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Tiger women emphasize defense as season starts

Published on -8/30/2012, 10:53 AM

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By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Defense was a problem for the Fort Hays State University women's soccer team last season.

It started poorly in the preseason when the Tigers surrendered four goals in less than three games (one was called 22 minutes early due to lightning) and continued into the year, as FHSU allowed an average of 1.5 goals a match last season.

FHSU head coach Craig Shaw said he emphasized defense this preseason, and it seemed to pay off during the exhibition matches.

The Tigers allowed just one goal in three matches and finished exhibition play 2-0-1.

"We've come a long way, especially comparing it to last preseason," Shaw said.

The Tigers' back line rotation features a mix of experience and youth in senior Stefanie Wiesen, sophomores Jamie Babyak and Laura Regnier, and freshmen Chandler Zitzmann and Dani Harris.

Babyak started all 18 games last season and earned all-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association honors last season.

Wiesen also started all 18 games while Regnier played in 12 matches and started six.

"Another year of experience," Shaw said about why his team's defense has improved. "We've also had some freshmen that have really stepped up for us."

The Tigers start the season at 6 p.m. (CDT) Friday at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and will play at 10 a.m. Saturday at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

"It's going to be exciting," Shaw said. "We are really into it now."

The Tigers finished 6-11-1 last season, but seven of their 11 losses were decided by just one goal.

FHSU returns two all-MIAA second-team selections: senior midfielder Cindy Benitez and junior forward Joanne Glynn.

Benitez, who made the transition from forward to midfield late last season, still managed to lead the team in assists with six and was second on the team in goals scored with seven. Glynn was the team's leading goal scorer with nine.

The Tigers also will get an offensive boost from senior forward Sade Humphrey, who sat out last season after transferring from Newman University.

In the Tigers' final preseason match against Kansas Wesleyan University, FHSU struggled to score goals, finishing in a 0-0 tie, but Shaw said he's not worried about that carrying over into this weekend's contests.

"I just have faith in their attacking capabilities," Shaw said. "Something is going to click, and somebody is going to score goals."

However, elevation does concern him. Playing on the edge of the mountains could cause problems.

"That is going to be the biggest problem we face -- being able to breath," Shaw said.

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