Rising Star Amy Kauffung Hopes To Lead UWM to More Success in 2012
ACC – Clemson | Miami (FL) | NC State
Big XII – Iowa State | Kansas | Oklahoma | TCU | Texas | Texas Tech
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Big Ten – Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota | Nebraska | Northwestern | Ohio State | Purdue | Wisconsin
Mid-Majors – Boston University | Central Michigan | Dayton | Denver | Florida Gulf Coast | Harvard | Illinois State | La Salle | New Mexico | Rice | Richmond | Samford | Stephen F. Austin | Toledo | UC Irvine | UMass | Utah State | Western Michigan | William & Mary
Pac-12 – Arizona | Arizona State | Cal | Colorado | Oregon | Oregon State | USC | Utah | Washington | Washington State
SEC – Alabama | Arkansas | Georgia | Kentucky | LSU | Mississippi State | Missouri | Ole Miss | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt
WCC – BYU | Gonzaga | Loyola Marymount | Portland | San Diego | San Francisco | St. Mary’s (CA)
It was the end of an era in more ways than one for Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2011, who now must deal with the foreseen loss of graduated scoring dynamo Sarah Hagen as well as the unforeseen loss of the architect of the team’s overwhelming success in recent years in departed head coach Michael Moynihan, who left to head up the Northwestern program at the end of the season. He leaves after turning the Panthers into one of the nation’s dominant mid-majors. Moynihan’s Panthers made the Horizon League their own personal playground for the last twelve or so seasons, raking in trophy after trophy while making the rest of the conference look decidedly mediocre.
Milwaukee have now strung together an unfathomable twelve straight league titles. Moynihan’s team was almost as good in the always unpredictable world of conference tournament action, having also raked in seven Horizon League Tournament titles and automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. Though the first half of the decade treated the Panthers well, it’s been the last five or six seasons that have really seen the program blossom into one of the most dangerous mid-majors in the college ranks. The Panthers scored back-to-back second round appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and 2006, but the most recent seasons have been dominated by the imposing figure of Hagen.
Hagen stepped onto campus as a virtual unknown, but graduated as the greatest player in Horizon League history and is a potential future U.S. Women’s National Team member. Hagen’s blistering pace in front of goal kept the trophies rolling in for Moynihan’s club, and the Panthers went a perfect eight-for-eight as far as Horizon League trophies went during Hagen’s run in Milwaukee. After eighteen wins in Hagen’s freshman season, the Panthers took a little bit of a step back in 2009 with just twelve wins and needed the Horizon League’s automatic bid to ensure a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Non-conference form in 2010 was a little erratic, with wins over Ohio State, Michigan State, and Missouri among others and draws with New Mexico and Marquette, but the club also lost to Auburn, Texas, and Wisconsin out of Horizon League play. The Panthers also suffered an atypical stumble or two in the league, including a final day loss to Wright State that condemned them to sharing the league title with Butler while also being forced to head to the Bulldogs’ turf for the Horizon League Tournament. It was worth the trouble though, as UWM won the tournament in dominating fashion with a 5-0 win over the hosts in the final. Wisconsin would have Milwaukee’s number once again in the NCAA Tournament though, with the Badgers defeating their state rivals for the second time in 2010 and leaving Hagen still searching for her first NCAA Tournament win.
But with Hagen returning for her senior season along with a talented supporting cast, the sky looked to be the limit in Milwaukee in 2011. The club showed as much early, with wins over Michigan State and Long Beach State in the opening weeks of the season. The club won their first seven, setting up a huge derby with Marquette on national television. Alas, Hagen would be all but marked out of the game by the Golden Eagles’ snarling defense, and the Panthers would go down, 1-0. It’d be the club’s last loss for a month and a half, as they rolled over everyone in sight, including Wisconsin in the team’s last non-conference game before league play began.
The Panthers wrapped up the league title early with a win on the road against Loyola (Ill.), and the win may have gone to their heads, as they were stunned in their final non-conference game three days later against Missouri Valley champs Illinois State. The loss didn’t linger though, and the Panthers rolled to another double a few weeks later, taking out Wright State in the title game, 5-1. There’d be an opportunity for revenge in the NCAA Tournament as well, as Milwaukee got matched up with Illinois State one more time in the first round.
The Panthers would be more than ready too, as they hammered the Redbirds, 3-0, avenging their earlier loss and picking up the club’s first NCAA Tournament win in half a decade to boot. Milwaukee looked to have had a plum draw in the second round as well, playing Ohio State at a neutral site. While the Buckeyes had been impressive in their upset over Tennessee, they were still the side that had just snuck into the NCAA Tournament. Not that they showed it against Milwaukee, as they effectively stifled Hagen for most of the match. The Panthers would concede two goals in the second half before Hagen scored a consolation with fifteen seconds to play.
