SEATTLE - (Aug. 15) Seattle University women’s soccer has established a dominant legacy in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). In 2017, the Redhawks will look to continue their dynasty under Coach Julie Woodward.
Last year, SU made its third NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013 and ran through the WAC unbeaten, winning both the regular season and tournament titles. Brie Hooks and Stephanie Spiekerman were named WAC Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, respectively.
The figures outlining Seattle U’s success dating back to 2013 are staggering. It is 37-1-1 in its last 39 WAC contests, as the Redhawks have won four straight regular season titles and have three WAC Championships (2013, 2014, 2016). SU is one of four Division I schools with at least seven of its last eight possible conference crowns. Woodward’s squad is one of just nine non-Power 5 programs to qualify for three NCAA Tournaments since 2013 and one 21 Division I teams to achieve the feat.
In WAC regular season action, SU has a 23-game unbeaten streak-the longest such string in conference history. It also enters 2017 on a 14-game win streak in WAC regular season competition, good for the second-best streak in WAC annals. With a win in its WAC opener, Seattle U would match the all-time WAC regular season win streak, currently held by the 2012-14 SU teams.
The defense will lead the way for SU in 2017, as Spiekerman anchors an experienced crew on the back line. The senior center back was selected WAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. She will be joined by returning starters Hannah Carrothers, who was also a Preseason All-WAC Team pick, at left back. Madeline Racine (center back) and Rachel Bowler (right back), who both have seen significant time in previous seasons, will be factors defensively in 2017. Emily Bringgold, Vanessa Mercado, Mikaela Morey, Olivia Ovenell, and Emily Zimmer should all see time early in the season.
“I’ve been impressed with our back line this preseason,” said Woodward. “We have experience and great depth at that spot.”
At midfield, 2016 All-WAC Second Team choice Rosalie Sittauer is back to control the neutral third. Holly Rothering, a transfer from Washington State, will be expected to contribute and scored in SU’s exhibition with British Columbia on Aug. 11. Kelsey Vogel and Hope Fleckner are veterans who will see plenty of action this season, while sophomore Kate Farnham will be in the mix at this spot as well. Freshmen Kelsey Eagle and Laura Hooper could be impact players immediately.
“We have a lot of depth and I think we’re going to have a lot of people contribute,” said Woodward. “It’s exciting to go into games knowing we can play a variety of players and they’ll have success.”
Up front, Natasha Howe is the team’s leading returning scorer. She was named to the Preseason All-WAC Team following her MVP performance at the 2016 WAC Championship. She has scored 27 goals in her three seasons playing at Seattle U. Isabelle Butterfield, Jennifer Plummer, and Jessie Ray, and Sunshine Soriano all return with experience at the forward position, while freshman Leahi Manthei will push for time in 2017.
“Forward is another position where we have good depth,” said Woodward.
Mackenzie Curry has taken the reigns in net after a stellar freshman campaign. Curry started every WAC game, posting a 0.97 goals against average and a 10-1 record. Ashley Routh will push Curry for playing time after she started 13 matches, tallying a 0.86 GAA and four shutouts in 2016. Abby Bouck will also be in the mix at goalie this season.
“All three have different strengths,” said Woodward. “Mac(kenzie) has grown tremendously in terms of strength, confidence, and leadership in the offseason.”
With a strong core of returners and a talented freshman class, the Redhawks are in position for another run at the NCAA Tournament.