Last season seven of the starters were freshmen. This season’s roster includes one senior, three juniors, eight sophomores and six freshmen.
“It is a very young team,” Lady Bisons coach Jon Ireland said. “It is very similar to last year. The good news is that a lot of our freshmen last year got playing time and experience.
“The biggest thing now is to try to manage the players and make sure that everything meshes. We want to make sure that everyone is getting along. “
Midfielder-forward Katie Spellman is the lone senior. The juniors are midfielder Danielle Bethke, forward-midfielder Meghan McGuire and forward Kirsten Heikkinen.
“We do have very good leadership in our juniors and our senior,” Ireland said. “I think that is going to help.
“All four of them came in fit. From a leadership standpoint they understand what needs to happen. They will be working with the younger players and helping them."
Defender Katie Wood was a member of the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman team last season. Ireland expects the sophomores to be driven by what they experienced last season.
“We definitely had some highs and lows throughout the season,” Ireland said. “Part of it was their inexperience. I have seen more maturity in our sophomores. They are more focused. They came in fit. They seem to understand what is expected of them.”
“Their maturity level will be a key to how much they have improved. Last year’s freshmen went through a lot and really bonded. They are very close.”
Preseason practice often provides surprises, and one of the biggest for Ireland has been the chemistry of the team despite the youth. Chemistry is something that has to develop between players. Coaches can’t force it or control it.
“Without a doubt we have the best team chemistry of any year since I have been here,” Ireland said. “The hardest thing to get is team chemistry, having girls who want to be together and enjoy being together. I have really been excited with how the girls are getting along.
“The freshmen seem to fit in very well personality-wise. The sophomores have done a great job with them. There is no drama with our older girls. They have a great work ethic. Our younger players can look up to them.”
Offense was a problem for the Lady Bisons last season. Ireland, entering his fourth season at Lipscomb, thinks that a pair of freshmen _ midfielder-forward Tatjana Shirley and forward-midfielder Jenna Price_ could provide an offensive boost.
“Both of them will be playing midfield or up top,” Ireland said. “I think we have several girls that will have the opportunity to score several goals this year.”
Ireland is counting heavily on this year’s freshman class and he likes what he has seen from the group.
“The freshmen have come in and all done a very good job,” Ireland said. “They have definitely met my expectations and more. “When you recruit players you like to think you know what you are getting, but truthfully you don’t always know until you see them in preseason. You can tell they worked hard this summer. They have impressed me from a technical standpoint and with their understanding of the game.”
Written by Mark McGee, senior publisher/director of media relations.