Aug 22, 2013
CHICAGO - All the shots and saves are for real beginning Friday when the DePaul women's soccer team kicks off its 2013-14 season.
The quest to qualify for the postseason opens with a 7:30 p.m. match at Valparaiso and continues with a 1 p.m. Sunday showdown at Saint Louis.
"We are looking good, and we had a good preseason," said DePaul coach Erin Chastain. "We are coming together nicely as a group. There's good team chemistry, just like we had last year. Our team learned a lot from our exhibition game (3-2 loss at Northwestern), and we are really focusing on getting ready for Valparaiso."
Chastain shared some of her observations from preseason training and the NU game.
"I learned in the preseason that we have kids willing to do anything they can for the team," Chastain said. "Every player has an idea of what position she wants to play. But injuries occur and you have to move people around. It's an opportunity for someone to step up and help the team.
"Our seniors look good and are really sharp. They are a focused and disciplined group that looks motivated and excited. We continuously challenge them to step up and set the tone in practice every day."
The Blue Demons are looking to build upon a strong finish in 2012 when they defeated Villanova 3-0 on the road in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship and lost 1-0 at Georgetown in the quarterfinals. They return nine starters from last year's 9-10-2 team.
"Something began to kick in last year near the end of the BIG EAST season starting with our road trip to Villanova and Georgetown," Chastain said. "We tied Villanova and played well but lost in overtime at Georgetown. Our group really started to believe in itself.
"Then we had a great game against Notre Dame that was 0-0 until the end of the second overtime when Notre Dame scored. Our confidence in our ability to play great defense was building. We went on to beat Villanova in the first round of the BIG EAST tournament before losing to Georgetown."
Notre Dame wound up advancing to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals while Georgetown made it to the NCAA second round.
"It's hard to get a team peaking at just the right time," Chastain said. "You have to train well and still make sure your players have a lot of energy for game day. Like last year, we are trying to balance hard physical training with hard mental training."
DePaul got a jump-start to the 2013 season when the players came to Lincoln Park in top shape.
"This group came in fit right from the beginning," Chastain said. "That has enabled us to work on stuff in the preseason that we weren't able to do last year."
Valparaiso returns seven starters from last year's 10-6-3 team that finished third in the Horizon League. Forwards Jordyn Ryfiak and Sarah Ludwig each scored three goals while defender Tara Ellis had four assists. Goalkeeper Kirsten Manski posted a 0.54 goals-against average with 10 shutouts.
The Blue Demons beat Valpo 1-0 last season at Wish Field on Kelly Blumberg's goal.
"Valparaiso didn't give up a lot of goals last year and has a couple of dangerous players," Chastain said. "In addition to playing good defense, the Crusaders are well-coached and organized."
Saint Louis welcomes back eight starters from last season's 5-9-4 side led by forwards Maddie Gebauer, Jenny Hummert and midfielder Jamei Borges. DePaul topped the Billikens 2-0 last year at Wish Field as Amber Paul and Brianna Ryce found the back of the net.
"Saint Louis has a new coach, and this is a team that scored a lot of goals in the preseason," Chastain said. "These are going to be really good road tests for us.
"Of course we won't look as good in our season opener as we did in the final game of 2012. Last year's team developed a belief that they could play really tough on defense. As a coach, you want that to carry over into this season."