Youthful attack

Mark Gibson

SPORTS

After barely missing the playoffs last season, the FAU women’s soccer team is looking to bounce back, but will try to do so with a relatively young team.

The Owls will need to overcome a 2009 season in which they went 5-12-3 (3-7-1 in the Sun Belt Conference) and missed the conference playoffs, hosted at FAU, by losing 1-0 to rival FIU in the final regular-season game.

The team’s biggest weakness last season was its attacking. One of the team’s top players, Laura Hyvonen, battled injuries most of the season. This year, the senior is returning in full health to a team that has worked on building depth at forward.

“I’m excited to see her intermix with the newcomers to the team,” said assistant coach Chris Gnehm. “I think taking some of the load off her will help her have a better season. Other teams will have more to watch out for than just her.”

Hyvonen will be playing with a total of 16 freshmen — almost half the team’s roster. Among the top newcomers are Jesse Shugg, Brittany Nash, and Alexandra Major.

“We have a lot of strong, positive-minded girls coming in,” said senior Janelle Blake. “I feel like we’ve overcome a lot of obstacles from last year and have a better mindset. A lot of people have showed up early to start practicing.”

Blake will be the team captain this year. She is known for being a very vocal player both on and off the field. Last season saw her start in all 20 games and score her first career goal in a 2-0 victory over regionally ranked Cal Poly.

Ashley Lantes will return as the starting goalkeeper. Last season, she led the Sun Belt Conference with 135 saves and 7.50 saves per match.

She also made a career-high 12 saves in the team’s 1-1 tie against the

University of Arkansas. Lantes’ backups will be untested redshirt freshmen Courtney Zwetsch and Manon Transleau.

“We lack depth in the goalie position,” said Gnehm. “But Ashley anchors that with her performance from last year. She has the ability to make the big-time saves.”

The team’s focus on defense and neglect for offense was the source of their poor record last season. Bringing four new forwards and including more youth into the team might help close that gap.

“Our goal this year was to bring in a lot of kids who can score goals,” said Gnehm. “We feel that that depth in the roster is what will wear down opposing teams.”