It was full-time on Hagen’s collegiate career and soon, Moynihan’s coaching tenure at Milwaukee. The new man in charge is UW-Whitewater head coach Greg Henschel. Henschel coached both the men and women Warhawk teams and collected eleven combined NCAA Tournament berths, though ten of those trips to the Big Dance came with the Whitewater men. Henschel comes off a program best fourteen wins with the women’s side at Whitewater in 2011 though, with the club also making its first NCAA Tournament appearance. But it’s safe to say he faces a major step up in class with the move to Milwaukee. Expectations too from a fanbase used to nothing but titles over the past decade.
Those expectations might have to be tempered though, at least in the short-term, in the face of severe losses from last year’s double winners. The biggest loss of course is Hagen, who finished fifteenth all-time in DI points and ninth all-time in goals with ninety-three in a stunning career. She scored and kept scoring last year, netting twenty-six times and adding nine assists for good measure. The club scored fifty-eight goals last season, and she had a hand in thirty-five of them, showing just how important to the offense she was.
It’s not just that though, as UWM loses the second and third leading scorers as well, meaning the Panthers face the daunting task of going into a new season with nobody having scored more than four goals last season. Leading assister Keara Thompson, a fine player in her own right also leaves, meaning Henschel has to figure out a way to reorganize the club’s supply line to the front as well this season.
And if all that wasn’t enough, the Panthers also lose a pair of top-notch defenders in Makenzie Gillaspie and Mary Wandolowski as well, big when you consider the club gave up just three goals in the league and fifteen overall last season. The widespread departures will likely give Henschel a major headache or two this season, and he’ll have to come through with one of his best coaching jobs if UWM’s to contend for an at-large bid if needed, though the club should still be among the Horizon League’s top contenders.
With many of the changes facing the Panthers elsewhere in the lineup, they’ll need senior goalkeeper Jamie Forbes to be at the height of her abilities this season. Forbes has endured something of a roller coaster career with the Panthers, beginning as a keeper of great potential early on, making the Horizon League’s All-Newcomer and All-Tournament teams as a rookie in 2009. She’d lose her starting job a season later but then rebounded in a big way last season. All-Region First Team, Horizon League Co-Defensive Player of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year were just a few of the honors coming Forbes’ way after a dominant season in between the pipes. Forbes can still be a bit adventurous off her line, but the Illinois native is still a gifted shot stopper and should be among the best in the nation this season, with experience with the WPSL Elite’s Chicago Red Stars only further honing her abilities.
Though the Panthers signed a couple of true freshmen to bolster depth, the understudy duties will likely fall to sophomore Natalie Fettinger once again. Fettinger wasn’t called into duty that often last season but did well when needed in a starting role against Butler in mid-season, making six saves to help the Panthers down their league rivals. She’s unlikely to see a big influx in minutes but should be a capable backup at the least.
Having the steady Forbes in goal will be a much needed safety valve for a backline that loses, arguably, it’s top two starters from last season. Full-back Mary Wandolowski departs as a four-year starter who was in the first XI on sixty-eight occasions, a number that would’ve been much higher had she not missed half of 2009 with a serious knee injury. Capable also in the midfield or in the middle of the defense, Wandolowski wasn’t much on the offensive side of the ball but was a rock nonetheless on defense last season, earning All-Horizon League Second Team honors as she started every game and played all but forty-eight minutes last year.
Also gone is tough as nails center-back Makenzie Gillaspie, who also saw time in midfield during her career and finished with nine career goals. Gillaspie displayed her grit last season, missing just two games despite tearing a ligament in her knee early in the season. She also ended up on the All-Horizon League Second Team, and her four years of starting experience will also be desperately missed.
The future appears to be in good hands though with the return of sophomore Amy Kauffung, the league’s reigning Newcomer of the Year. Kauffung’s another who battled through pain last season, missing just one game with a broken nose and locking down a spot at full-back all season. Despite being a mainstay out wide in defense, Kauffung also played in midfield a little later in the season, and her versatility and skill gives Henschel plenty of options going into 2012. The other returning starter is another of Milwaukee’s fine rookie class from last season, Emily Scott. Scott was recruited as a forward but made a quick transition to center-back as a rookie, starting every match for the club and generally looking great en route to All-Newcomer Team honors for the Panthers. She and Kauffung will likely be a big part of the club’s future and will have to up their games with the loss of their veteran defensive partners from a season ago.
Sophomore Stephanie Condon looks a good bet to start at left-back for the team after making a successful return from injury last year. Condon was a key reserve for much of the year but stepped into the starting lineup in the postseason and can also play in the midfield for the Panthers. Fellow full-back Sara Stern began her career as a forward for the club, making the Horizon League All-Tournament Team as a rookie but transitioned to defense last year. Stern would make a few starts as a sophomore and should also be in the mix for a starting spot this year, though she could also feature in attack from off the bench.
