The 2014 soccer season was one of near misses for the McKendree University Bearcats.
Led by the scoring of sophomore Danielle Hareb and junior Alyssa Patterson along with a solid defense that allowed only 23 goals in 18 games, McKendree was in contention to win nearly every time it took the field in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
But in the end, all the Bearcats could manage was a tenth place finish as it failed to qualify for the postseason tournament with a 7-11 record.
“To our players credit we worked hard all year and we played well in most of our games. There were a couple of things that didn’t go our way and we had some games that we showed have tied that we came up on the short end. You need some ties as well,” Bearcats coach Tim Strange said. “But again, its the GLVC and there are no easy games. On any given night, any team can beat you and you’ve got to be ready.
“Finishing tenth last year was no acceptable for this soccer program. We’ve got some players back with a lot of game experience and we’ve got a number of very good freshmen and transfers who came in. I thing our long preseason has helped us in that it gave us an idea of where we want to be and how we want to play. We’re shooting to be in the top four of the GLVC.”
McKendree opens its GLVC season on Friday when it hosts Bellermine University at 5 p.m. The Bearcats, who tied North Alabama 2-2 in their season opener last week, scored their first win of the season on Monday with a 2-0 triumph at Union (Tenn.) University.
Clair Skaggs and Alyssa Reiniger scored the goals for McKendree while Taylor Zerbe got credit for the shutout in goal.
But already, McKendree’s offense is showing signs of being more productive then it was a year ago when it scored 21 goals in 18 games. McKendree returns four of its top five scorers from a year ago.
Hareb, who is a native of Flatbush, New Zealand, and Patterson are the top offensive threats after recording seven points each a year ago. Reiniger, an ex-Collinsville Kahoks standout and senior Cassie Kaiping, added six points each.
Kaiping played at Waterloo High School. Senior Liz Kaiser also returns and should be an offensive threat after starting all 18 games a yar ago, while sophomores Chelsea Whittaker, former Althoff standout Rachel Kaltwasser and Kristian Collie also return. Among the top newcomers expected to help McKendree score more goals are Brooke Coakley from Granite City, Rachel Ford from Wesclin and former Belleville West all-state forward Sydnee Carroll.
Zerbe, a senior who played her high school at Trinty Catholic in St. Louis, returns in goal and should be among the best in the GLVC. Zerbe was 5-5 with four shutouts last season.
Reiniger will also help in the backfield, while other defenders for McKendree will be Jessica Smugala, Skaggs, Abby Stutz, Lauren Mantei and Hailey Porter.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.