45-23-9 (.643) mark over past four seasons
PELLA—The Central College women’s soccer team and third-year head coach Mike Kobylinski added depth to a roster that posted the best record in school history last year.
After mustering a combined three wins in the previous two seasons prior to taking over at the helm, Kobylinski engineered a 10-7-1 turnaround in 2011, the fourth-best turnaround in Division III women’s soccer, before the Dutch won a school-record 12 games with a school-record .650 winning percentage (12-6-2) last fall. It marked the program’s first back-to-back 10-plus-win seasons. The Dutch also posted a winning record in conference play (3-2-2), placed fourth in the regular season standings and earned a berth in the Iowa Conference semifinals. The team set school records for consecutive victories (six) and fewest goals allowed (20).
Additionally, the team received votes in the regional rankings for the first time in the program’s 18-year history. Central received votes in the NSCAA/Continental Tire NCAA Division III Women’s North Region poll in late October, marking another milestone for Dutch women’s soccer.
“We improved the first two years and want to continue that trend,” Kobylinski said.
Central lost three starters from its 12-win team, but the roster sports 18 letterwinners and a quality recruiting class.
“Anytime you return 75 percent or more of your team, it allows for good things between knowing the system and the coaches,” said Kobylinski. “We will miss our seniors, but that is what teams are for and we have the depth to fill those roles.”
In addition to its success on the field, the women’s soccer team was recognized by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) for its success in the classroom. Central received team academic honors from the NSCAA for a compiled 3.25 grade point average (GPA) (on a 4.0 scale) and raised their previous mark to a 3.528 GPA this past year, which makes the team eligible for the award, once again. To earn the distinction, teams need an achieved GPA of 3.0 or better. It was the first time the Dutch received the honor.
“I cannot say enough about our academic focus,” Kobylinski said. “More than just being soccer players, our women are quality individuals. They are not in the news or papers for the wrong reasons; they are a great group. They are getting it done on and off the field; what more can you ask for as a coach? The standards and expectations have been set the past few years by our seniors and leaders, so we want to continue to improve in the classroom, as well.”
Central graduated Steph Hasken, who played 46 games in net over the past three seasons and started all 20 games in 2012, posting seven shutouts and 109 saves. “We will miss Steph between the pipes, but we feel we recruited quality back there and have strong leadership returning, so we will try to carry on that presence in goal,” said Kobylinski.
Kobylinski believes the team has solid options at goalkeeper in junior Lauren Weber and freshmen Sydney Lunardi and Savana Robinson and is eager to see how they perform.
“In addition to our one keeper on the roster, we have two of the top high school goalkeepers in the state of Iowa in our incoming class, in my opinion,” said Kobylinski. “Lauren is back and will be taking the leadership role left by Steph for our younger goalkeepers. Lauren has really improved and has shown steady development. Sydney was first team all-state in 1A (three-time state champion and three-time all-state selection) and Savana was first team all-metro and second team all-state in 2A in 2012. I saw a lot of the high school goalkeepers in the state of Iowa and I believe we have two of the best. Both are tall (with Savana at close to 6’) and have strengths, but offer different skill sets. They are fantastic.”
The Dutch return all but one starter on a defense that held opponents to eight second-period goals. Central outscored opponents 30-20 overall and dominated the later stages of the game with a 10-goal advantage in the closing period. Seniors Hannah Davy, Kelsey Schippers and Molly Potts anchor a veteran back line with junior captain Liz Daniels and sophomores Rachel Schmidt and Lauren Goodlove.
“We have some great returners on defense,” Kobylinski said. “Our back line is almost fully intact from last season. Liz was honorable mention all-conference and is a top-tier player in our conference. Hannah converted to center back two seasons ago and did admirably at that position and was second team all-conference two seasons ago. She is a top-tier back, as well. We are very strong in the middle of our defense.
