TOLEDO, OH - The four-time Mid-American Conference Tournament champion Toledo women's soccer team recently wrapped up its spring season. The Rockets displayed somewhat of a new look this spring after losing key contributors to graduation, on top of having a handful of players on the sidelines due to injuries. Two-time reigning MAC Coach of the Year Head Coach Brad Evans challenged his players to build on the team's recent success and to not settle for second best.
Evans and the two-time defending MAC regular-season champions posted a 2-3-1 mark against a strong spring slate that included Big Ten schools Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, as well as Big East power Louisville.
Evans recently took a couple moments for a Q & A session about the spring competition season.
Q: What were your team's goals and objectives this spring?
Evans: Individual player development is always the goal for the spring. We try to find ways for our players to improve at whatever it is that they're good at and maybe polish up something that isn't a strength. Collectively, it is to continue to develop habits that we feel will be useful for the season and seasons ahead.
Q: Did your squad accomplish your goals this spring?
Evans: I think time will tell. History is hard to judge in the moment. You have to give it some time and see if the labor pays off down the road. We'll know more in August, September, October and hopefully November and that will give us an idea of if it was successful. You never know what lessons might come out of the spring. You might see something in the fall and say, "That was a great benefit of last spring's work."
Q: What excited you the most with your team this spring?
Evans: We had the opportunity to see some players play that didn't see as much time in the fall, like some of the younger players. I think that was a positive. Some of the younger players developed an understanding of what it takes on the physical side to compete. I thought Kelsey (Borowitz), being the only goalkeeper on the roster this spring, showed some signs of growing into the role of being the starting goalkeeper. Watching Natalia (Gaitan) and Rachael (Kravitz) really be the trendsetters and the pacesetters, in what was happening on the practice field was good to see.
Q: In the same breath, what was your team's biggest challenge this spring?
Evans: Aside from Megan Blake, every player that played in the midfield for us had surgery. Kristen (Mattei), Alexis (Tice), Meghan (Topolewski) and Nicole (Gyurgyik) all missed the entire spring. Those are key players and with them not on the field or not even in training, that can't bode well. That all affects what happens on the field and in training. But, that's where other players come in and see what they can do and see how they match up. I think that was clearly the biggest challenge. Then I think, obviously, maturity. Who's going to step up? What are you willing to do and at what level are you willing to do it?
Q: Between the posts, you need to replace four-year starter Vicki Traven, who graduated as the MAC's all-time shutout leader. Redshirt sophomore Kelsey Borowitz is the frontrunner for that position. How did she do this spring?
Evans: I thought Kelsey had a bit of an up-and-down spring, but certainly more up than down. She certainly was on the right track at the end of the spring. What's so important for goalkeepers is their training and their training habits. Kelsey (Borowitz) put in time this spring and it really started to show later on in the spring. There are still some inconsistencies, but she's young. I thought there were some really good moments during the Ohio State and Louisville matches. You started to get a picture of how she's going to progress and how good she can be. The question is whether the training stays at a high level, and to see if she flourishes with added confidence.
Q: On offense, two-time all-league honoree Kristen Lynn has graduated, but you return MAC Offensive Player of the Year junior Rachel MacLeod and all-conference recipient junior Nicole Gyurgyik. You have to be pretty confident in your attack heading into the fall?
Evans: Scoring is a tricky thing, and the more we saw this spring, the more you saw the impact that someone like Kristen (Lynn) had from a training standpoint, a consistency standpoint and a performance standpoint. Rachel (MacLeod) missed close to one month during the spring with a sprained ankle and Nicole missed the entire spring. Now you've got a whole new crew of players. Ashley (Ross), Sarah (Seig), Rio (James) and Emily (Tustin) all played some up front. They all got a lot of time, and we started to see some growth and see what they can do. I have no idea what our attack is going to look like in the fall. It will all depend on the development of those younger players and the incoming players. Is Nicole going to be fit and healthy? With Rachel, where's her summer time work going to take her? To be honest, I don't know. We went into last fall thinking that the midfield was a question mark and it turned out to be a really good group for us. I think this fall we're looking at the forwards thinking, "We'll see." It was a decent spring, not a great spring, for the attackers.
Q: On defense, senior Natalia Gaitan and senior Rachael Kravitz return. How important is that when you are breaking in a new goalie?
Evans: Because of depth, we actually played Rachael (Kravitz) up front this spring, but she'll play in the back in the fall. It was a bit of a mix and match in the back. I think Natalia (Gaitan) and Rachel are going to be relied upon heavily. Clearly Natalia is excited to see what her Olympic experiences provide for her in the fall, not necessarily immediately upon her return, but over time and throughout the course of the season. Rachel's stable approach and her consistency are really important, not just for the backs and for Kelsey, but for the team as a whole.
Q: Senior Jaimie Morsillo, sophomore Alexis Tice, sophomore Meghan Topolewski and redshirt freshman Molly Cantwell are returning from ACL injuries. How are they progressing and will they be fully available at the end of July?
Evans: Jaimie (Morsillo) will be fit to play. I think her development for being able to return to performing at a high level is not yet complete. She is certainly fit enough now to play. She has to get more time on the ball, focusing on the things that she can do that can help us. Molly (Cantwell) came back for a little bit, but she's out again. We hope she can come back well. Alexis (Tice) has missed the better part of the last six months and getting her back to health is a big deal. She has to get her ankle in order. And finally Meghan (Topolewski) recently had surgery, so we'll see.
Q: Your team lost five valuable seniors to graduation in 2011. How difficult was it not to see them on the field competing this spring?
Evans: We'll see in November about that. I think that the rising senior group are good soccer players. They like the game. They enjoy what they do. Every senior class is different and this group is no different. They have to find their way, and that's what the spring is for. Really, in soccer, every six months is a new team. In the spring, you lose your graduating seniors and then on August 1 you add a whole new group of kids. So the dynamic changes every six months. This group likes the game, and they're a steady group. I think it's important for the rest of the team to also follow that lead and to show their passion and joy for the sport.
2012 Spring Season Results (2-3-1)
Defeated Ashland, 1-0
Defeated Cleveland State, 1-0
Lost to Michigan, 1-2
Tied at Louisville, 0-0 (45-Minute Match)
Lost to Ohio State, 0-1 @ Louisville (45-Minute Match)
Lost to Michigan State, 0-2
Alumni Game (@ Fetterman Training Center)
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