Grace Women’s Soccer Looks Forward to a Challenging Season

The women’s soccer team at Grace College just finished its finest season ever last fall, but the Lady Lancers have their sights set even higher in 2013.

Grace, led by seventh-year head coach Michael Voss, finished a program-best 17-5-3 a year ago. Voss is confident the Lady Lancers are ready for the next step this fall.

“We are proud about our past, but our goal is to improve our football – to play faster, be more technical, fit and powerful. We want to take what we’re doing and do it with more intensity,” Voss said. “We’ve done well in the past, but we have to take possession-attacking football to a different level. I’m super excited about the team working together. They are definitely coming into camp ready to go there.”

While Grace placed a program-best third at last year’s NCCAA National Championships, the squad is hoping to earn its first berth into the NAIA tournament this fall.

To help reach that goal, Voss has put together a daunting nonleague schedule to prepare the Lady Lancers for elite competition.

Overall Grace will play four teams that qualified for the 2012 NAIA National Championships, including the national runner-up Olivet Nazarene. Additionally, Grace will welcome back the Women’s National Team of Haiti to Miller Field for an exhibition match on Aug. 24.

“This is the toughest schedule we’ve ever had. It’s the natural progression for where we need to go,” Voss continued. “Going against nationally competitive teams will give the raters what they need to see. Last year we were 2-2 against ranked teams, and playing tougher teams will push and test us. Hopefully the preseason will prepare us to be strong in the Crossroads League and to become a national contender. That’s the next step.”

The Lady Lancers feature an impressive arsenal of returners. Sophomores Mallory Rondeau (17 goals) and Carianne Sobey (17 assists) found great success on the pitch in their first collegiate seasons. They will be bolstered in attack by junior Holly Bennett (8 goals, 6 assists) and incoming freshman Meredith Hollar among several others. Hollar, a Warsaw Community High School standout, graduated as the Tigers’ all-time leading goal scorer with 67 goals in three seasons.

Grace’s depth and talent on the offensive side of the ball will be readily apparent, according to Voss. The bigger question centers on stability.

“The hope we have this year is to be more consistent. We want to play solid football every game for the full 90 minutes,” Voss said. “We have incredibly competent players from top to bottom. Getting them to fire on all cylinders at the same time is our goal this year. We need to have one unit completely unified each game, regardless of the system or team we are playing.”

Carmen Barnhill returns as Grace’s senior goalkeeper to anchor the team’s defense. Sophomore Heather Martin and senior Jalisa Thayer were mainstays in a Lady Lancer defense last year that recorded 11 team shutouts. Sophomore Darcy Johnston made the move to the center of defense last spring and will be a stronghold this year.

The Lady Lancers will kick off their season on the West Coast with a pair of road matches on Aug. 15th and 17th against The Master’s College and Westmont College. They will return to Winona Lake for back-to-back home games against Judson on Aug. 22 and the Haiti WNT on Aug. 24.

“I’m completely pumped about this team. They are by far the most accomplished, technically sound team we’ve ever had. The team plays with more unity every day they are together,” Voss said. “Above all, we want people to see God active in our lives. Our purpose is to live out our faith on the field so people can know God by the way we play. We want to be ballers and be unified as one group to demonstrate our faith and who it is that stands behind our faith.”

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