Others who should for push for time include junior Melanie Coderre, another versatile utility player with nineteen appearances in two seasons, and sophomore full-back Caity Bestwina, a reserve off the bench as a rookie who missed all of last season. Losing a pair of starting defenders isn’t going to make things easy for Henschel, but Kauffung and Scott both have loads of potential, meaning this group shouldn’t fall off a cliff this year.
Replacing Thompson, the club’s creator in chief, doesn’t promise to be easy for the Panthers. While Thompson had always been a strong contributor for the club in three seasons before 2011, the Canadian truly hit her peak last season en route to Horizlon League Tournament MVP honors after a brilliant season to close out her Panthers career. Thompson was on fire early, with eleven assists in the club’s first fourteen games. The assist rate would diminish down the stretch, but Thompson would score three big goals in the closing weeks of the season, including against Wright State in the conference tournament final and Illinois State in the NCAA Tournament.
Though replacing all of Thompson’s offensive production won’t be easy to say the least, senior Helen Steinhauser should at least take up some of the senior leadership roles. The 2009 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year, Steinhauser has been an integral part of both the midfield and defense for three years now and won All-Region Second Team honors for her efforts last season. 2011 was her best offensive season yet, with four goals and five assists, and Henschel will be hoping for continued growth this year as he searches for offensive solutions.
Henschel will also be aiming for more big contributions from sophomore Kelsey Holbert, another fancied recruit who delivered big last season. Holbert started all but one game as a rookie and showed a fine touch in front of goal, with four goals and three assists to her name, including two game winners for the Panthers. The Illinois native avoiding a sophomore slump would go a long way for UWM’s hopes this year. Big junior Hannah Kaul also looks like a contender for a starting role, adding some balance to the midfield in a defensive role. She was a top reserve as a rookie and ended up seeing her minutes grow last year in eleven starts. The Fredonia native could well make the step up to a full-time starting role this season for the Panthers.
Canadian senior Demi Price, one of the club’s preeminent reserves for three seasons should also be in the mix for starting time this season. Price hasn’t been much of a factor in front of goal thus far, but the veteran does have a smattering of starting experience, including a handful of starts last year. Henschel will also be hoping for more from sophomore Vienna Behnke, who made eleven appearances off the bench as a rookie last season for the Panthers.
How exactly do you replace the irreplaceable? It’s the unenviable task ahead of Henschel, as his Panthers try to begin life without the irrepressible Hagen spearheading the offense. The Appleton native leaves having never scored less than nineteen goals a season, while also finishing with a mindboggling twenty-nine game winning goals. Eleven of those came last season, as Hagen ran riot over just about everyone in her path. Only four teams were able to hold her without a goal last season, and only Marquette kept her from putting a shot on goal. Hagen scored multiple goals eight times and had an eight game scoring streak in the middle of the season. The big striker was nearly unplayable in the air and remains one of the U.S.’ brightest prospects for the future.
Compounding matters is the subsequent loss of another forward, Laurel Ragalie. Ragalie had been a bright prospect herself after a handful of goals as a freshman but struggled to gain traction for a few seasons after, including in an injury hit 2010. She returned to scoring form last season though, netting six times to finish tied for second on the club in goals.
There’s precious little in the way of proven scoring returning for the Panthers. Sophomore Kelly Lewers is one of the club’s returning leading scorers with four goals and began her rookie year with three goals in her first five games to turn some heads. She would miss a few games with a concussion though and seemingly lost her scoring touch upon returning, netting just once the rest of the way. Lewers still should have a bright future, but it’s asking a lot of the second-year player to lead the line this year. Junior Krissy Dorre was a late addition to the roster last year but ended up making a solid contribution, starting a handful of games down the stretch. Three goals and three assists in the final month and a half of the season was a promising return, and Henschel has to be hoping a full season with the club will bear even greater fruit this year.
Also back is sophomore Morgan LaPlant, a top offensive reserve last season as a rookie. LaPlant scored a pair of goals and added two assists while making a few starts last season and will be searching for more minutes as a second-year player. More than likely though, Henschel may be banking on some of the newcomers to deliver an instant jolt to the offense. But odds are this group takes a notable step back this year without Hagen to terrorize opposing defenses.
It’s not quite a full scale rebuilding project Henschel inherits in Milwaukee, but the new boss of the Panthers certainly could have his hands full as he takes over the very successful UWM program. The losses on offense are massive and run much deeper than Hagen, with the Panthers not exactly assured of not skipping a beat going forward considering the relative youth of many of their attacking players. The defense is in a little bit better shape with some very promising young defenders on the backline and the capable Forbes in between the pipes, but even that unit takes a few hits and may need a bit of retooling.
The good news for Henschel is that UWM were so far ahead of the rest of the Horizon League last season that even a sharp drop off doesn’t necessarily preclude them from contending for trophies. But silverware is far from assured in Henschel’s first season, and he’ll have to make the most of what’s on the roster to extend the club’s streak of NCAA Tournament appearances, with at-large bid hopes looking questionable at best.