2014 Women's Soccer
Beavers to rely on experience in 2014
August 12, 2014
A Bluffton University women’s soccer team that dropped no fewer than six one-goal decisions a season ago, including three in overtime, returns an athletic squad that looks to turn the tables on a 5-10 campaign thanks to a wealth of experience, including the top goal scorer from 2013. The mid-field and defense have the skills and experience to help Bluffton return to its 2011 form when the Beavers earned a spot in the Heartland Conference tournament, advancing to the championship game where Hanover squeaked out with a 1-0 victory after 80 scoreless minutes.
Bluffton will miss the strength and athleticism that four-time All-HCAC honoree Aimee Whitmer brought to the pitch, but the cupboard is not bare as leading scorer Kristen Tropf (Findlay/Van Buren) found the back of the net nine times as a freshman in 2013. With experience returning throughout the lineup, the one position that is still looking for a suitor is keeper. Junior Ashley Knippen (Wapakoneta) who allowed just 1.51 goals per contest in 2013, is spending the semester in Ireland. Her departure has opened the door for incoming freshman Katie Neeley who will have to adjust to the speed of the game quickly as she transitions to the collegiate level.
Seniors Jess Williams (Genoa/Genoa Area) and Danielle McQuillin (Delta/Pike-Delta-York) give Bluffton legitimate scoring threats with the speed needed to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. McQuillin scored two goals while Williams chipped in with an assist a season ago. After missing her freshman campaign with a knee injury, Terrill Webb’s (Kenton) return gives Coach Nussbaum another skilled and speedy forward to help take the pressure off Tropf who drew much of the opposition’s attention in 2013.
The backfield continues to be a strength for the Beavers with senior Jo Bondra (Highland Heights/Mayfield) back for her final season on the pitch. A long-time starter for Coach Nussbaum, Bondra showed her versatility and athleticism on the softball field in the spring, starting at first base for a squad that advanced to the Heartland Conference championship game. Junior defenders Marisa Aguilar (Taylor, Mich./Divine Child) and Virginia Keim (Dundee/Hiland) have seen extensive minutes on the field their first two seasons and they continue to improve.
The addition of Abby Karikas (Curtice/Genoa Area) to Bluffton’s program last season allowed the Beavers to move Aimee Whitmer forward, creating more scoring opportunities for the senior who was the second straight soccer player to be honored with the Kathryn E. Little Award as the Outstanding Senior Female Athlete at Bluffton. Maddie Moore took home the honor in 2013. Karikas had a tremendous freshman year and will likely spend time at center back and in the mid-field. Sophomores Beth Snyder (Akron, NY/Akron Central) and Katie Roushia (Bryan), who missed most of 2013 following an early-season injury, will both be in the mix for playing time in the backfield this season.
With much of Bluffton’s lineup back following a year when the Beavers were on the cusp of another double-digit victory season, the expectations are high going into 2014. Four straight road matches to kick off the season set up the home opener with Marietta which is slated for Saturday, Sept. 13, at 12 p.m. The Beavers travel to defending champion Hanover College to open the Heartland Conference portion of the schedule on Saturday, Oct. 4 before an 18-day stretch when Bluffton is home for five of its six conference matches. Come out and support the Beavers when they take the pitch in 2014!