“Kelsey will compete at left back. She performed well for us and has been a silent leader on and off the field. Kelsey is one of the reasons we were a top defensive team in the league. She has a no-quit attitude and is a pleasure to coach. Molly played center back as a sophomore for us, but may fill in right back, where she has served before. She has playing experience against the best teams in the conference and non-conference as a back. She is the consummate team player and we have been thankful she has been willing to serve the roles she has for the betterment of the team. Rachel is back from knee injury and has the skills to play in the back or in a holding center-mid role. She was all-CIML as a high school senior and captain of her team. She is a tough defender and knows how to go strong into tackles. Also back is Lauren, who will compete at the outside back position.”
The returners are combined with newcomers in juniors Emily Benson and Corey Sternhogen and freshman Kelsey Roxworthy.
“Kelsey played at a top club in Illinois and also a top high school team in Illinois and has a lot of upside. She is a good technical player from a sound high school and club background. She has a rocket of a left foot and can drive a ball 40 yards.
“We have eight backs for four positions. We will be deep and competitive.”
The team was tops in the league in goals against average (0.978) and shutout percentage (0.35), largely due to the defensive effort from this group.
“We have a good base of juniors and seniors on the back line of defense,” said Kobylinski. “That is important.”
The other Dutch starter who graduated was Liz Clancy, who started at outside-mid. “Liz did the intangibles for this team as a captain over the past two years and passed on her leadership to the younger players,” Kobylinski said. However, Central returns second team all-Iowa Conference midfielder selection junior Emily Saville. Due to increased roster depth, she may see more time at forward this season.
“We have a lot more depth and that will be the key in our conference, particularly on the wings,” said Kobylinski. “We have a great amount of speed and our attack will greatly benefit from that quality.”
Many players have versatile skills and allow for many different combinations at the midfield position. Juniors Gabbi Muse, Jackie Bell and Kayla Johnson add depth to the middle of the field.
“Gabbi is returning and was honorable mention all-conference and is one of the toughest workers around. She is small in stature, but big in heart and has improved immensely. Jackie played center-mid well for us last season and is a very sound, technical player who always gives her all. Kayla is back on the flank and provides a great, workmanlike attitude, along with Emily.
“We have many quality freshmen coming in, as well. Jordan Plante was all-state in 1A and is a very sound, technical player and plays like a bull. Her team advanced far in the state tournament. Kayla “Sunny” Sunvold is also very sound technically and has a great work rate. She performed fantastically well at our summer camp, along with Jordan and Anissa Stanitzek, so we are pleased to add that speed and technical ability to our roster. Sunny was all-CIML last year, as well. Anissa, from Grand Rapids, Mich., will be a speedster on the flank and plays similar to Jordan and Sunny. I am pleased to have a player from my home area join our team. Anissa was recruited by some Division II schools and was all-conference and all-district, so we are glad she chose to suit up for the Dutch. Anissa can rip a shot or cross a ball with the best of them. She is a solid player.
“I am very excited to unveil all three of those freshmen; all three can play outside-mid, as well as center-mid. Sophomore Rachel Schmidt is in the mix as a more defensive center-mid, as well.”
The Dutch return one of the most prolific offenses in school history. The top-three point scorers return in senior Alayna Bailey and juniors Emily Saville and Brittany Hinton. Bailey led the team with 15 goals (fourth-most in a single season) and 31 points (tied for third-most). Hinton scored 14 points on a team-high six assists and added four goals, while Saville scored eight points on two goals and four assists.
“Alayna has proven to be a force up top for us and we are pleased to see her growth as a goal scorer and a leader,” said Kobylinski. “I expect her to cause problems for our opponents with her pace, power and ability to score.
“We have a lot of our scoring punch back in Alayna, Brittany and Emily. Those three posted a lot of our scoring output. Brittany has great vision and led our team in assists over the past two years. Third in points was Emily, who may have more of an attacking role this year. Combining those three should produce a high-scoring output. We are excited for the possibilities.”
The trio combined for 53 of the team’s 86 points (62 percent), 21 of 30 goals (70 percent) and 11 of 26 assists (42 percent).
