34-19-5 (.650) mark over past three seasons
In just one year, expectations have dramatically changed for the Central College women’s soccer team. And second-year coach Mike Kobylinski is fine with that.
After combining to post a meager three wins the previous two years, the Dutch made a remarkable turnaround in Kobylinski’s first season, with a surprising 10-7-1 mark. Central was 3-4-1 in Iowa Conference play, gaining a league tournament berth.
There’s been a corresponding leap in enthusiasm as well.
“Practices were definitely more competitive in the spring,” Kobylinski said. “The players can’t wait to get started.”
Sixteen letterwinners, including nine starters, return, bolstered by a small but promising freshman class.
“We tried to replace what we lost,” Kobylinski said, noting that just two starters must be replaced. “We lost some leadership but the seniors left our program in a good state and were able to put their stamp on the program.”
There is still plenty of work to be done as Kobylinski enters year two of his rebuilding effort and there’s no guarantee Central can already put together back-to-back 10-win seasons, yet the Dutch are aiming higher.
“Losing in the first round of the conference tournament last year left a bitter taste,” Kobylinski said. “It was a rewarding year, but a lot of us were not satisfied with that. We’re going to keep training hard and playing hard, then let the chips fall where they may. If we truly put in a 100 percent effort, then we’ll be satisfied.”
That starts with training.
“We feel that the three C’s of our program are a constant daily reminder of what we are trying to accomplish and we really just focus on those things: confidence, consistency and commitment,” Kobylinski said. “Our team has really taken that motto and has run with it. With that in mind, we feel that we can accomplish a lot on the pitch and off.”
Senior Steph Hasken has a firm hold on the goalkeeper position. A three-time letterwinner, Hasken is in her second season as a team co-captain. She posted an 8-7-1 record last year with two shutouts and a 1.84 goals allowed average and 84 saves (.743). Hasken received the team’s most inspirational player award.
“Steph’s leadership on and off the pitch is a big component of this team,” Kobylinski said. “We hope she can build on last year when she made tons of improvement. (Goalkeepers) Coach (Russ) Goodman did wonders in working with our keepers.”
The lone backup is sophomore Lauren Weber.
Second-team all-Iowa Conference pick Hannah Davy, a junior, and sophomore Liz Daniels are rock-solid in the center back.
“Both did a tremendous job last year,” Kobylinski said. “Liz was our newcomer of the year. We’re expecting big things out of her. And for Hannah to be all-conference is quite an accomplishment considering the year before she was a forward. I was pleased that she was able to take on her new role and flourish.”
Freshman Rachel Schmidt of Urbandale, a standout at Dowling High School, could be a difference-maker in the center-back as well, but is sidelined by injury.
“We hope she makes a speedy recovery and we can have her on the field as soon as possible,” Kobylinski said.
Kobylinski also likes his options as he fills two other open positions in the back. Sophomore Jackie Bell earned her first letter last year, appearing in 17 games, including five as a starter. She was named the team’s most improved player.
“She also played center midfield for us,” Kobylinski said. “We were very pleased with how Jackie progressed last year and was able to play a variety of positions”.
Juniors Kelsey Schippers and Samantha Quick will also contend for time.
“We are looking for both Kelsey and Sam to provide leadership to our younger players in the back,” Kobylinski said.
Freshman Annie Weaver of Boone will get a shot as well.
“I’m excited for Annie’s potential,” Kobylinski said. “She had 22 goals in high school. We’re looking to attack more from the outside back position.”
Junior Molly Potts and senior Liz Clancy are returning starters on the outside. Clancy had a goal and two assists.
“They both improved last year,” Kobylinski said. “Liz is a captain and an important leader. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how she led the side last year and continues to do so. Molly is probably the most fit player on the team and takes pride in that. She really showed improvement in her attacking game in the spring. I’m excited to see what they can do.”
Juniors Alyssa Fuller and Morgan Gray will also contend. Fuller appeared in 17 games last year while Gray played in 15. Both scored a goal.
Look for freshman Lauren Goodlove of Cedar Rapids to make an impact as well.
“Lauren is a multi-sport athlete who has been on a successful high school team at Cedar Rapids Washington,” Kobylinski said.
In the center of the park, sophomore Gabbi Muse received honorable mention all-conference recognition as a rookie. She had a goal and three assists.
“Gabbi had a stellar freshman campaign,” Kobylinski said. “We’re really working on her penetrating passes out of the midfield and becoming more of an attacking threat. She really improved this aspect of her game this spring and we are excited to hopefully unveil that.”
Sophomore Emily Saville is in her first season after running on the Dutch cross country team last fall. Kobylinski expects her to bring immediate help.
“She’s got a lot of overall soccer knowledge,” he said. “We’re looking for her to play right away. She can play outside back or midfield as well. Emily has won many accolades in high school at Linn-Mar and we look forward for her to continue that success in the college ranks. She is a winner. ”
One of the keys to Central’s dramatic turnaround in 2011 was a breakout season by forward Alayna Bailey, now a junior. Bailey erupted for 10 goals with three assists and was 13th in the NCAA Division III in game-winning goals with six. She was a second-team all-conference selection and Central’s offensive MVP.
That came as no surprise to Kobylinski.
“We saw her athletic ability,” he said. “Now we’re just working on her becoming an even better soccer player. It will be fun to see how she progresses as a player and a leader on this team.”
Sophomore Brittany Hinton was next on the scoring charts for the Dutch with six goals and five assists.
“Brittany is someone we’re just as excited about up top,” Kobylinski said. “When she comes prepared to play, she’s a game-changer. When Brittany runs at teams with the ball she is a handful. She has a lot of upside.”
Junior Julie Wunder and senior Nancy Huddleston will contribute as well. Wunder had a goal and an assist while Huddleston had a goal and two assists.
“They can provide some leadership,” Kobylinski said. “They’re experienced players.”
After opening on the road, the Dutch play five home games in 10 days as they prepare for the conference season.
“We play some different teams this year, which is exciting” Kobylinski said.
In the conference, Wartburg and Loras figure to sit atop the standings again, but Kobylinski said the race is wide open after that.
“I’m excited,” he said. “We’ve got to keep moving forward. We got a taste of it last year and we are still hungry for more if we can make sure to stay the course.”
A big reason for Kobylinski’s optimism is due to his faith in his assistants.
“I feel that with Katelin Gannon and Russ Goodman, we have one of the best coaching staffs in the Iowa Conference,” he said. “I am grateful that I have the opportunity to help mentor them, but also be their colleagues on a day-to-day basis as I learn a lot from them and their ideas. They help tremendously with our program.”