Under the direction of sixth-year head coach Michael Voss, Grace is coming off its second trip to the NCCAA National Championships in the past three years. In 2011 the Lady Lancers tied the program record for victories by winning two games at NCCAA Nationals to finish 14-7-3.
Armed with a new arsenal of incoming freshmen in 2012, the Lady Lancers are set on taking the program to new heights.
“Our first priority is to take our brand of futbol and push it to its limits,” Voss said. “We’ve been playing possession-attacking football in a decent manner the last couple of years, and now we are starting to see it take a definitive shape. Now we want to crank on it and see what the parameters are.”
One of Grace’s strengths this season is its depth and experience. The Lady Lancers return 10 of its 11 starters, including captains Jocelyn Evans and Carmen Barnhill. Evans, a senior, is the reigning Midfielder of the Year for the Crossroads League after recording five goals and 10 assists in 2011, and junior Barnhill returns as one of Grace’s two goalkeeping options just one year after earning First Team NCCAA All-American status.
Several other returning players figure to play a major part in Grace’s attack, including: Kristin Yocum (4 goals), Holly Bennett (8 goals, 7 assists), Kelsey Christner (4 goals, 5 assists) and Kaitlan Wiles (5 goals, 6 assists).
Defensively, junior Jalisa Thayer and sophomores Liz Casey, Jessica Bickle and Lauren Becker return to a defensive unit that recorded eight shutouts in 2011.
“I think returning 10 starting players is a new dimension for us,” Voss commented. “We have returning players who have reached a fantastic level of unity together and have made that a standard. I really believe in this core to hit the ground running. And once we get our freshmen up to speed, it will be just that much better.”
Voss has brought in a number of accomplished freshmen to battle for starting spots, including Mallory Rondeau (Wawasee HS), Darcy Johnston (Rochester, Mich.), Carianne Sobey (Woodstock, Ill.), Faith Voehringer (Covenant Christian HS), Erica Manchess (Pendleton HS), Rachel Elsner (Lititz, Pa.) and Heather Martin (Bremen HS).
Grace’s depth will also benefit from returning several players to full health, including Emily Hickerson, Jackie Seal, Ryann Casciari and Abigail Burns. The four players had increasing roles late in the season and returned to full match fitness on the team’s trip to the Cayman Islands in the spring, according to Voss.
“I’m super excited to have this crew together at last this year. This is the brand we have been planning and working toward,” Voss continued. “The personnel believe in this system and in preaching Christ through soccer. I’m excited to wind this team up and let them go. I don’t know what their limitations are, but it will be a rocket ride to the moon trying to find them. I am totally stoked to be piloting this group.”
Grace’s schedule includes a number of teams that finished ranked in the NAIA’s Top 25. They also welcome the Haiti Women’s National Team to Miller Field for a must-see exhibition game on Aug. 25.
The Lady Lancers open its season at home against Illinois Tech on Aug. 18 at 2 p.m.
Photo and information provided by the Grace College athletic department.