The WPS Preseason and College Prospect Watching

posted by All White Kit
Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 6:47pm EST

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With roster turnover for the 2011 WPS season almost at an absurd level, the preseason will be more important than ever for clubs in building rosters and chemistry for a complicated and grinding season ahead. But the preseason serves more than one purpose, and for players on the lucky college teams getting to play against WPS clubs, it’s a last chance to show off against professional players before the 2011 college season and the 2012 WPS Draft to follow. Considering only a handful of teams are getting this opportunity, it’s a big advantage for these players to up their draft stock against their peers so early in the process.

Following is a brief analysis of the preseason opponents for each WPS team with some discussion on each team’s brightest pro prospects. Numbers in parentheses are current big board rankings for the 2012 eligible prospects. 2013 and 2014 rankings are positional Top 5 and overall Top 5 only at this point and are reflected as such below.

TAFKAT Washington Freedom

The Borislows haven’t released any preseason friendlies as of right now. Please try and look shocked. If they really wanted to make some people (read: me) happy, they’d schedule a preseason camp in California and work on getting some of those players from Stanford, UCLA, Oregon State, Porland, etc. some visibility. I’m not holding my breath.

Atlanta Beat

South Florida (03/06) – The Bulls made a big time breakthrough in 2010, reaching the Big East Tournament final and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. I’m not sure I’d put USF at the beginning of my preseason schedule though, as they’re known for their, ahem, “physical” style of play. The Bulls’ mentality is summed up pretty well by battering ram forward Chelsea Klotz (2012 #85), who has turned into a physical weapon for USF despite standing just 5’4″. Jamaican Venicia Reid (2012 #81) was also a big catalyst for the Bulls’ impressive end to the 2010 season and is representative of an increasingly cosmopolitan squad in Tampa.

Auburn (03/09 and 04/03) – All eyes will be on the Tigers’ Katy Frierson (2012 #11, #4 Midfielder), a classic playmaker who’s one of this class’ Golden Trio of #10s along with Teresa Noyola and Ingrid Wells. Frierson will surely relish getting a chance to show her skills, knowing a strong 2011 campaign could push her into the first round of the 2012 WPS Draft. Defender Julie King (2012 #74) is also someone to keep an eye on. The senior-to-be is a tenacious defender who is also a powerful threat in the air on set pieces.

Clemson (03/12) – The Tigers are under new management with Hershey Strosberg being displaced by Eddie Radwanski after another dismal season. Nobody’s quite sure what Clemson’s going to look like on the pitch, although Radwanski’s UNC Greensboro teams were always hard-tackling and defensively stout sides. With many comings and goings likely with the regime change, it’s impossible to guarantee what talent will be on hand for this encounter, but Radwanski will likely be hoping some of his talented youngsters are available. Maddy Elder has been the main goalscoring threat for Clemson the past few years, while Lauren Arnold and Vanessa Laxgang both showed signs of real potential in their freshman seasons with the Tigers.

North Carolina (03/19) – Anybody fancy the Tar Heels for the upset? UNC’s only real draft prospect for 2012 is forward Courtney Jones (2012 #41) who faces an uphill battle in a class loaded with forwards to show she can be a consistent player at the highest level and shed her consciousless gunner ways. The Heels’ cadre of younger players though are much more intriguing. Crystal Dunn (2014 #1, #1 Defender) stands on the precipice of superstardom after a wildly successful freshman season in Chapel Hill. A hand injury may have blunted Anna Sieloff’s (2014 #4 GK) development somewhat in her freshman season, but the young keeper remains a very promising prospect. Kealia Ohai (2014 #4, #2 Forward) was all but unplayable at times in 2010 in a tremendous freshman campaign. Alyssa Rich was scorching hot for the Heels last season when she wasn’t on the training table, while Meg Morris will be equally happy to put a season fraught with injuries behind her. Last but not least, midfielder Amber Brooks (2013 #2 Midfielder) will be looking to stamp her authority on the Heels as possibly the next midfield general for UNC. Don’t be fooled by last season’s exit at the Sweet Sixteen by the Heels. This team is still loaded with great talent.

Florida State (03/20) – The Noles are going to be very popular with WPS scouts for years to come with a plethora of talent in Tallahassee to observe. Obviously, most questions this Spring will revolve around the health of star forwards Tiffany McCarty (2013 #3 Forward) and Jessica Price who missed the 2010 season through illness and injury. If the dynamic duo are fit and firing in 2011, the Noles are national title contenders. Those with the 2012 draft in mind will be keeping an eye on massive defender Toni Pressley (2012 #8, #1 Defender), the likely first defender off the board next year, along with scrappy midfielder/forward Tori Huster (2012 #19). Defender Ella Stephan (2012 #68) and midfielder Casey Short (2012 #75), who came on like a house afire last season, could also find themselves in the mix with strong 2011 seasons. Florida State also features a clutch of young, talented defenders. Kassey Kallman, Tiana Brockway, and Ines Jaurena will likely all be in demand in future drafts, with Jaurena possibly sought after on two continents. Additionally, Kelsey Wys (2014 #3 GK) rounded into one of the ACC’s top keepers after a little bit of a shaky start early in 2010.

