ST. GEORGE – After a dismal start to the 2016 season (2-5), the Dixie State women’s soccer team reeled off seven straight wins, five of them by shutout. With four games remaining, DSU had a shot at winning the conference title. But a 1-0 home loss to Dominican, due in large part to outstanding play by DU’s freshman goalkeeper, smashed those hopes early. The Trailblazers finished out the season 2-1, including an overtime victory against Cal Baptist that cost the Lady Lancers a conference title and an NCAA invitation.
“We had a disappointing start to last year,” said Dixie State head coach Kacey Bingham. “After we lost our first two conference matches, the coaching staff made philosophical changes. We made adjustments to strategy and personnel and things took off in a big way for us.”
Dixie State ended the season 11-7 overall, 9-4 in conference and in the third spot behind Azusa Pacific and Cal Baptist. DSU finished with as many wins as the teams in front of them, but had less points due to more losses. This preseason the Trailblazers are picked to finish fifth.
Coach Bingham likes the underdog role.
“We are excited with who is returning for us and we also like the new faces this year,” she said. “We have gotten more athletic and return good experience.”
Two familiar faces this year will be at the goalkeeper position. Felicity Tarr has the most experience and will get the starting nod. She started three games last year and played in 10 total. She logged 550 total minutes and allowed only four goals. She was credited with four wins and one loss and had a .750 save percentage. Sarah Beecher did not log any game minutes, but was with the team last year. She will start the year as Tarr’s backup.
DSU returns most of its experience from last year on the back line. Nichole Mertz (1,622 minutes) played every minute of every match, less eight minutes. Montana Hadley (1,573) and Bailey Kroll (1,231) also logged extensive minutes and both return as well. Also returning are Jessica Ogilvie and Shelby Christensen, though Christensen will see more time at midfield.
“We have great leadership on our defensive line,” said Bingham. “We should be pretty strong defensively.”
The slated starters at midfield are Breanna Parkinson, Kamie Hunter and Christensen. Tana Singley and freshman Kelsey Cook are also projected to be in the rotation.
At one forward spot returns the preseason All-PacWest Player of the Year, Darian Murdock. Murdock led the team with 12 goals and 26 points. She also led the team with 63 shots last year. Moving from the backline will be Kilee Lamb. Lamb played 1,423 minutes last year and had 22 shots, 13 on goal.
In addition to Cook, Bingham anticipates Ambree Bennett, Brooklyn Vogelsberg and Tori Page as other freshmen that will make immediate impacts.
Dixie State will be on the road for its first four matches. The Trailblazers start their season Aug. 31 against future RMAC foe Western State-Colorado. Their home opener will come against Westminster on Sept. 15, before beginning PacWest Conference play against Chaminade the following week.
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