Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Women’s soccer team looking to ‘transition’

The University of Denver women’s soccer team completed one of the best seasons in program history last year, and after an off-season of team bonding, the Pioneers are ready for a “transition” year, according to head coach Jeff Hooker.

Last season, the Pioneers posted a 19-3-2 record, tied with the DU mark for most wins in a season. The Pioneers claimed their fourth Sun Belt Conference (SBC) regular season title with a 9-1-1 record.  The team also earned its third straight and sixth overall Sun Belt Tournament crown and made its sixth NCAA Women’s College Cup appearance.

The Pioneers were paired with Kansas in the first round of the national tournament, but the Jayhawks, who earned an at-large bid to the tournament, defeated the Pioneers 2-1 in a hard fought battle.

Despite the upset at the NCAA tournament, six Pioneers earned all-conference honors, led by senior Taryn Hemmings, who earned her second SBC Player of the Year award. Junior Lizzy Carlson and senior Jessi Keller joined Hemmings on the All-SBC First Team, seniors Carrie Blankenbuhler and Mackenzie Snyder and sophomore Bria Beardsley earned All-SBC Second Team honors. Head coach Jeff Hooker also picked up his fourth SBC Coach of the Year award, sharing the 2008 honor with Florida International’s Thomas Chestnutt.

The Pioneers graduated a class of 10 seniors but have returning players that they will be counting on including preseason All-SBC selections Carlson, senior forward Mariah Johnston and junior defender Jessie Rogers.

“Players that were there before are going to fill roles, but we are looking forward to the incoming freshmen,” Hooker says.

Denver has signed goalkeeper Maria Khan from Aurora, Colo., Kaitlin Bast from Centennial, Colo.; Lara Campbell from Anchorage, Alaska; Katy Van Lieshout from Boulder, Colo.; and Kalie Vaughn from Fort Collins, Colo.

The team will open the new DU soccer stadium for the DU Invitational Aug. 28–30 but the Pioneers’ first game will be Aug. 22 against Wyoming. That game will take place at Regis University in Denver while the new soccer stadium is completed.

“We are excited about a very difficult and challenging 2009 schedule, and especially about opening the new soccer stadium,” Hooker says.

Denver will then look to defend its title at the CU invitational against in-state rival Colorado on Sept. 4 and Colgate on Sept. 6 in Boulder, Colo.  The team also is looking forward to playing seven out of nine nonconference games in Colorado this year.

“Our main goal this year is the NCAA tournament,” Hooker says.  “The championship is reachable, and if we make it, it will be a successful season.”

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