Florida (03/27) – Fair warning folks, the Gators are notorious for putting out scratch squads for spring matches, meaning we may not get to see much of the SEC powerhouse’s star players. If Becky Burleigh does decide to trot out the first team, defender Kathryn Williamson (2013 #5, #1 Defender), who has seen her star rise rapidly after a wonderful 2010 season that ended with a call up to the U.S. U23 team, will be fully on display. While this draft is inundated with playmaker midfielders, Erika Tymrak (2013 #4 Midfielder), could fit the bill for said position in 2013′s draft. Holly King has turned into a first-rate midfield smashing machine for the Gators, while McKenzie Barney looks well on her way to becoming the best forward in the SEC. This year’s prospects figure to be more likely to feature in the later rounds of the 2012 draft. Tahnai Annis (2012 #38) has been a hit in Gainesville as a poacher with an exquisite talent for clutch goals, but has to prove her size (5’1″) won’t be a liability as a trequartista type player in the pros. Jazmyne Avant (2012 #44) is a marauding full-back who may be due a position change because of some defensive deficiencies. Lindsay Thompson (2012 #88) can frustrate and dominate in equal measure and will be looking to force her way into the Gator lineup in 2011 to boost her draft stock. Sarah Chapman (2012 #151) has been more functional than dynamic for Florida thus far but still has the potential to round into a more complete player.

Georgia (03/29) – Like in the above showdowns with UNC and FSU, the Beat may find themselves not having the best keeper on the pitch when they meet Georgia for their last preseason tilt. England youth international Ashley Baker (2013 #5 GK) has already proven to be a strong shot-stopper who may move up draft boards if she can tame a weakness on high crosses. Freshman defender Torri Allen (2014 #3 Defender) was a rock at the back in 2010 and will likely be looked at as a full-back in the pros. Tricky winger Alexa Newfield already looks like an SEC star in the making, while Canadian youth international Nikki Hill shined as a super sub in 2010. Full-back Rebekah Perry made a successful transition to defense in 2010 and should improve as she gets more comfortable at the position in 2011. The Bulldogs’ top prospect for the 2012 draft is big center-back Bailey Powell (2012 #105), who is likely begging for a healthy season after two injury fraught years. A wild card could be NC State transfer Kara Blosser who will be looking to hit the headlines for the right reason after a fractious exit from the Wolfpack.

Boston Breakers

TBD (03/13) – There are no shortage of opponents for Boston in the Sunshine State, from the above listed USF or FSU to perhaps Central Florida or Miami (FL).

Florida (03/20) – See listing above.

Boston College (03/25) – The Eagles are overflowing with talent and no doubt in confident mood after their first College Cup appearance. Senior keeper Jillian Mastroianni (2012 #9, #2 GK) will be looking to cement her place as a potential first-round pick, boosted by the knowledge that rivals Bianca Henninger and Natalie Kulla aren’t getting an opportunity to play against WPS sides in the Spring. BC’s keeper will be ably aided by defenders Alyssa Pember (2012 #46) and Alaina Beyar (2012 #96) to form a unit that should test the Breakers’ potent attacking force. Midfielder Julia Bouchelle (2012 #122) will also be eager to shine on this stage. Teams will have to wait another year for BC’s hottest prospects though. Kristie Mewis (2013 #1, #1 Midfielder) stands a chance of earning a full National Team cap before she graduates, while Victoria DiMartino (2013 #4, #2 Forward) is doing a fine job of continuing the family lineage in the sport.

Phildaelphia Independence

Maryland (03/12) – It’s all about the offense for the Terps as scouts will be watching Maryland’s front line intently ahead of next year’s draft. International Woman of Mystery Sade Ayinde (2012 #22) was the nightmare of many a team last season as she came off the bench to rampage past tired legs. It will be interesting to see if Ayinde and her cannon-like shot get moved into the starting lineup this year or if she still works her magic as a super sub. Coach Brian Pensky can afford that luxury as he can also call on Jasmyne Spencer (2012 #55), a lightning bolt with devastating pace, or the steady Ashley Grove (2012 #79) to help rack up the goals for UM’s lethal attack.

