The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 6, 1996 - 15
'M' soccer has depth along
with greater expectations
After two relatively successful seasons, the Michigan women's soccer team looks to a bright, young crop of freshmen to com-
ine their talents with a load of veterans. The Wolverines lost their last game, 2-0, to Butler, but they haven't come together
st yet. Debbie Belkin, who has coached Michigan since its first season two years ago, said she is glad to finally have some
depth. Through all of the optimism and hopes for a winning record in the Big Ten, however, lurk conference powers Minnesota
and Wisconsin. Both are ranked in the top 25 and could make things difficult for the Wolverines.
F res men cro makes quic
impact on Micigan soccer
By Kevin Kasiborski
Daily Sports Writer
One of the advantages to coaching
at Michigan is its tradition of athlet-
ic excellence. Coaches can point to
past successes when trying to moti-
vate a team or when recruiting new
But when Michigan soccer coach
Debbie Belkin came to Ann Arbor
two years ago, she didn't inherit a
tradition-laden winner. That's
because there wasn't a women's soc-
cer program to inherit.
Belkin's inaugural season marked
the first time the Wolverines fielded
a varsity women's soccer team. Their
record was 11-7-1, followed by a 7-
11-2 mark last fall. The 18-18-3
overall record is respectable for a
new program, but that includes only
two Big Ten wins.
The future, however, looks very
bright. Eighteen letter-winners
return from last years team, only two
of which are seniors. Throw in nine
freshman and Belkin has a young
team that will only get better.
"I feel like I finally have some
depth," Belkin said. "There are a lot
of combinations we can try out.
We're going to try and get freshmen
as much experience as we can, but
we also know we can blend it with
players who are returning and upper-
Junior midfielder Deb Flaherty is
one of the returning players Belkin
knows she can count on.
"Deb is a second-year captain,"
Belkin said. "She has been one of the
top players in the Big Ten since she
came here. She is a leader of our
team. She leads by example and is a
real hard worker."
Flaherty led the Michigan offense
last season, tallying six goals and
five assists for a total of 17 points,
Continued from Page 14
Hawaii with a really positive feeling
about, even though we went 0-3. It's
going to be important, I think, to see
how we come out this match against
Florida on Friday and then how we
come back against Georgia."
Florida's only loss was a 3-2
defeat by No. 1 Hawaii in its season
opener. The Gators are led by junior
hitter Aurymar Rodriguez (92 kills)
and sophomore Jenny Wood (75
kills, 59 digs).
This past weekend, the Lady
Bulldogs won their own tournament,
the Georgia Invitational. Freshman
Kathy Vis was named tournament
Last season, new Illinois coach
Don Hardin was named Conference
USA coach of the year after guiding
Louisville to a 29-6 record and the
The Wolverines won't face the
Illini this weekend but will play
them twice during the the bulk of the
Big Ten schedule.
That is in the future, however, and
right now the Wolverines are only
concerned about the Gators.
and was a first team All-Big Ten
selection. Two years ago, she was
second team All-Big Ten after total-
ing 15 points. Flaherty is the only
Wolverine ever to be selected to the
When Flaherty arrived, everyone
was, in effect, a freshman
"You didn't have any idea what to
expect," Flaherty said. "You knew
you were making history and setting
Flaherty didn't wait very long to
make history, scoring the first goal
in Michigan's first-ever game, a 1-1
"There are no
Either we do it or
- Deb Flaherty
Michigan soccer player
tie with Wisconsin-Green Bay. But
she is not satisfied with the results
from last season.
"Last year, the sophomores were
expected to be leaders, and that did-
n't work," Flaherty said. "It was our
fault for not stepping forward. This
year is a lot different already."
Still, there were six freshmen in
the starting lineup for the first game,
a 2-0 loss to Butler last Saturday.
"We didn't even come close to
working together," Flaherty said.
"Everything seemed to be working
for Butler and nothing seemed to
work for us. It was just one of those
days when things didn't click.
"Last year, (playing freshmen)
wasn't scary because I didn't know
how important experience was.
Saturday it was kind of scary
because someone can be not as
skilled but have a year of experience
and playing. It means so much."
As one of the co-captains along
with senior Michelle Brach, Flaherty
says she tries to help the team by
doing a lot of talking on field.
