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Soccer Season Preview: Top Three Questions

August 7, 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, broke down who the Top Three “Upside” Returners are, and today we will look at the three biggest questions for the 2022 Baylor Soccer team.

In the coming days, I will highlight the three biggest non-conference games and the three most important conference games as well before the season-opening exhibition vs. LSU on Thursday.

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 Questions

Will they score more and who will be scoring?

Yes, this is a double question right off the bat. Yes, I think it’s fair. For as good as Baylor was defensively under Paul Jobson, they were lackluster in front of goal. They often struggled to get that final touch and put the ball in the back of the net.

With Michelle Lenard shifting the style of play and trying to put the Bears more on the front foot, more goals are expected. The answer to “will they score more” is really the same answer to “is her system working yet?”.

With a new coach and a large amount of roster turnover, any team could take into the second year to fully adjust. That is why it's a “yet” question. Soccer is soccer. The scheme can work, but does she have the players and the buy-in to get it working well in year one? I think yes, though it could take into conference play to really see it come together. Coach Lenard has a lot of talent on the team and a lot of hard workers. This is a “when”, not an “if” in my mind.

As for who scores all those goals, with Mackenzie Anthony and Taylor Moon n— last year’s top scorers — both recovering from knee injuries, it could be anyone who steps up and slots the ball home.

I highlighted wingers Elizabeth Kooiman (#18) and Olivia Mack (#24)  yesterday as high upside players. Chloe Brown (#35) saw increasing minutes off the bench at center forward towards the end of last season.

There is also Jenna Patterson (#4), a senior transfer from Dallas Baptist, who has three years of experience in Coach Lenard’s system. She netted 13 goals and dished out 13 assists over the last three seasons in Division II.

There are also younger players who could break through like sophomore Haven Terry (#30) or freshman Annika Fredell (#15). Until we get to watch some games, it is a guessing game who wins the starting spots from this open competition. Oh, and that’s just for the forwards.

With Maddie Algya (#10), Gabby Mueller (#7), and DBU transfer Ashley Merrill (#17) in the midfield just to name a few, the midfielders will be a big goal-scoring threat as well. I just think the forwards are the bigger question heading into the year.

Will it sacrifice defensive solidity?

Finally on to question two, and it’s much more simple. If you shift onto the front foot and commit more players further up the field in attack, then naturally your defense can become more exposed. Baylor has a lot of good defenders, but the returners will be used to maybe a little bit more cover from the midfield.

I am not privy to the details of coach Lenard’s tactics and I’m sure she knows the game infinitely better than I do. She has a plan, but no plan will ever be perfect. My guess is that more will be demanded of the defense this year to allow the midfield to commit further forward. The Bears have the players to be successful at this, but will it all come together and work out?

Who is the goalkeeper?

Finally, and perhaps the biggest question as far as the starting lineup goes: who replaces Jennifer Wandt in goal? It’s been five years since Wandt cemented herself in that position, and now that she’s off playing professional it’s an open competition to take the spot. There are five goalkeepers on the roster. Alyssa Navarette (#00) and Lauren Traywick (#1) were here last year, but I heard Navarette may be out a while with an injury. The newcomers are Ashlee Zirkel (#44) and Camryn Ciborowski (#99) — both freshmen — plus Madison Martin (#0) a transfer from Texas Tech.

In my mind, I think it's a battle between Martin and Traywick. They are older and have more experience around Division I level players. I gave Martin the edge a couple of days ago in my Top Three Newcomers piece simply due to her game experience at Tech.

Whoever it ends up being, hopefully it is a clear choice, and they become the consistent starter. Switching goalies can throw off defenders due to communication and little preferences for how to handle different situations. If one person wins the job outright, that is probably what’s best for the team.

Come Thursday, with the exhibition against LSU at Betty Lou Mays Field, we will start getting these questions answered. It should be a lot of fun, and I hope many of you readers will come join the fans in the stands!

Next up: Top Three Non-Conference Games

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Soccer Season Preview: Top Three Questions

734 Views | 1 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Jack Mackenzie
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