54-29-11 (.633) mark over past five seasons
2015 record: 9-6-2 overall, 3-2-2 Iowa Conference (fifth place)
Starters lost: 0
Starters returning: 11 (Olivia Denham, Kayla Dowell, Kalee Findlay, Kallie Holte, Lauryn Kramer, Sydney Lunardi, Kelsey Roxworthy, Anissa Stanitzek, Jackie Sunderman, Kayla Sunvold, Rachel Verhun)
Letterwinners lost/returning: 4/23
Returning all-conference players: 3 (second team - MF Lauryn Kramer, GK Sydney Lunardi, D/MF Kayla Sunvold)
2016 co-captains: Sydney Lunardi, Kelsey Roxworthy, Kayla Sunvold
With all 11 starters and 12 additional letterwinners returning, the Central College women’s soccer squad will look to wear down their opponents this season.
A program known for youth in recent years, the Dutch will be an experienced unit regardless of which 11 players are in action. Central returns nearly all of its offense from last season, retaining players accounting for 37 of the team’s 40 goals and 22 of 24 assists.
Playing what coach Mike Kobylinski called the hardest schedule in program history, the Dutch recorded a 9-6-2 record in 2015 and finished fifth in the Iowa Conference. Central also spent time in the NSCAA North Region poll, reaching as high as No. 9 in October. The 28-player roster featured 21 underclassmen who gained valuable experience.
“Our record last year wasn’t too flashy but when you consider how young we were, we really had a pretty good year.” he said.
The majority of the roster has the ability to slot in at multiple positions, giving the coaching staff an abundant amount of flexibility with the lineup.
“The players on this team will do whatever the coaches ask of them.” Kobylinski said. “That depth and versatility really gives us a chance to excel.”
A balanced roster sees a wealth of experienced sophomores prepared to step into the same roles as the upperclassmen.
“This is really the first time we’ve had balance in every class,” Kobylinski said. “We have five seniors hoping to leave their own legacy. But we also have solid junior and sophomore classes with a phenomenal freshman class coming in this fall.”
Already tied for the program record with 27 victories, goalkeeper Sydney Lunardi returns for her final season in between the pipes. A NSCAA all-North Region selection last year and three-time all-league pick, Lunardi has lofty aspirations.
“The sky is the limit for Sydney,” Kobylinski said. “She deserves all the recognition she has received. I think she can continue to do big things. She’s excited to compete as well as lead.”
Classmate Savana Robinson has provided quality minutes in goal as well and Kobylinski considers her a key component to this team’s success.
“Savana has a lot of upside and has proved that over the years,” Kobylinski said. “It doesn’t matter which keeper is in, the whole team is working for them. We are very fortunate to have both of them here at Central College.”
Junior Sadie Jones has earned two varsity letters and provides additional depth.
Providing the defensive backbone is senior Kelsey Roxworthy. The two-year captain helps set the tone for the Dutch with her physical play in the middle.
“She does her job and she does it well,” Kobylinski said. “She has steadily developed and gained confidence over the course of her career. Her leadership anchors everything we do defensively.”
Junior Rachel Verhun, a two-year letterwinner, is a fierce competitor.
“She gives us 100 percent all of the time and is one of our smartest players,” Kobylinski said. “She has had a few injuries in her career but we are excited that she can give us those solid minutes and leadership on the pitch.”
Kobylinski is also excited to have sophomore Caitlyn Champ back, who contributed a lot of minutes as a freshman.
“Caitlyn stepped up towards the end of the year and played amazingly well,” he said.
Defending on the flanks, juniors Kayla Dowell and Jackie Sunderman will use their skill set to slow down opposing offenses.
“They are both athletic and strong,” Kobylinski said. “They know their physical strengths. It’s going to take a special forward to get around either one of them.”
Lauren Goeke, Kelsey Kramer, and Amanda Rodriguez earned letters a year ago and are all viable options again this season.
Playing with pace is key for Central’s midfielders this year according to Kobylinski, and they are led by the speedy senior Anissa Stanitzek on the outside. Stanitzek chipped in three goals and a trio of assists in 2015.
“Playing on the outside she doesn’t get a lot of notoriety, but she’s critical to our success,” he said. “She forces defenders to mark her on the outside and she provides a quick offensive option.”
One of two freshmen to score five goals for the Dutch last year, Lauren Vahlkamp also had two assists playing on the outside.
“Lauren had some critical goals last year and we want to see that again in 2016,” Kobylinski said. “She’s one of the best one-vs.-one players on our team and we hope to see more this year.Â She has goals in her and has the ability to take over games.”
The other player to score five goals as a freshman was Olivia Denham and Kobylinski suggests she can have an even greater impact as a sophomore.
“She can take over games when she wants to do so,” he said. “She’s a pest and works her tail off to score some important goals for us.”
A defensive-minded midfielder, junior Kalee Findlay will use her intelligence and awareness to control the game.
“She reads the game fantastically well,” Kobylinski said. “She does the dirty work and is definitely one of our most consistent players.”
Likely to play alongside Findlay frequently will be sophomore Lauryn Kramer. The team’s leader in shot attempts and second team all-conference player last year, Kramer is shifting to more of a defensive midfielder role.
“I think it gives us the best recipe for success,” Kobylinski said. “She’s one of the best ball winners in the conference and would run through a brick wall for the team.”
Junior Kallie Holte moves from forward back to attacking midfield, adding to the stockpile of talent that also includes sophomores Hailey Budke, Olivia Stoops, and junior Felicia Roppe.
“Kallie has goals and assists in her and we are excited to see what that looks like from this position,” he said. “Hailey is probably one of our most versatile and technical players. Olivia is also a very technically gifted player who we hope to see blossom this year. Felicia is a tireless worker who will give us 100 percent when she steps between the lines.”
An offensive style change means just one target forward will typically be on the field at a time for the Dutch. Responsible for a team-high eaight goals and four assists a year ago, second team all-conference player Kayla Sunvold has her sights set even higher this year. She is playing up top full-time after playing in multiple positions in previous years.
"She's our most creative player and one of our most technical," Kobylinski said. "She's hungry for her final year and wants to leave her mark on the program."
Also looking to compete is Hannah Reussner who played midfield last year, as well as Angelica Sandoval who had a goal and an assist in a limited role as a freshman."
Another strong incoming class of recruits has Kobylinski and his staff excited about not only this year, but the future. The contingent includes highly decorated players from six states.
“It’s going to be unsettling for other teams to deal with our balance and depth in this class,” he said. “They answer all of the aspects of the game our coaching staff looks for in recruits. It’s going to be a special class.”
Since his first season at the helm, Kobylinski has had assistants Katelin Gannon and Russ Goodman by his side. Spending six years together has been critical to the dynamics of the team, said Kobylinski.
“Katelin and Russ are obviously a huge part of what makes us successful,” he said. “It’s wonderful to have a staff together like this for so long for the sake of continuity. They are fantastic coaches and even better people.”
Another daunting slate awaits the Dutch in 2016. A 10-game non-conference schedule features trips to Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois.
“I think our schedule is balanced this year,” Kobylinski said. “We’re playing some of the top competition possible to get ready for league play.”
Conference action starts with a road contest at Coe and concludes with a home match against Wartburg, the top two teams from last season. However, Kobylinski says the conference is up for grabs.
“We’ve got to keep focused on ourselves,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of Â parity in our conference, with as many as four or five teams vying for the top spot. We expect to be one of them.”
The Dutch open September 3 at Alma College (Mich.).