In less than three weeks, the women’s soccer team will kick off the 2014-15 Cal Athletics year. Today’s first practice officially heralded in the new season, and while the Golden Bears lost a number of veteran starters to graduation, head coach Neil McGuire brought in a recruiting class touted as top five in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com. Added to an already-talented roster, there are plenty of opportunities for players from every class to shine. CalBears.com caught up with several of the Golden Bear returners to find out what they’re expecting from this season’s squad.
CalBears.com: What are you most excited about with this year’s team?
Senior Captain Grace Leer: I am most excited to start Pac-12 games. Preseason is a lot of preparation and when we finally get to start playing Pac-12 competition, we are really tested as a team. I am excited to see what we can accomplish when it comes down to those crucial Pac-12 games.
Senior Captain Kory Lamet: I'm most excited to be back on the field and working hard with my best friends! We all get along great and it's so awesome to be able to work hard and have fun with your best friends.
Senior Sandra Ley: I’m ecstatic to see the new chemistry that this season brings: new season, new players, new team. I’m so excited to see how well we are going to mesh on the field and express the love we all have for the game when we rock it in the Pac-12.
Junior Ifeoma Onumonu: The thing I'm most excited about this year is getting to know all of the new girls and really just starting off the season strong.
Junior Elliott Gentile: Even though our team is young, we have a lot of talent coming in and returning. I think we have the opportunity to make a huge statement this year.
Junior Samantha Witteman: I am most excited about the talent this team has and I am really looking forward to having a great season with an awesome group of girls and great coaching staff.
Junior Karly Graf: This year’s team has a selfless and hardworking aspect to it that I think will create some amazing moments this season.
Sophomore Hannah Koski: I am most excited about the team’s potential this year. I think other teams might overlook us because of the size of the senior class that just graduated, but I think we will be a surprise. We have some very talented seniors and juniors this year that will help lead the team and help bring the freshman and sophomore class up to speed.
Sophomore Alexa Vandevanter: I am most excited to watch our team grow together this year. We may have a young squad, but there is so much talent to where each player can and will benefit this program #AsOne. I truly believe we can and will go far when competing in the NCAA’s.
Sophomore Lynsey Hromatko: We have a very young team once again but it’s also a very talented one. I’m excited to see what we can do to teams with so much to offer from every player.
Sophomore Zoe Clark: We are a very young team, which, not to sound cliché, means we get to learn together and from each other to a new degree. We have a lot to prove and that’s exciting.
Sophomore Kelly Fitzgerald: I think we have a good team comradery, which will hopefully translate on the field.
CalBears.com: What is the team’s biggest challenge this year?
Leer: The fact that we have a lot of freshmen this year that are most likely to make an impact is a challenge only because the lack of experience is a factor and the adjustment is always something that takes time. However, after preseason I know the freshmen will make progress and our team will be that much better!
Lamet: Our biggest challenge is that we have so many players, and a lot of new players, and we will need to work very hard so that everyone understands our style of play.
Ley: We have a very young team this year with just a handful of experienced players, but with that said, we are also full of many versatile and talented players which I am very excited to see shine this year.
Onumonu: Our biggest challenge is that we are a young team and we lost a lot of experience with the last graduating class, but I believe that if we really focus on the details of our game we can overcome that challenge.
Gentile: The team is very young. More than half the team is freshmen and sophomores so a lot of the leadership on and off the field will have to come from underclassmen.
Witteman: I believe that the biggest challenge this year is that we are a very young team and may not be as experienced, but we definitely have tenacious talent throughout the entire team. We all have one common goal and we will do whatever it takes to meet those goals.
Graf: We have a young team coming off of losing last year's seniors, but I think it leaves room for some amazing potential.
Koski: Experience. We are a super young team, consisting of mainly freshmen and sophomores. It will definitely be a challenge but if we can build off of the senior and junior players’ experience that will help us to be more successful.
Vandevanter: Our team’s biggest challenge this year will be the ability to compete against each team separately, game by game. It is sometimes easy to look at the bigger picture when in conference or in the NCAA’s instead of solely focusing on our next opponent.
Hromatko: We still have a lot of young players and learning to all get on the same page will be something that once we master will make us a very special team.
Clark: Our great leadership and player versatility.
Fitzgerald: We have a lot of talent and young energy.
CalBears.com: What is the team’s biggest strength this year?
Leer: We are coming off of a fall 2013 that started with a high, then we had some trouble and although we made it to the NCAA tournament, we did not accomplish all that we wanted to. At the end of last fall we were not fulfilled and I think that with the work we have put in in the spring and coming off of the fall 2013 season, we can only be that much more prepared and that much more determined to have a much better season than last year, which I am confident will happen.
Lamet: Our biggest strength is that we are a very close team and we all seem to be on the same page about what we want to accomplish this year. We are all willing to work for it.
Ley: We have a lot of depth on our roster this year which will allow for high intensity soccer the entire 90 minutes.
Onumonu: I think our biggest strength is that all of us are willing to learn. Although we’re a young team, I think what we lack in experience we make up for through listening and giving in to the team's values.
Gentile: The team’s chemistry off the field looks like it’s going to be really strong this year. So far the freshmen seemed to have transitioned well into our team. Hopefully good chemistry off the field translates into good chemistry on the field.
Witteman: I believe that our team's biggest strength this year will be our movement of the ball, along with our determined and relentless attitude to win and leave it all on the field.
Graf: We have a lot of great talent combined with a strong work ethic.
Koski: I think this team’s biggest strength this year is our team chemistry. I think a key to our success will be because of how well we are bonded #AsOne. What we lack as a team we make up with for our will to fight for each other every time we take the field.
Vandevanter: Our team’s biggest strength this year will probably be our passing game. We are very quick on the ball both on offense and defense.
Hromatko: We have a lot of heart and our desire to be the best is huge.
Clark: Our biggest challenge this year is our lack of experience.That being said, we have great leadership and experience in our upperclassmen. That will be a great strength for us.
Fitzgerald: I think the biggest challenge is the loss of seniors who as a majority were starters. However, we can use that as motivation to fight for a starting position.