Aug. 22, 2008
With a coaching change, inevitably come changes in philosophy and strategy. The Tigers have been working diligently with new head coach Hershey Strosberg and his staff to learn and embrace change in 2008. The progress that his team made during the spring season has Strosberg looking to the future of the Tiger program with great anticipation.
“Clemson has always been known as an athletic and competitive team and we plan to build on that this fall. There is a lot of ability and potential for this group,” said Strosberg. “Due to some key losses from last year, I think there will be a lot of people that underestimate this team and we might fly a little bit below the radar. I’m okay with that.”
The Tigers lost five starters from the 2007 team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championships. The most significant loss is perhaps that of All-American goalkeeper Ashley Phillips. The team also lost Courtney Foster, Elizabeth Jobe and Nuria Zufia, three of Clemson’s four leading goal scorers from last season.
The team does return six starters, including senior co-captains Molly Johnson and two-time All-ACC selection Julie Bolt, and 16 letterwinners from the 2007 squad. Eleven of those returners are upperclassmen and are very familiar with the tradition of excellence enjoyed by the Tiger program.
“The juniors and seniors on this team had an amazing experience with their NCAA Elite Eight run in 2006 and we are going to depend on them heavily to lead this team. Among other things, they will be relied on to influence the way we do things on a daily basis, our habits and the consistency of our efforts,” said Strosberg.
“We have quite a few players returning to the roster, although they don’t have a lot of experience yet,” he added. “Having options is exciting because any team that wants to compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference and win championships must have quality of depth. Intra-squad competition makes everyone sharper.”
Goalkeepers The Tigers’ biggest question mark heading into the 2008 season is at the goalkeeper position. The loss of Phillips, a two-time All-America selection and Clemson’s career saves leader who was the team’s mainstay in goal for the past three seasons, leaves a hole to fill.
“This is probably the biggest area of question for us right now. We had someone, in Ashley Phillips, who was very consistent over her four years here,” said Strosberg.
Paula Pritzen will take over the goalkeeping duties for the 2008 season. The sophomore from Houston, TX saw action in four games in 2007 while playing behind Phillips, giving up four goals and recording 11 saves. Despite her lack of experience at the collegiate level, Strosberg feels that Pritzen is already rising to the challenge.
“Paula made significant gains throughout the spring and I am pleased with where she is now in terms of being ready for the fall. She came up with two big saves in the first spring game and opened her teammates’ eyes to what she is capable of. She must continue to grow as a player and make up for experience with effort.”
Sophomore Marci Elpers, a Kingsport, TN native, joins the Tigers after playing for the Clemson women’s soccer club team in 2007. Elpers impressed the coaching staff with her work ethic during the spring season.
“Marci is dedicated, hard-working and selfless,” said Strosberg. “She is always pushing to make our team better, and that is a great characteristic.”
Defenders Compounding the loss of Phillips in goal are two key losses from the 2007 defense, in Elizabeth Jobe and Amber Funk. Both players were three-year starters for the Tigers and played a significant role in the impressive defensive statistics recorded by the team in recent history.
As important the loss of Jobe and Funk is the return of Molly Johnson and Abby Lambert. Both players played in and started all 21 games for the Clemson defense in 2007.
Johnson, a senior from Stuart, FL, has started 65 consecutive games on defense, every game of her Clemson career thus far. In addition to her skills as a defender, the team will also rely on Johnson for her leadership, both on and off the field.
“Molly Johnson a rock-solid, steady, tremendous on-field leader,” said Strosberg. “She is practically all-world in terms of academics. She leads so well by example and we are going to look to her to bring a lot of leadership and composure to the back line.”
Lambert, a sophomore from Basking Ridge, NJ, is left-footed and therefore a natural at the left-back position. Strosberg feels that the experience she gained during her freshman season will benefit the team in 2008.
“Abby now has a full year under her belt. She played well last fall and made significant contributions coming in as a freshman, which is a difficult thing to do, particularly in the back.”
Stefanie Schroeder (Carrollton, TX) is another player that Strosberg sees spending quite a bit of time on defense. Her versatility will allow her to play the center back or outside back position. Duluth, GA native and junior Mia Alphonso may also see playing time on the Tiger back line.
Strosberg expects two first-year players to immediately challenge for a major role. Freshmen K.K. Duffy (Atlanta, GA) and Ashlynne Bass (Loganville, GA) will add depth to the Tiger defense.
Midfielders Clemson will have the most experience in the midfield, with a trio of juniors returning for the 2008 season. Molly Franklin, Lindsey Jackson and Katie Vogel make up the core group of returners and Strosberg expects their experience in the midfield to be one of the team’s biggest strengths in 2008.
Frederick, MD native Molly Franklin is the second leading active scorer on the Tiger roster with 30 career points recorded in two seasons. Franklin was an integral part of the Clemson offense in 2007, tallying 10 assists on the season, a figure which placed her in a tie for sixth in school history for single season assists.
