The stage is empty after a standing ovation performance in 2006. Will the Cobbers be able to bring the fans to their feet again in 2007?

Encore? Encore?

The 2007 Preview

The stage is empty. The seats have all been cleared. The last fans have made their way out the gate and the lights have gone to black. One of the greatest shows from last year’s Cobber athletic season has finally been put to rest. The 2006 Concordia women’s soccer team brought its fans to their feet and played through several encores as they claimed the program’s first-ever MIAC regular season and playoff championships. The team also got a taste of the NCAA Tournament by securing a spot in the national playoffs for the first time.

The 2007 season is just around the corner and fans will be wondering if the Cobbers were just a one-hit wonder or will they have the staying power to pack stadiums once more with their exciting style of play. Will the team find replacements to their lead players from last year, including two-time MIAC MVP Morgan Bain, or will they just turn into another cover band trying to recapture the glory of days gone by.

Concordia head coach Dan Weiler has brought in a bumper crop of freshmen to make sure there will be no letdown in 2007. That, coupled with the fact that CC has another very talented senior class, should have the Cobbers playing sweet music come late October.

Gone are Bain and MIAC All-Conference performers Jill Fancher, Suzy Grabko, Miriam Lombardozzi, Betsy Olesen and Amy Ravenhorst, but in their place are players who have been patiently waiting in the wings to take their place on center stage.

The hardest task for Weiler will be to find that “go to” scorer – the role that Bain played so well for four straight seasons. The most logical player to step into that spot will be senior Rachel Lewis (Lakeville, Minn.). Lewis was third on the team in scoring in 2006 with five goals and one assist for 11 points. She has the ability to create space in the penalty box and can finish when given the chance.

In 2007, Cobber women’s soccer fans might have the chance to cheer for a slightly different style of play. Gone might be the quick counterattack and the dangerous offensive outburst. In its place might be a squad that relies on shutting down the other team’s offense and then patiently waits for an opening to come away with the game winner.

The defense will be one of the most intact parts of the Cobber team in 2007. Returning for another season are goalie Britt Reiersgord (Jr., Edina, Minn.) and defenders Andi Purcell (Sr., Northfield, Minn.) and Chelsea McLaughlan (Jr., Blackfoot, Idaho). The trio helped the Cobbers keep the clamps on the rest of the MIAC and were one of the top-rated units in the league. Reiersgord tied for the best goals against average in the conference, while Purcell was one of the top “shut down” defenders in the MIAC. McLaughlan has had two years to grow into her spot as the team’s premiere central defender and her experience and skill will make it even tougher for teams to break down CC this season.

The midfield might pose the biggest question for Weiler. In the middle of the field, Darcy Swagger (Sr., Burnsville, Minn./Apple Valley) returns as a two-year starter. She will have to assume the role of the No.1 playmaker – a role left by the graduation of Lombardozzi. Joining Swagger in the middle of the park will be junior Maia Johnson (Northfield, Minn.). Johnson is a perfect compliment to any player in the center midfield and has a game suited for the tough MIAC.

The two wing midfield spots will be open with the loss of Grabko and Ravenhorst. Look for several returning players and freshmen to fight for those starting spots.

Up front, Lewis will be joined by sophomore Megan Rice (Kalispell, Mont., Flathead HS). Rice was fifth on the team in scoring last season with seven points and has the speed to break defenses down on the counterattack.

If Weiler can find a rhythm for the Cobbers to carry early in the season, then come October the team might be on their way to their fifth straight conference tournament and another sold out show waiting for the heart- stopping encore.

2007 MIAC Preseason Coaches' Poll
(First Place Votes in Parentheses)
1. Macalester (5)
2. Carleton (3)
3. Saint Benedict (1)
4. Concordia (3)
5. St. Thomas
6. Augsburg
7. Gustavus
8. St. Olaf
9. Saint Mary’s
10. St. Catherine
11. Bethel
12. Hamline