Faster speed. Bigger athletes. A more physical game.
Despite the challenges of adjusting from high school to college-level play, the freshmen on the Michigan women’s soccer team are proving they’ve got the moves to succeed.
So far this season, three of the Wolverine’s top four scorers are freshmen, and sophomore Amanda Bowery, last year’s leading scorer, currently leads the team. And, in just 10 games, more than half the eight-deep freshman class has contributed to Michigan scores with a combined seven goals and eight assists.
The freshmen have not just helped the Wolverines on the field — they’ve also improved the team dynamic.
“It’s awesome to see their excitement and enthusiasm and just love of the game,” senior captain Kristin Thomas said. “(Their energy) is good because we had such a rough season last year that to have that fresh new energy helps the team out a lot.”
After a tough 2007 season (1-5-4 Big Ten, 3-9-6 overall), the Wolverines’ rebuilding effort is going well, in many ways owing to the contributions of freshmen.
So far in 2008, the freshmen class has assisted Michigan in matching its win total from all of last season.
“I think that as far as establishment, we’re still growing a lot,” freshman forward Natalie Horner said. “So this year is actually a huge growth season.”
Though nervousness might be expected, that wasn’t the case for this freshman class.
“It wasn’t really so much nervousness as excitement,” Horner said. “It was good to know that (we were ranked the best recruiting class) coming in so we felt strong.”
Since the season opener on Aug. 22, every freshman has seen game action and Horner and forward Clare Stachel have started each game. Defender Kim Siebert (seven starts) and mid-fielder Kelsey Rogind (five starts) are not far behind.
But the freshmen have rightfully earned their playing time.
“You have to prove yourself when you first come in,” Stachel said. “Every freshman has to prove themselves — no matter what people have said about you before. No matter what people know about you, or teams you’ve made.”
Michigan coach Greg Ryan said he thinks it will take a while to get used to the physical Big Ten style, but he has confidence his young players will prove themselves.
“I’ve been coaching for so long and I knew the situation,” Ryan said. “We just had to get to working with them and they are getting better everyday. They’re talented, athletic and I’m very very proud of them.”