Lindsey Jackson (Raleigh, NC) started 18 of 21 games and Katie Vogel (Marietta, GA) started 16 of 20 in the midfield for the Tigers in 2007. Vogel is a two-year starter and was named to the ACC All-Freshman team in 2006.
A fourth junior, Lily Boleyn, may also have an impact in the midfield for the Tigers. The Ellicott City, MD native battled injury throughout the 2007 season but still saw action in all 21 games. Red-shirt sophomore Jennifer Ficklen (Fort Mill, SC) also gained valuable experience in 2007 and will challenge for a spot in the Clemson midfield.
Three freshmen, Sofia Blanco (Roswell, GA) and Sarah Jacobs (Greer, SC) have the ability to provide depth to the Tiger roster at a few different positions.
“Depending on the way that we play and the kind of look we are trying to give our team, we have a number of players that could play in the midfield and on the front line,” noted Strosberg.
Forwards Clemson suffered two key losses off the front line of last year’s team in Courtney Foster and Nuria Zufia. The pair was tied for the team lead in goals scored with six apiece in 2007.
However, senior Julie Bolt brings significant skill, speed and experience to the Tiger front line and Strosberg looks for the Charleston, SC product to be one of the team’s biggest offensive threats. Bolt is the leading active scorer on the Clemson roster with 31 points scored on 10 goals and 11 assists. While in the past, the three-year starter has flip-flopped between the forward and back positions, Strosberg plans to keep her on the front line in 2008.
“Julie can really terrorize defenses,” said Strosberg. “She has the ability to get in behind them and be a major threat. She is also another very strong leader and someone that I expect to do a lot for this team, both on and off the field.”
Samantha Fortier was also one of Clemson’s top scorers in 2007. The native of Wilbraham, MA recorded five goals and three assists for 13 points and saw action in all 21 games as a freshman.
“Sam has a knack for putting herself in dangerous positions and was able to score several goals last year,” said Strosberg. “That is a skill that you want in a forward. With some experience under her belt, I expect that she will increase in her role from last year.”
Freshman Tara Cort should make an immediate impact on the Tiger front line. Cort, from Wellesley, MA, finished high school early and enrolled at Clemson for the spring semester of 2008. She gained valuable experience by playing with the team during the spring season and Strosberg expects her to contribute right away.
Junior Danielle Schmitt is another player that played very well during the spring. Strosberg feels that, by improving on her consistency, the Fort Mill, SC native will be able to help the Tigers in 2008. Senior Fraser Gerth (Roswell, GA) and sophomore Judea Davis (Clemson, SC) will also challenge for playing time at the forward position.
Sarah Jordan, a freshman from Duluth, GA, is nearly back from an ACL injury and has the potential to be a big offensive threat for Clemson. Jordan scored 120 goals during her high school career, which was just three years due to the knee injury. She scored 54 goals in 2006 alone, tying the record for most goals scored in a season by any high school player in the state of Georgia.
Schedule As it is for any Atlantic Coast Conference team, Clemson’s 2008 schedule is extremely challenging. The Tigers will face the 2007 defending national champion and the defending national runner-up in Southern California and Florida State in 2008. Ten of the team’s 17 opponents for 2008 advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year.
Clemson opens the regular season with three home games before traveling to Columbia where they will face in-state rival South Carolina in the first game of the Carolina’s Cup, in what always proves to be an exciting matchup. The Tigers will play host to Southern Cal on September 14, a game which Strosberg feels fortunate to be playing.
“Any time you have the opportunity to play the defending national champion, it is a great challenge. The fact that we are playing them at home is really exciting. We are hoping to have a great crowd for that game.”
The challenging conference season begins on September 25. The Tigers will face North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Virginia, N.C. State and Miami at home and Wake Forest, Florida State, Duke, Maryland and Boston College on the road this season. The ACC Championships return to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC for 2008 and will be held November 5-9.
Academics The Tiger women’s soccer program has maintained a tradition of excellence in the classroom which Strosberg certainly expects to continue. The team has now recorded a cumulative GPA above 3.0 for 15 consecutive semesters and above 3.25 for the last nine semesters. In both semesters of the 2007-08 academic year, the Tigers recorded the highest cumulative team GPA of all Clemson athletic teams, thus garnering the Clemson Team Academic Award.
“One of the most exciting things for me when I arrived here is the growing tradition of excellence both athletically and academically,” said Strosberg. “The fact that this program had the highest GPA for the entire academic year doesn’t happen by chance. It’s something that these women work hard for. The fact that they take academics that seriously and are intrinsically motivated is remarkable.
“Tradition like we have here is unique. From this point, we set higher standards and bring in the strongest quality student-athletes to build a soccer team around.”
Hershey Strosberg and his staff, along with the 16 returning letterwinners and eight newcomers on the roster, are laying the groundwork to put new standards in place. They will work and grow together to bring continued success to the future of the Tiger women’s soccer program.
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