DePaul Looking for a Reversal of Fortune
Aug. 25, 2011
CHICAGO - The road doesn't get any easier for DePaul as the women's soccer team ventures into Michigan to face a pair of Big Ten teams.
First up is a 3:30 p.m. Friday match against Michigan State and high-scoring forward Laura Heyboer. Two days later, it's a 1:30 p.m. matinee against Michigan.
"We'll be facing two top opponents who should both finish in the upper half of the Big Ten," said DePaul coach Erin Chastain about the pair of matches that will be played at the U-M Soccer Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. "It will be a tough challenge as both teams have some dynamic forwards."
Heyboer is a three-time All-American whose 40 career goals make her the Spartans' all-time leading scorer. She had a goal and an assist in last week's 3-2 loss to Milwaukee.
Teams that focus too closely on stopping Heyboer could get burned by Olivia Stander, who has one goal this season and found the back of the net eight times in 2010.
Michigan's Nkem Ezurike has two goals in her first two games after scoring nine goals in 2010. Ezurike was a big reason why the Wolverines finished 10-5-4 last season and qualified for the NCAA Championship where they fell to Oklahoma State in the first round.
The Blue Demons have already tangled with one of the nation's most dangerous scorers, preseason All-American Sarah Hagen of Milwaukee.
"Playing well against Hagen is excellent preparation for facing Heyboer and Ezurike," Chastain said after the Blue Demons held Hagen scoreless in last Sunday's 1-0 loss at Milwaukee. "Hagen is a special player, and we kept her off the scoreboard.
"We scheduled some strong non-conference games to get us ready for the BIG EAST. We want to face teams of a similar caliber as the top teams in our conference.
"Notre Dame has some of the best forwards in the country, and that's why we're going against talents like Hagen, Heyboer and Ezurike. We want to face game-breaking forwards and teams with a similar speed of play to Notre Dame, Marquette and Georgetown."
DePaul would love nothing better than to come home with a sweep of the Big Ten tandem after losing the first two games of the season.
"Our philosophy is to challenge good teams early in the season, learn our lessons early and apply what we learn at the beginning of the BIG EAST season," Chastain said. "At the same time, besides gaining some big-game experience, we want to have a successful non-conference season and win games."
Chastain is hoping for an offensive spark this weekend as the Blue Demons have yet to score a goal in 2011.
That could come from veterans Michelle Scandora, Kelly Blumberg, Morgan Celaya, Ashleigh Goddard or Arianna Foster. Or, maybe it will be freshmen such as Sarah Gorden, Nikki Condit or Amber Paul who ignite the DePaul attack.
"Our group learned some difficult lessons in the season-opening loss to Iowa, and even though we lost to Milwaukee, the players made strides in the right direction," Chastain said. "We're a relatively young team, and we started three seniors and two juniors against Iowa.
"It's a growing process for our younger players. We're expecting our veterans to play a bigger role than they've played so far.
"This is a hungry group of soccer players that will be ready for a talented opponent on Friday."
Blue Demon Quick Kicks
DePaul did not lose back-to-back games until late in the 2010 season when Chastain & Co. endured a four-game road losing streak.
That losing streak was preceded by a five-game winning streak.
The Blue Demons scored three times in the first two matches of 2010, a 2-0 win over Iowa and a 2-1 overtime loss to Northwestern.
In the first two games this season, Iowa and Milwaukee combined to outshoot DePaul 35-15.
In those games, Iowa and Milwaukee had 19 shots on goal compared to seven for the Blue Demons.
Celaya leads DePaul with five shots while Condit, Scandora and Paul have each taken two shots.
Goalkeeper Claire Hanold has made 15 saves in the first two games. The junior from Waubonsie Valley made nine saves in the first two matches last year.
The last time DePaul opened the season with back-to-back losses was 2008 when the Blue Demons fell to Loyola-Chicago and Butler. That season, DePaul lost its first five matches.