will support Watts in what may be the deepest part of the Raiders roster. Juniors Kati Hill and Hilbrands, senior Gretchen Sutherland and sophomore Kim Korver all started games for NW last season. Senior Layce Johnson will also return to the back line after missing all but two games in 2012 because of a severe knee injury.
In the midfield, seniors Jo Jensen and Alyssa Duren will look to build on campaigns where they earned All-GPAC honorable mentions. Seniors Ann Calsbeek, Jessica VanderBaan and Missy Yorchak, junior Megan Knutson, sophomore Mattie Ostrowski, freshman Christina Vanderbyl and freshman Alissa Christoffer all will have chances to contribute.
Junior Tyler Farr will be the main threat up top for NW. Freshman Jahdai Dunk is another speedy option at the position. Junior Priyanka Fernando brings depth as a third goal-scoring threat.
“As a team, we have some pretty high expectations,” Hilbrands said. “(Including) being one of the top teams in our conference and hopefully making it to nationals.”
After a 1-1 tie against Grand View on Wednesday night, NW’s current record is 1-2-1. The Raiders will face Jamestown N.D., this Saturday at 4 p.m.