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Baylor Soccer

Soccer Season Preview: Top Three Returning Players

August 4, 2022
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With the soccer season just a couple of weeks away, and exhibitions starting on August 11, its time to help people get to know the team and its schedule. First up, we have the top returning players.

These three players are the ones I think will definitely be key pieces this year, much as they were last year. In the coming days, I will highlight three newcomers to the team who could make a big impact, three returners that might do the same, my three biggest questions for the team, the three biggest non-conference games, and the three most important conference games.

Of course with a new coaching staff, a roster that has welcomed 15 new faces, and a flip in play style, take these opinions with a healthy pinch of salt.

The Top Three Returning Players

Kayley Ables The 5th-year graduate student and Waco Midway product will return as an anchor for Baylor’s backline. She picked up All-Big 12 second team honors last year playing at center back. With her central defense partner Sarah Norman graduated, things may get shaken up.

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Kayley Ables #6 marks a WVU player

Coach Lenard has talked about wanting more tactical flexibility to keep opponents off guards from game to game. That means it might not always be a four-person back line. Whether it's a back three or simply a lot of good defenders on the roster, Ables might be moved over to outside back.

It doesn’t matter where Ables is on the field though, so long as she’s on it. She’s got the speed, strength, mentality, and ingenuity to once again be an All-conference defender. Moreover, she’s a leader for the team, so having her back for another year is huge.

Maddie Algya — Coach Lenard has said that the midfield is the most important position group for her system, and Algya has played in 54 games for Baylor over her first four years in Waco. In fact, she started all 18 games for the Bears last season. That is invaluable experience at the key position for this team.

Algya is a tough, box-to-box battler who I hope to see come into her own on the offensive end after being more of a ball-winner and distributor last year in a more limited offensive system. She netted once against UNT last year and had an assist against TCU. Clearly, her impact is greater than those stats because she barely missed a minute all year.

In her introductory press conference, Coach Lenard named Algya as a good player that she could see excelling in her system. I think she will, though there is a lot of potential on the roster in midfield.

Ava Colberg —​​​​​​​ I could have gone with Gabby Mueller in midfield here, or maybe Marissa Gray returning from injury, but Colberg was great at outside back last season as a freshman. She was robbed not to be named to the All-Big 12 freshmen team despite the number of talented freshmen across the conference.

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Ava Colberg #22 waits for a free kick

If this team turns heads this season, it will likely be due to retaining the defensive solidity of last year while becoming more prolific at the other end of the field. In my mind, that asks a good bit of the defense. Do the same job with less tactical cover. Now that is definitely an over-simplification, and I have no inside knowledge of the defensive tactics under Lenard. However, philosophically I think I’m on base.

That is all to say, Ava Colberg being one full season of division one experience further into her career is a boon for Baylor. Two out of the back four are penciled in in my mind and the other spots will be battled for by plenty of talented and promising players.

These three are a solid core to build a lineup around, and clearly reflect the defensive strength of last year’s squad. A foundation like that to push forward from should be a nice starting point for the Bears this Fall.

Note: Mueller and Gray will definitely pop-up in one of these other preview articles. They are too talented to not see the field a good bit this year, health permitting.

Next up: Top Three Newcomers

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Soccer Season Preview: Top Three Returning Players

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