"I try to get everybody on the
same page," she said. "I try to get
everybody that's out there wanting to
win for Michigan. It's hard for fresh-
men, because they can't really feel
what its like to be a Michigan athlete
yet. They haven't experienced it."
Despite the opening loss, Flaherty
maintains high hopes for the rest of
the season and believes the
Wolverines have the talent to com-
pete in the tough Big Ten.
"We have all the potential iq the
world," Flaherty said. "My goal is to
go out and win more than half the
Big Ten games. And there is no rea-
son why we shouldn't win the Big
Ten tournament. We have all the skill
in the world to compete, which we
proved by only losing to (defending
national champion) Notre Dame, 3-
2, in a scrimmage."
Whoever plays, Flaherty agrees
with her coach that the depth prob-
lem has been solved.
"We have got so much depth this
year which in other years we didn't
have," Flaherty said. "This year there
is not a weak link, and if one person
is not playing good as a starter, we
have a great backup."
Depth is usually a sign ofan estab-
lished program. Flaherty says at the
very least the Wolverines shouldn't
be considered beginners any longer.
"There is nothing to fall back on
anymore," she said. "You can't say,
'Oh, we're just beginning.' There are
no excuses anymore. Either we do it
or we don't."
And either way, a new Michigan
tradition will be established.
By Mark Snyder
Daily Sports Wrinter
Every new season brings different
challenges, and this fall, the Michigan
women's soccer team must blend
youth and experience. Not a problem
with two br three freshmen, but the
# stacle for the Wolverines is to mesh
nine newcomers with the 18
Michigan returns to action tomor-
row when it faces Wright State in
Despite the size of the class, the
task will be eased by the talent of
these freshmen. Michigan coach
Debbie Belkin has injected optimism
;into the third-year program through
Soccer America ranks Michigan's
group of newcomers as one of the top
classes in the nation, and during the
Wolverines' first game against Butler
the youngsters did not disappoint.
Six of the nine first-year
Wolverines contributed immediately.
They started the game, and three more
freshmen entered before its conclu-
"Kjersten Kuhlman began the game
on defense, while Emily Schmitt and
Jen Stahl started at midfielder. The
sweeper, who picks up wherever the
team needs help, was filled by first-
year Wolverine Shannon Poole.
Adjusting to sweeper in college has
not been as easy as Poole anticipated.
"(In college). I need to communi-
cate more." Poole said.
Michigan began the game with
freshman Lauren Clister in goal, and
she played the entire first half.
Although Clister allowed two goals
against the Bulldogs, she turned away
three shots in her 45-minute stint.
The first contest was a bit more
intense than Poole anticipated.
"(The game) was a lot quicker and
the other athletes were' a little bit
faster," she said.
Although Michigan lost, 2-0, fresh-
man midfielder Emily Schmitt was
second on the team with five shots.
Marie Spaccarotella, a freshman for-
ward, contributed two shots while
coming off the bench for Michigan.
"There's a lot of room for improve-
ment (in our game)," Poole said. "We
need more time to be together and
learn each other strengths and weak-
Last season, the Wolverines faced
Wright State, and won. The 4-1 victo-
ry was highlighted by the performance
of captain Deb Flaherty, who had a
goal and an assist.
As returning starters. Flaherty and
fellow co-captain Michele Brach will
use their experience to introduce the
freshmen to the Michigan way on the
Flaherty has seen the ups and
downs that have come in the team's
two seasons, and this is the first year
where the team has begun the cam-
paign with a defeat.
That may change with games.
against the Raiders and Eastern
Michigan, but after that, the schedule
gets no easier.
The Wolverines must take on five of
the nation's top 20 teams, a couple of
which reside in the Big Ten.
Minnesota and Wisconsin are only
two of the school preventing Michigan
from topping its two-win conference
season of a year ago, so the
Wolverines face a daunting task.
But with the addition of the fresh-
men, the Wolverines may make their
third season the most memorable for
all players - old and new.
"One of the things that I think
really sticks out with this group is
when most of them were freshmen,
like Linnea (Mendoza) and Sarah
(Jackson), they opened up against
Stanford and Florida down in Florida
and just got smoked," Giovanazzi
"And now, all of a sudden, it's two
years later and they are competing
against No. 1 Hawaii and No. 6
UCLA, and they're in those games."
If the Wolverines keep improving,
it won't be long before coaches look-
ing for a tough nonconference oppo-
nent start calling Michigan.
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