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Baylor Soccer

Soccer Season Preview: Top Three "Upside" Returners

August 6, 2022
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With the soccer season just a couple of weeks away, and exhibitions starting on August 11, it's time to help people get to know the team and its schedule.

We started with the Top Three Returning Players, looked at the Top Three Newcomers yesterday, and today we will look at three more returners with great upside. In the coming days, I will highlight 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 “Upside” Returners

Elizabeth Kooiman (#18) — It might be taken wrong when I say Kooiman is an upside player after leading the team in assists last year with five. The now senior earned her playing time and did really well with it last year, adding two goals as well. I just think she could take that next step.

It felt like the strongest part of her 2021 season was the lead-up to, and the start of conference play. From there, she had some good games and some tougher ones. If she consistently plays at that higher level that she is capable of, then we have one part of the answer in the attack.

She has good one-on-one skill, the speed to get around and behind defenders, and at 5-foot-9 is on the taller end for the team, good for winning the ball in the air. The potential is there for Kooiman to produce in a big way for the Bears.

Olivia Mack (#24) — Where Kooiman had the production last year and was a starter, current junior Olivia Mack was the go-to attacking substitute. She played 601 minutes last season, the most of any non-starter. She also scored twice, first against Oklahoma State and then against Texas Tech.

While the number of goals is nothing crazy, Mack continually found herself in good spots, causing problems for opposing defenses. Also, finding the back of the net in conference play should never be overlooked.

While the newcomers in the attack are largely unknown to me with four freshmen and Dallas Baptist transfer Jenna Patterson (#4) who could be used up front, Olivia Mack can play well at this level and could take a step up this year.

Gabby Mueller (#7) — The junior midfielder is very talented and has great control with the ball at her feet. There just might be too much talent in her position group to keep her streak of starts going. Mueller started all 18 of her 18 games last year and started every game in 2020 as well. But there are four newcomers who she has to compete with, including Ashley Merrill (#17 - DBU transfer) and Micah Beasley (#29 - Auburn transfer).

I think the change in play style under Coach Lenard should suit Mueller well. The more simple and direct offense of last year doesn’t play to what I believe Mueller’s strengths are quite as well as a more intricate, possession and passing type of attack can.

With two goals and three assists in 2021, I would not be surprised to see her double those marks in 2022. If she earns the starting spot again, that means she will have gotten her talent to fit the system well. And from there, it’s just about having fun on the field.

Oh and don’t forget that she scored this amazing goal last year.

I’d be wrong not to mention Sarah Hornyak (#2) in this article. She was really good at outside back last year and was a versatile player, seeing time in the midfield and the attack as well. She plays hard and will surely earn minutes this year, I’m just not entirely sure where on the field that will be. 

Coach Lenard will have a lot of options this year. The key will be finding lineups that work well together under her system.

Next up: Top Three Questions

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Soccer Season Preview: Top Three "Upside" Returners

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