Preview: Women's Soccer Hopes to Reverse Close Losses

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Men’s soccer preview

The other seniors on the Muhlenberg women’s soccer team like to joke about Natalie Wizel’s 5-foot, 2-inch size. But it’s no laughing matter how the Mules came up a little “short” last year.

Natalie Wizel
Wizel enters her senior season with five career points on a goal and three assists.
Muhlenberg, which opens this weekend with home games against Wilkes (tomorrow night) and Penn State Altoona (Saturday night), is coming off a frustrating 6-10-2 season in which it lost eight games – including the last five – by one goal. The only teams to beat the Mules by more than one goal were Centennial Conference champion Johns Hopkins and national champion Messiah.

“Some things didn’t go our way, but we didn’t respond well and we didn’t execute when we had to,” said Wizel. “We also have the confidence that we were in every game last year. If we can turn those losses and ties into wins, we’ll be a force in the conference.”

Maggie Neary
A two-time All-Centennial Conference selection, Maggie Neary has started 52 of the Mules’ 54 games the last three seasons.
How will the Mules try to turn those results to the positive? For starters, they have a new attitude.

“We’re definitely more focused and more driven this year,” said Wizel. “We have strong veterans and 11 freshmen, so it’s a good dynamic. People are trying to work as hard as they can to prove themselves.”

The competition for jobs starts at one of the most important positions, goalie, where Muhlenberg graduated a four-year starter who played every minute last year. Junior Amanda Wong, who played in goal for four games in 2010 and as a field player last year, is battling with two freshmen for the starting nod.

Whoever emerges will have the benefit of a veteran back four that returns intact. Senior co-captain Maggie Neary, juniors Stephanie Tramutola and Susan Galgano and sophomore Krissy Fioretti anchor a defense that allowed only 11 goals in 10 Centennial Conference matches. Lizzie Neary, an experienced junior, could also see time in the back.

Two-time All-CC honorable mention selection CJ Graetzer heads a deep group of returning midfielders. She, senior co-captain Alyssa Meola and sophomore Colleen Touhey each scored three goals last year, tops among returning players. Wizel, junior Shelby Doll and sophomore Leah Messler add experience and depth.

Up top, the Mules graduated two of the top goal-scorers in program history but will strive to attack as a unit and create scoring opportunities for many different players. Senior Jillian Moretto and sophomore Audrey Zamichow each scored two goals as forwards last year.

For the four seniors on the team – Meola, Moretto, Maggie Neary and Wizel – this season has particular significance, since they are the only team members to have played in the postseason. They were freshmen on the 2009 squad that won the CC regular season and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Mules missed the CC playoffs the last two years.

“We talked a lot in the preseason about how we know what it’s like to play in the NCAAs,” said Wizel. “We want the other grades to know the privilege it is to get to that level. Since it’s our last season we want the other classes to have that experience.”

As the seniors know, the margin between getting to the NCAA level and missing the conference playoffs can be very narrow, so sharp attention to detail has been one of the focuses of preseason. “We’ve been working on getting the small things right to get them as perfect as they can be,” noted Wizel. “Little things are going to make the difference for us.”

And they could leave the Mules standing tall at season’s end.