Defense, seniors key parts of women’s soccer success

Defense, seniors key parts of womens soccer success

by Robbie LehmanStaff Writer

Soccer is simple. The team that scores more goals than the other wins. However, the cliché says defense wins championships, and that’s exactly the approach being taken by the Simpson women’s soccer team as they aim to become champions of the Iowa Conference.

“The team has been doing very well defensively,” head coach Cory Chapman said. “We have six wins and all six wins have been shutouts, which is huge. It’s great to win, but at the same time to shut people out is awesome.”

The team’s record stands at 6-5-1. A large part of Simpson’s strong defense is the exceptional play of four-year starter and senior goalkeeper Whitney Franker.

Franker was named Iowa Conference Women’s Soccer Player of the Week Oct. 6. After she increased her school record shutout total to 22 on Oct. 4, she had 62 saves on the season, good for an average of more than 5.5 per game. Franker has also never missed a game for the Storm, playing all but 30 seconds since her first game as a freshman. She has 34 career victories, one short of tying the school record, but that’s not what is on her mind.

“Honestly, breaking the record would be a nice achievement, but that isn’t really what matters,” Franker said. “I would rather break some other record as a team. I wouldn’t be about to break that record if it wasn’t for my teammates. The other team has to get by 10 other players before they get to me.”

Of the 20 players on the roster, 10 are newcomers, and nearly all of them are contributing major minutes. Chapman stresses that the entire defensive unit has been playing very well, but he understands how valuable his senior goalkeeper is to the team.

“She’s the best goalkeeper in the state of Iowa at any level,” Chapman said. “If you look at her size, ability to make a reaction save, soft hands and experience, those are great qualities. She’s obviously a phenomenal athlete. She’ll go down as the greatest goalkeeper to go through Simpson College without a doubt, and probably one of the top 10 athletes to come through here period.”

Along with Franker, the team has only two other seniors: defender and captain Johnna Kripal and midfielder-forward Alyssa Stoll. Both have endured challenges this season, but have earned the praise of Chapman for their efforts.

Kripal switched positions in her final season to balance out a younger defense.

Stoll, on the other hand, missed the entire 2007 season due to an ACL surgery, but has bounced back to play the best soccer of her career, according to Chapman.

Even Franker’s status was up in the air to begin the season, as it was discovered she has an irregular heartbeat, but she was cleared healthy to play.

The three seniors are crucial to the team’s success for many reasons.

“We bring experience, and with so many new girls, we have to step up and be leaders in certain situations,” Kripal said.

Franker has observed the experience factor come into play during the crunch time of games.

“I notice it in those games that head into overtime,” Franker said. “Because we have been in those positions a lot in the past, we know how to deal with them. Our experience allows the underclassmen to stay calm.”

Chapman said the team is also looking to the seniors to lead them into the postseason.

“The seniors certainly have done a great job, all three of them,” Chapman said. “I think the three of them feel like they have some unfinished business and hopefully can end their careers in the NCAA tournament.”

To get to the NCAA tournament, the team will rely on its seniors for their leadership. Their approach to the second half of the season will emphasize defense, but the team will focus on getting better in all aspects of the game, including team chemistry, to make a run in the tournament.

“It’s always a goal to improve,” Kripal said. “Our record’s not amazing but it’s not bad either. We need to get a few more wins, come together a little more and figure it out.”