Published: March 14, 2012
There’s no better time to tinker and rebuild a program than the spring season.
Games don’t count towards a championship, players have time to work on technique, and coaches can build and tweak things from a tactical perspective.
And in the Big East, perhaps no team is more eager to utilize this spring than Georgetown, which lost All American attacker Ingrid Wells, as well as a handful of other impact players, to graduation.
It gives the Hoyas a very obvious goal in this spring season.
“Spring’s interesting for us,” Georgetown head coach Dave Nolan told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “We graduated six starters and our team for the last five years has been dominated by Ingrid Wells in everything we do…our whole team was shaped around her and the class of seniors that just graduated.
“This spring has really been about trying to form an identity of who’s going to step up on the field, who’s going to step up off the field, and what kind of team identity that this team’s going to take as opposed to the last five years.”
A candidate to help fill those shoes is Daphne Corboz, who scored 10 goals as a freshman in the fall. She’ll certainly need to take more of the attacking impetus on her shoulders if Georgetown hopes to maintain its recent success.
Despite Georgetown’s need to hone in on a new style, Nolan has taken a hands off approach to this stage of the season.
“I’ve tried to sit back and let individuals step up, see who will naturally step up,” he said. “We’ve probably had mixed results. It’s still a team that’s trying to figure out its identity.”
Meanwhile, other programs like Marquette, Louisville and Notre Dame get a number of players back. The Golden Eagles in particular return nine starters from last fall, and are in the early stages of the spring process, recently completing a futsal tournament.
One of Marquette’s cornerstones heading into the fall will be rising junior Maegan Kelly, who scored 14 goals and added 12 assists to Marquette’s attack. With the departure of West Virginia, and with so many returning starters, it won’t be a surprise to see them listed among the contenders in the fall.
“It’s a great mix and we’re real excited about having that group back,” Marquette head coach Markus Roeders told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “It’s been a really good spring so far, they’ve been highly motivated, worked extremely hard and at times I think we have to slow them down a little bit.”
Louisville, which boasts the return of standouts like Christine Exeter and Rachel Melhado, is another team full of familiar faces that will push for Big East honors. Rutgers, Seton Hall, Providence and Syracuse are also among those hoping to contend again in the fall.
The wild card at this stage of the season for every conference and team is how the arrival of a new class impacts proceedings. With the Big East luring a number of top players in the nation, it’ll add another wrinkle this fall as the players settle in and adjust to a higher level.
Notre Dame in particular is anxious to bring in its new group.
“We’re really eager for this freshman class to come in, because we’ve got 10 really good freshmen coming and I’m real excited about this class,” head coach Randy Waldrum told TopDrawerSocer.com. “Typically in an incoming freshman class, if you’re bringing in five or six players, you usually have two or three that are going to be ready to step on right away, and the others are going to need a little bit of time to get settled in.
“But this one, I think every single one of them is ready to step on and play right now. That’s going to make for a very, very competitive preseason and that’s what we’ve been trying to emphasize to the kids this spring.”
Big East Players to Watch
Daphne Corboz, Georgetown: “She’s the dominant attacking player on our team, which is pretty good to see as a freshman.” Corboz scored 10 goals as a freshman and will face the expectations of helping replace Ingrid Wells. Can she handle the weight this fall?
Christine Exeter, Louisville: Fresh off a successful U20 World Cup qualifying effort with the Canadian U20s, Exeter is certain to return to campus with more experience and hungry to add to her sensational sophomore year that saw her score 14 goals, add 3 assists and pick up Big East Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Maegan Kelly, Marquette: Few players last fall could match Kelly’s numbers from last year, as she scored 14 goals and had 12 assists. With another year under her belt, bigger and better things are expected in the future.