Duke (03/19) – There’s not too much intrigue about the 2012 draft for the Blue Devils, but 2013 and 2014 could be a bonanza for WPS teams. Forward Mollie Pathman (2014 #3 Forward) more than lived up to the hype in her freshman season and could be the star to help fire the Blue Devils into the College Cup. Laura Weinberg proved to be an able sidekick last season, while Natasha Anasi should brief flashes of real talent in defense for Duke in her freshman season. Tara Campbell could be a late charger into the 2013 Draft picture with another strong season in goal, while defender Ashley Rape could also force her way into the discussion if her famously gimpy knees hold up for another few seasons.

UConn (03/19) – You hate the use the words “transition year” for any team, but the Huskies might be staring one in the face after losing some key players from 2010′s squad. Of those coming back, midfielder Melissa Busque (2012 #104) and forward Jessica Shufelt (2012 #135) look most promising, although both are nothing more than fringe prospects at this point.

Penn State (03/23) – Much like Duke above, Penn State will see better days beyond the 2012 draft, where only Brit Emma Thomson (2012 #102) seems likely to even get a sniff from WPS teams. The brightest potential star for the Nittany Lions is midfielder Christine Nairn (2013 #3 Midfielder) who still has a ways to go to justify the wild hype that accompanied her into the college ranks. Big defender Lexi Marton will also be hoping to prove her fitness after serious injury derailed her 2010 season very early. Maya Hayes still has plenty of potential to tap into, while Tani Costa started to tap into hers last season as PSU’s most effective attacker. Bri Hovington looks like the next great Nittany Lion defender and could be set for a move up the rankings with another big season in 2011.

Rutgers (03/25) – Scarlet Knights aren’t exactly overflowing with prospects with pro potential, but fans of Canada will likely take keen interest in the fortunes of striker Jonelle Filigno (2014 #4 Forward) and sophomore defender Shannon Woeller. Filigno has yet to really reproduce her form for country for club, but could perhaps use a strong spring as a springboard into the 2011 season.

North Carolina (04/02) – See above.

Sky Blue FC

FK Energiya (03/15)
Fortuna Hjorring (03/17)
LdBFC Malmo (03/19)

(I’m not going to pretend to know much about Sky Blue’s three international opponents, but it’s still nice to see somebody able to go abroad for preseason competition.)

Virginia (03/27) – The Cavs will still be adjusting to life without Sinead Farrelly, Meghan Lenczyk, and others when Sky Blue come rolling to town and don’t have anyone near the talent level of those two players for the 2012 draft but do still have some players worth watching. Lauren Alwine (2012 #51) was able to focus more on a creator role with Farrelly and Lenczyk doing the heavy lifting in attack last year but will likely be the focus of the offense this year and could rocket up the draft board with a big year. In goal, I remain unconvinced by Chantel Jones (2012 #71), whose shot-stopping remains top notch but whose decision making left a lot to be desired at times in 2010. With heavy losses in the starting lineup, there’ll be plenty of spots up for grabs come 2011, with many looking to impress including 2010 super subs Gloria Douglas and Julia Roberts.

Rutgers (03/31) – See above.

Penn State (04/03) – See above.

WNY Flash

Buffalo (03/08) – I’m all for helping out the local side, but this may not be that great an idea. The Bulls were one of the worst teams in DI in 2010 and don’t have anyone remotely capable of making it in the pros at this time. It might be a time for some of the Flash’s fringe players to try and make a statement for a roster spot come cutdown days.

St. Bonaventure (03/12) – The Bonnies had a nice season in 2010, reaching the A10 Tournament semi-finals but lose a lot of key contributors to graduation. It probably won’t be as ugly as the match above, but WNY should win at a cantor in their second preseason test.

Ohio State (03/27) – Ah. Finally, the Flash get a test. Fresh off a trip to the College Cup, the Buckeyes will be looking to prove 2010 was no fluke. The loss of Cassie Dickerson leaves a big hole for OSU to fill, but the scouts will most likely be looking up front in any event towards Paige Maxwell (2012 #54). Maxwell is hardly the most consistent forward in this draft class but got it done most of the year in ‘winning time’ for the Buckeyes. A little more consistency could go a long way in propelling her up the draft board. Katie Baumgardner’s College Cup performance opened up a lot of eyes after she had previously lost her job to Rachel Middleman in the beginning of the season. The battle between Baumgardner and Middleman for the starting spot for the Buckeyes will be an intriguing one, but scouts will be hoping to get a closer look at Baumgardner after last December’s stellar display. Defender Megan Fuller was also rewarded with a call-up to the U.S. U20 camp after a great freshman year in Columbus. Youngsters Tiffany Cameron and Danica Wu will also be worth keeping an eye on.

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