Year three under head women’s soccer coach Chip Dutchik proved to be a rousing success as Lynn University made its triumphant return to the NCAA Tournament after an 11-year layoff. Expectations for the 2012 season have risen but the 20th-ranked Fighting Knights are not shying away and instead are embracing the challenge.
Although the squad returns 10 starters and 15 letterwinners, LU will be looking to fill some big shoes following the loss of Sunshine State Conference Player/Offensive Player of the Year and Olympian Melissa Ortiz. Dutchik should not have to look far with Lina Forsman, Jackie Hellett and Kirstie Schults all back for their sophomore campaigns.
Forsman and Hellett combined for eight goals and 22 points while Schults appears poised for a breakout season after flashing her goal-scoring and playmaking ability in the NCAA Tournament. Tatiana Peganos, a freshman from Margate, Fla., joins this trio on the offensive end after scoring over 100 goals in her high school career.
Riley Andreu, Keeley Shields and Carlee Pizzolato could also be in line for quality minutes with speed, height and a bruising attitude being brought to the table.
Lynn’s midfield welcome’s back sophomore Lauren Handley, who led the team with five assists, and redshirt junior Stevie Jones. Additionally, freshman Linzi Martin looks to be a major player in the middle while junior Rachel Lallas and Carolyn Hartman have NCAA tournament experience.
Senior captain Rio Hanlan returns for her last hurrah, anchoring a defense which made major strides in 2011. With Paige Meggison, Stef Parrott and Megan Rodwell also returning, the Fighting Knights’ defense could be a major strength.
Freshmen Summer Schults and Aly Vargas, along with Jessica Thornton will only bolster an already imposing group which allowed the fewest goals (17) since 2001.
Competition for the job in net has been fierce between Meghan Dolan and Kelsey Butler as each attempt to lay claim to the starting job. Butler, a senior out of Overland Park, Kan., is second all-time in program history with 178 saves and eighth with a 1.45 goals-against average. A sophomore out of St. Louis, Mo., Dolan logged the second-highest save percentage (.867) in her first year while posting 78 saves and five shutouts.
The Fighting Knights snapped an 11-year NCAA tournament drought last year and hope a heavy Sunshine State slate, which sees them play 13 of 15 games in Florida, puts them back in the postseason. Play begins August 31, and September 2, against NCAA Tournament contenders Quincy and Rockhurst in a homecoming for the St. Louis native Dutchik.
Lynn welcomes Saint Leo, Rollins, Tampa and Florida Southern to the McCusker Sports Complex in SSC play and ends the season with non-conference home matches against Barry and Florida Southern. The Blue & White travel to Barry, Nova Southeastern, Eckerd and Florida Tech for the SSC portion and also get Florida Southern and Saint Leo on the road.
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