Posted: Aug 8, 2012 2:55 PM by Q2 Sports
Billings - MSUB's soccer women face an inspiring challenge this season -- improving on success of the last few years. At the cornerstone is second year head coach Wojtek Krakowiak.
Krakowiak has been with the Yellowjackets for three seasons, and the upcoming season marks his second as head coach. MSUB followed their 2010 NCAA tournament appearance with an 11-3-4 record in 2011 and a second place finish in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, marking the second straight year the ‘Jackets have accomplished this feat. MSUB also finished the year ranked ninth in the final NSCAA/Continental Tire West Region poll.
The ‘Jackets high point of the season came between the period of Sept. 22 through Oct. 27 where they reeled off six victories and three ties out of 10 matches. During this 10 game stretch MSUB posted three shutouts and scored 19 goals compared to six from their counter-parts. The Yellowjackets' had their most explosive game offensively on Oct. 8 against Northwest Nazarene where the team scored six goals, tied for sixth all-time amongst all Yellowjackets teams.
"The 2011 season was a very important transitional year for us and I think the team did an excellent job in facing this challenge head on," stated Krakowiak. "The girls were extremely competitive at every practice which aided in approaching each game with the determination and drive needed to make a successful season possible."
Krakowiak and the Yellowjackets will lean on their experience and use the momentum from last season to elevate them to new heights in 2011. In addition to the 16 returners from last year's roster, MSUB added a strong 2012 recruiting class to add depth in all the respectable positions.
This year's group will have a great combination of talent, experience and depth. With consistent play the ‘Jackets are poised to potentially reach the post season again.
"We have a very strong group coming back," said Krakowiak. "With six experienced seniors leading the team, we know what it takes to compete at a high level and win. Our region and conference is one of the toughest in the nation, every game is important and there is no room for error."
2012 marks the first year the GNAC will have a conference tournament that leads to an automatic NCAA Tournament appearance. The Yellowjackets will be focused on the task at hand of returning to the tournament and improving on their 2010 showing. This task will not come easy, the 2012 schedule is filled with tough competition starting with Colorado School of Mines who finished last season with a 17-2-4 record, nationally-ranked No. 5 and regionally-ranked No. 1 in the Central Region.
In the most recent NSCAA/Continental Tire pre-season national rankings (Aug. 7) Colorado School of Mines comes in at No. 5. Another notable ranking in the poll belongs to fellow GNAC member Seattle Pacific which comes into the season ranked No. 19 nationally. The ‘Jackets and Falcons have battled for conference supremacy the past couple seasons.
Last year MSUB split their season series with Seattle Pacific who finished first in the GNAC and ranked first in the NSCAA/Continental Tire West Region poll.
With the addition of junior college transfer Demi Wignot, Krakowiak will have 10 upperclassmen leading this year's group. Andrienne Biglow, Courtney Harvey, Jennifer Larsen, Kristen Kastelic, Janae Remsberg and Jaucelyn Richter will look to leave their mark on MSUB's soccer program in their final season of competition. Co-captains Larsen and Richter will look to continue their high level of production this fall.
Richter is coming off a stellar junior campaign leading the team in goals scored with 11 and earning several accolades: GNAC Academic All-Conference team, first team All-GNAC, NSCAA All-West Region first team and first team All-West Region by Daktronics. She is currently ranked fifth among MSUB's career scoring leaders.
Larsen has also had a remarkable career as a Yellowjacket thus far. In 2011 she scored three goals (including one game winner) and one assist for a total of seven points all from the defender position. In total Larsen has scored 16 career goals as a defender. She earned second team all-conference and second team NSCAA All-West Region team honors last season.
Juniors Heidi Greenback, Jackie Hill and Whitney Siler are also valuable members of the returning core. Greenback currently sits at eighth in career scoring leaders and was second on the team in scoring last season earning her second team All-GNAC and third team NSCAA All-West Region honors.
Defensively, Krakowiak will rely on Siler and Larsen to set the tone for ‘Jackets. Siler started all 18 games in 2011 and led the team in minutes played with 1707. MSUB's defense only allowed 12 goals on 188 shot attempts last fall.
MSUB also had several members of the team improving their skills and competing over the summer. Richter and sophomore Chelsea Shuman competed in the United Soccer League's National W-League. Richter played for the Colorado Rapids Women team and Shuman was a member of the Super 20's team that won this year's league championship.
The Yellowjackets have a talented group of newcomers joining the team this fall that plan to have an immediate impact. In total MSUB welcomes nine new members that will strengthen the team offensively and defensively. Alexandria Johnson and Megan Wade along with sophomore Kaylee Kimmet will welcome the challenge of replacing Danielle Gordon at goal keeper. Gordon had 61 saves last season and a save percentage of .836.
In addition to the new student-athletes that joined the ‘Jackets, Krakowiak will also have a new assistant coach on the sideline this fall. Eric Lona comes to MSUB with a versatile and accomplished coaching and playing background. Lona's expertise in goal keeping will be of vital use for the Yellowjackets this season.
"We are very excited about the upcoming season," stated Krakowiak. "Furthermore, I am thrilled with our latest addition of Eric Lona as assistant coach who brings a lot of coaching experience to MSUB. Our schedule this year is very challenging, but we are looking forward to great competition. We constantly have high expectations for ourselves as a program, and the goal is to get back into the NCAA tournament."
MSUB's talent and experience lay a solid foundation for the team to take the program to new heights in 2012. Consistent play, focus and team chemistry will be deciding variables in accomplishing their goals this season.
The Yellowjackets last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2010 and the team is poised to return and surpass this plateau in 2012.
To view live stats, home games and various road contests Yellowjackets' fans can go to the links provided on the women's team schedule page.