“We will miss Nancy Huddleston up top, as she provided a much-needed spark for us with leadership and work rate, but we are excited for our attacking options this season,” Kobylinski said.
The versatility is evident at the forward position, as well, which may allow for the top scorers to play all over the field.
“Emily and Brittany may see time at both forward and midfield,” said Kobylinski. “Last season Brittany was more of a striker and Emily was more of a center-mid, but we are looking at all possible combinations. They are both able to play multiple positions. Seniors Julie Wunder and Alyssa Fuller are also back. Both Julie and Alyssa, when they get ahold of a ball, can knock the seams off it. Three seniors and two juniors lead our attack, which is a great level of experience.”
Wunder and Fuller each scored one goal last season and combined for three assists.
“Those five are who we see in the forward position, but anything can happen,” Kobylinski said. “We will surprise some teams this year with our attack I hope and should be more multi-dimensional.”
The vast improvement in the Central women’s soccer program can be traced to the dedication of the new coaching staff, Kobylinski said. Kobylinski is assisted by Katelin Gannon and Russ Goodman.
Gannon received NSCAA Midwest Region Assistant Coach of the Year following her third season at Central. She was one of eight regional winners presented with the award at the NSCAA convention in Indianapolis this winter.
“I feel our staff is one of the best around,” Kobylinski said. “We return Midwest assistant coach of the year in Katelin Gannon and Russ Goodman, who propelled our goalkeeper position to unparalleled heights the past two seasons. We have consistency with the staff, as well as the team, which is nice for our women and nice for me to be able to work with such high quality coaches. I am thankful to be serving Central’s mission alongside two quality individuals.”
It’s a daunting 19-game schedule, with 11 road games, starting with four non-conference contests in Minnesota and Missouri.
“Our schedule is perhaps the toughest it has ever been,” said Kobylinski. “In year three of this process, it is about stepping it up each year. In the opening weekend we play St. Catherine (Minn.) and Northwestern-St. Paul (Minn.), two quality opponents. Following that trip, we play Webster (Mo.), a top-25 program, on the road at its sport-specific stadium and Washington-St. Louis (Mo.), the 2009 national runners-up. Our first four games are versus four quality regional opponents from four different conferences. These games will prepare us for the rest of the season we hope, but either way won’t define the season for us. It should provide for a good early test to help let us learn as we push forward with our schedule.”
Following a game at Grinnell, Central hosts Maranatha Baptist (Wis.) in its home opener on Sept. 14 at 2 p.m. The Dutch play four of six September games at home, including the Iowa Conference opener versus Simpson on Sept. 28.
Home games and road games split the month of October, as do conference and non-conference games. In that time, Central hosts Wartburg (Oct. 12), Nebraska Wesleyan (Oct. 15) and William Penn (Oct. 22). The Dutch close the regular season by hosting defending conference champion Loras on Oct. 29.
“Mixing in non-conference games during the conference portion of our schedule allows for rest, injuries to heal and to showcase our depth,” said Kobylinski. “We travel to Westminster (Mo.) and host Nebraska Wesleyan, as well as an improved William Penn, our only NAIA opponent. Those games will challenge us and prepare us for the end of the conference season. From Loras and Wartburg to pretty much any conference school, we have one of the best conferences in the nation. All of the teams in our conference are respectable and I love coaching in the Iowa Conference.”
A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex field
Central is home to one of the top collegiate facilities in the region, including outstanding game and practice fields for women’s soccer, Kobylinski said. That environment helped the Dutch build an active streak of eight consecutive home games without a loss (6-0-2) since Sept. 12, 2012.
“The environment fans can create is great and the field we play on is immaculate,” Kobylinski said. “There is a nice buzz around campus and in the community about the Central soccer programs. We appreciate the support and hope for even greater support this season. We will continue to focus on the three C’s of our program: Confidence; Consistency; Commitment.”
The Dutch kick off the 2013 season at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn. on Aug. 30 at 4 p.m.