The Tabor women’s soccer team returns a majority of its starters this season, a luxury the Bluejays did not have a year ago.
With only three players returning with starting experience in 2016, Tabor was forced to throw a number of young athletes into the proverbial fire.
Now, having that experience will pay dividends, as Tabor returns nine of its 11 starters from 2016.
“The biggest asset is experience now because we’ve got a whole team that played a ton of minutes last year, and all of them have come back well and have done well in preseason, and their fitness levels are good,” said fourth-year coach Ian Thomson.
Five All-KCAC returners will anchor the team.
Sophomore forward Dakota Spencer led the Bluejays in goals (12), shots (58) and shots on goal (34) a year ago. She was a second team, All-KCAC selection and was named Freshman of the Year.
“(Dakota’s) just really athletic and really explosive,” Thomson said. “Goal scorers have to have a natural drive to want to score, and she does.”
Spring Jones returns as a fifth-year senior. She was a second-team All-KCAC pick last year. Thomson anticipates using Jones in a hybrid defense/midfield role.
“She’s really athletic and has got a good ability to run forward,” Thomson said. “She can run for days, so we want to try to move her forward in the attack more.”
Sophomore midfielder Hannah Armand is an honorable-mention selection. She recorded 23 shots and 11 shots on goal last year.
“Hannah’s really smart and understands where to go with the ball,” Thomson said. “The hallmarks of a good midfielder are intelligence, passing ability and being able to stay organized. She does all of those.”
Senior defender Jordan Walters is another honorable-mention selection.
“When Jordan’s on the field, everybody feels more comfortable,” Thomson said. “She is our true No. 1 leader and has just been the face of the program for the past four years. ”
Forward Nicole Decker, a fifth-year senior, received honorable-mention. She recorded 14 shots and four shots on goal last year.
Junior Ruby-Anne Fines is a returning goalkeeper who played in eight games last year. She will battle two freshmen for the starting nod, Thomson said.
“Our new freshmen coming in, there’s a good crop of them, and they work really hard, and they’ve got some ability to help us,” he said.
Having concluded last season with a 6-5 record in the KCAC, 11-9 overall, Tabor was projected to finish sixth in the 2017 KCAC preseason poll, which Thomson said was “a little shocking.”
“I expect us to probably challenge for a top-three spot,” he said. “That’s one of our goals—to finish in the top three, and we’ll see how that goes. We’ve got a little extra motivation with the sixth-place preseason ranking. It’s kind of lit a fire under some girls.”