Coming off a historic 2011 campaign, the Case Western Reserve University women’s soccer team seems only to have reloaded in talent and determination. After graduating starting goalkeeper Anna Kennedy, the Spartans have used the combination of sophomore Cameron Casson and freshman Megan Romelfanger to shut out two of their first three opponents. The Spartans have also relied on new blood, such as freshmen midfielders Lauren Wichman and Kiley Armstrong to fill the gap left by current student-coach Kendra Simmons, who, as a midfielder for the Spartans, was named as the team’s first-ever NCAA Division III All-American.
Using this new talent, along with the several key returners such as senior captains Deena Levey, Devyn Lee, and Maeve Goede, along with junior midfielder/forward Leah Levey and junior forward Rachel Bourque, the Spartans will be gunning for a second straight NCAA tournament berth. On Saturday, Case (2-1-1) matches up against Wittenberg University (1-2-1), a team that has already held Case’s UAA rival Carnegie Mellon University (3-0-2) to a 0-0 tie.
One of the key players for the Tigers is senior goalkeeper Cassie Lythjohan, who has allowed just three goals in the past four games, despite seeing over 35 shots on goal. The Spartan defense should also be on the lookout for the Tigers’ junior forward Kayla Murphy, who leads the team with two goals. Murphy takes well-aimed shots, with at least two shots on target each of the past three games.
The job of defending against Murphy should come down to the trio of defenders: Goede, junior Katie Chapin, and freshman Kate Dolansky, who, despite a minor hiccup against Centre College, have held down a remarkably solid back line, giving up only one goal prior to their first home matchup and posting a 2-0-1 record during that period.
One of these victories came against the Big Reds of Denison University, a team that played the Spartans to a 0-0 draw last year. In the rematch this year, the Spartans held the clear advantage, not only on the defensive side, where the Big Red were limited to just six shots, none of which were on target, but on the offensive side as well, where Case notched 19 shots. Despite the barrage of shots, the Spartans were unable to get a lucky bounce until nearly the 80th minute, when Armstrong neatly settled a loose ball and put it into the back of the net.
Coming off of that win, the Spartans looked poised to make a run into their matchup with John Carroll University later in the month. JCU was the only team to beat the Spartans last year in the first 12 games; however, they found a tough opponent in Centre. The Spartans gave up two first-half goals and another in the second half to the Colonels, despite holding the Colonels to just eight total shots.
Interestingly, the Spartans looked strong in the loss, consistently able to settle long balls and make the turn-around a defender. They were also able to get some good opportunities down the sidelines, controlling the ball well and moving it down the field. With different cuts to space and better bounces, the final outcome of this match could easily have been reversed.
On the defensive side, all three of Centre’s attempts on goal were from 22 yards or farther. The Spartans did a good job of taking away any scoring chance the Colonels had inside the box, making a few gutsy, well-executed tackles inside the penalty area. Look for the Spartans to continually challenge Wittenberg inside the penalty area.
This Saturday’s game against Wittenberg starts at 6 p.m. at Case Field.