Any soccer team would consider the return of a core group of starters “a luxury.” But Idaho coach Pete Showler is in an enviable situation in which he returns every single starter from last year’s team that made its deepest conference tournament run in program history.
On top of that, the program signed a considerable freshman class, consisting of six athletes. Conventional wisdom assumes redshirts would be used, considering Idaho will be graduating 10 seniors at the end of the year. But that’s not Showler’s style.
“Unless there is an injury we won’t be redshirting players,” he said. “It’s not my ethos, it’s not my way of doing things. I want everybody to come in and compete and that’s the only way we’re going to get better. We see this as a great situation.”
On paper it seems that the Vandals have the starting XI set heading in to the fall. Showler doesn’t see it that way.
“We have no idea, injury wise, fitness wise, health wise how the summer has been for a lot of these girls. So it’s an open book, the challenge is there, step up and prove yourself and the spot is yours,” he said.
It would still be unlikely to see a substantial shake-up from how the Vandals lined up during the spring season. The playing time that will be available for freshmen will likely be minutes off the bench. Idaho’s back line is fairly entrenched with returning captain Lauren Layton and the returning center back duo of senior Christine Leathem and sophomore Chelsie Breen. Competition should be available in the midfield, however it is unclear whether or not the Vandals will continue the 3-3-4 formation the team used during spring competition. The players up front include right wing Jill Flockhart, who will most likely play behind isolated forward Chelsea Small. Converted defender Erica Hart took the left wing spot in the spring, but it’s unclear if she will hold onto it heading into the fall.
One thing seems to be sure though: that coach Showler won’t have a shortage of options.
“It’s unusual (having this many veterans) but it gives you a sense of where this program is at. Girls who have helped turn this program around, been instrumental in setting new standards,” Showler said. “They’re excited about being pushed, they will be nervous. But the freshman will be more nervous.”
That ability to compete was a big reason one freshman, Reagan Quigley, chose Idaho.
“What the girls say is that Pete is really fair in giving girls a chance to play and I’m excited about that,” she said. “Obviously I am not expecting anything but I’m really interested in the difference between club to college and where my hard work can get me.”
Quigley, a forward from the greater Seattle area, had connections to Idaho with one of her assistant coaches, and an affinity for the small town atmosphere that Moscow presents.
“When people ask me why I chose Idaho I tell them the nature of the team. They’re so hard working and modest. You kind of put your head down and work. You’re not some flashy team from a big city. That’s really what I like,” she said.
Most would say that Showler’s 2012 squad will flourish because of its experience. However, it could also receive a major boost if the team’s underclassmen continue to produce.
Sean Kramer can be reached at email@example.com