Warrior women prepare for 2019 soccer season

Indian Hills freshman goal keeper Elani Mears makes a save on a corner kick as sophomore teammate Emily Murphy makes a run at the net during practice for the upcoming women’s soccer season at the IHCC north campus in Ottumwa.

No player in the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference scored more goals for a women’s soccer squad than Emily Murphy last season.

In fact, only four players in the entire country found the back of the net more in 2018 than the Indian Hills forward did during her freshman season. Both Murphy and Warrior head women’s soccer coach Anthony Longo knows what that likely means going into 2019.

“Emily is probably going to have a tougher year,” Longo said. “If our preseason matches are any indication, she’s going to be the most fouled player in junior college soccer. She’s just been taking a beating.”

Murphy scored 37 of IHCC’s 95 goals last year, leading the Warriors to a 13-4 season. Heading into this season, Murphy is likely to remain at the top of every opposing team’s scouting report as the player to stop, or at least slow down.

Longo, however, doesn’t see that as a problem. The 2019 Warriors figure to be more balanced both offensively and defensively, giving IHCC high hopes of once again contending for the ICCAC title and perhaps finally making the program’s first foray into the NJCAA Division I women’s national soccer tournament.

“We’re deep. I have a lot of options, which is kind of a coach’s dream,” Longo said. “We were kind of handcuffed last year because we didn’t have quite as many options off the bench. This year, we’ve got five really good forwards and six midfielders that are going for three spots. We’ve got six really defenders and three really good goalies that are battling to be in the starting lineup.

“Offensively, I think we’re going to pick right back up where we left off last season. Emily, Kiri Chiba and Juile Gouilliart are so talented in that midfield. What I’m excited for is that we have really good defenders. That’s where we kind of got exposed at times last season. With the talent we’ve brought in, that won’t be the case this year.”

Longo looked to his father’s powerhouse Illinois prep program, Quincy Notre Dame, to find a pair of talented freshmen that share the same name. Madison K. and Madison L. Meyer will look to help the Warriors contend with the top teams in the country.

“I think Madison (L) Meyer has the potential to score 20-25 goals this season, which should take some of that pressure off Emily when it comes to scoring,” Longo said. “It seems like those talented freshmen are all stepping up more and more every day. Elani (Mears) is really making a push to be our starting goal keeper every day. K.J. Schmidt. Madison (K). Sierra Dimmel. Yui Okamoto. They’ve all shown great improvement every day.

“I’m pleasantly surprised with where we are in the midfield. Avery Woodruff has really kind of sealed her spot in the starting lineup. I think we brought in the right pieces to compliment what we already had coming back.”

Indian Hills opens the season in Kansas competing in a tournament hosted by Hutchinson Community College. It’s one of the biggest tests for the Warrior women’s soccer program to open the season, facing both Trinidad State on Friday and the hosting Dragons on Saturday.

Still, to be invited to an early-season tournament like Hutchinson’s proves that IHCC women’s soccer has finally arrived as a program gaining respect across the country after winning 41 of 55 matches over the past three seasons under Longo, twice coming within a goal of a regional title and national tournament berth.

“It’s kind of flattering to be one of those teams that the top teams in the country know will give them a good game,” Longo said. “I think we’re the best team every year, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this. We’re right back where we need to be this year contending for a conference title and a trip to the national tournament.”

Murphy, who is embracing her role as a team leader and the top returning goal scorer in the region, feels this season is about taking care of unfinished business after losing to Iowa Western, 3-0, in last year’s regional tournament semifinals. The Reivers also edged IHCC in the 2016 and 2017 regional finals, winning in double overtime three years ago and on penalties the following season.

“I can’t contain my excitement for this season. Ever since we lost that game at Iowa Western last season, I’ve been ready for this season to start,” Murphy said. “As a sophomore, I feel almost like it’s my duty to take this team to nationals. I feel like I owe it to Anthony.

“We want to get as far as we can and put Indian Hills on the map. We’re a serious team and you need to take us seriously.”

2019 IHCC WOMEN’S SOCCER ROSTER

Freshmen — Alex Solano (5-2, GK, Orange City), Elani Mears (5-4, GK, Burlington), Madison L. Meyer (5-8, GK, Quincy, Illinois), Sierra Dimmel (5-0, D, Roseville, Minnesota), Madison K. Meyer (5-2, D, Quincy, Illinois), Yui Okamoto (5-1, D, Naruto, Japan), Alicia Chacon (5-5, M, Ottumwa), Georgia Lindon (5-3, F, Ipswich, England), Veronica Blidchenko (5-6, F, Chariton), Carolina Farias (5-3, D, Santiago, Chile), K.J. Schmidt (5-6, D, Cedar Rapids), Ibeth Rivera (5-2, D, Ottumwa), Sanne Croes (5-8, M, Enschede, Netherlands), Stephanie Cavitta (5-1, D, Sao Paulo, Brazil), Avery Woldruff (5-4, M, Cedar Rapids), Lily Aungier (5-5, F, Essex, England). Sophomores — Megan Wick (5-10, GK, Iowa City), Miranda Kurtt (5-1, F, Waverly), Kinsey Cook (5-3, M, Oskaloosa), Kiri Chiba (5-1, F, Tokyo, Japan), Julie Gouilliart (5-6, M, Albi, France), Ashley Polendo (5-8, D, Hudson), Vanessa Amaya (5-5, D, Waller, Texas), Emily Muprhy (5-2, F, Burlington), Taylor Spreckelmeyer (5-4, F, Hermann, Missouri).

Coach — Anthony Longo (fourth season).

2019 IHCC WOMEN’S SOCCER SCHEDULE

Aug. 23 — vs. Trinidad State at Hutchinson, Kansas. Aug. 24 — at Hutchinson. Aug. 30 — vs. Parkland College. Sept. 1 — vs. Otero Junior College. Sept. 4 — at Southeastern. Sept. 7 — vs. Heartland. Sept. 11 — vs. Scott. Sept. 15 — at John Wood. Sept. 18 — at Scott. Sept. 21 — vs. Hawkeye. Sept. 28 — at Iowa Lakes. Oct. 2 — vs. Southeastern. Oct. 5 — at NIACC. Oct. 7 — at Southwestern Illinois College. Oct. 9 — at Iowa Western. Oct. 12 — vs. Iowa Central. Oct. 19 — vs. Northeast. Oct. 26 — Region XI quarterfinals. Oct. 30 — Region XI semifinals. Nov. 2 — Region XI finals. Nov. 8 — NJCAA district championship. Nov. 18 — NJCAA Division I National Tournament (Melbourne, Florida).

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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