Beaver Falls, PA – Head women’s soccer coach Linda Sumner is set to begin her sixth season for Geneva College. After three consecutive trips to the NCCAA east regional tournament, the Golden Tornadoes fell back a bit in 2011. The 2012 season is set to begin with the team reporting for pre-season camp later this week.
In 2011, the Geneva College women’s soccer team was a few breaks shy of competing at the top of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. On the surface, Geneva’s 6-12-1 overall record and 2-7 mark within the conference appears to leave the Golden Tornadoes with a huge mountain to climb in 2012. A closer investigation shows exactly how close to a special season Geneva came in its first year of NCAA Division III eligibility.
The Golden Tornadoes suffered four one-goal losses in conference play. In those losses, Geneva managed to score a total of one goal against the likes of Saint Vincent, Bethany, Westminster and Grove City. A few more tallies in those close losses would have made a huge difference in the overall look of the 2011 campaign. “We were offensively challenged last year,” says head coach Linda Sumner. “Our defense kept us close in a lot of our conference games last year but we just didn’t have the offensive firepower to win those close games.”
As the 2012 season gets set to kick off, Sumner and the Golden Tornadoes are optimistic that some of those one-goal losses will turn into victories with the return of several key pieces to the offensive puzzle. Maura Allen has led Geneva in scoring in each of the past two years with a total of 20 goals in those two seasons. Allen returns for her senior season after a team leading 20 points in 2011. The offense should also receive a much needed kick with the return of Elise Mann to the fold. Mann sat out the 2011 season after posting seven goals and 17 points in 2010. Rhetta King will try to duplicate a solid freshman season in her second go-round with the Golden Tornadoes. King found the net five times last season as part of a group of returning players that combined for a total of 21 of Geneva’s 34 goals a year ago. “We will be a better offensive group this year,” says Sumner. “Just based on the experience we have coming back up front gives us several weapons to find the net.”
While Allen will undoubtedly be the leader on the offensive end of the field, senior counterpart Risa Tillman should be the center of attention on defense. Tillman will provide some help on offense but will continue to quarterback the defense alongside returning starters Megan Porter, Megan Hiers and Amanda Weaver. “One of the strengths we will have on defense is experience,” says Sumner. “It is so important to have consistency on the back line and I believe our returning players will be much more comfortable with each other heading into the new season.”
The last line of defense will be a subject up for debate as the season begins. In 2011, Sara Mittner saw the majority of action with Karmyn Culbertson also taking a turn or two in the net. With the addition of some newcomers in goal, the competition for playing time should be a fierce one throughout the season. “We are looking for someone to step up in goal,” says Sumner. “We have seen some flashes of strong play in the last couple of years but we need to be more consistent back there. I am confident that we have the makings of a solid keeper somewhere in the mix and it will be our job to find out who gives us the best chance to win.”
The Golden Tornadoes closed out the 2011 season with shut-out victories over Thiel and Chatham and will hope to carry some of that momentum into the new season. The start of the 2011 season saw Geneva win two of its first three games but won just twice in its next 14 games. “We have the makings of a very solid group,” says Sumner. “We have to find a way to win some of those one-goal games. I am excited to see the leadership of Maura (Allen) and Risa (Tillman) and the impact it will have on our players. They are the only two seniors on the roster and will hopefully push everyone else to work extremely hard on and off the field.”
Geneva’s women’s soccer team was not far from a very special season in 2011. The Golden Tornadoes scored as many goals as it allowed a year ago but needed to do a better job of scoring goals when it matters the most. As the 2012 season begins, Geneva women’s soccer is setting its sights high while trying to open some other eyes across the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.