Sept. 17, 2012
***The following profile appeared in Saturday's Marshall-Ohio game program.***
Eight games into the season, the 2012 Marshall University women’s soccer team appears to have qualities that its previous squads have rarely possessed: depth and versatility.
As the Thundering Herd approaches the halfway point of the season with a record of 4-4 and a total of 13 goals coming from seven different goal-scorers, Marshall no longer seems to be reliant on the exorbitant abilities of former players such as Erika Duncan and Angela DeSumma, the pair that fueled head coach Kevin Long’s offense over the past four seasons. Instead, a balanced attack that includes two freshmen as the team’s leading goal-getters and an increasing ability to beat teams in more than one way have the 14-year-old program on the up.
The 4-4 record, while not normally something to boast about, matches the team’s season wins total from last year, and the 13 goals have the Herd well ahead of last year’s pace which saw Marshall score only 17 times in 19 games.
As a matter of fact, Marshall is ahead of the goal-scoring pace set by the 2009 team which finished with an overall record of 12-7. The only difference between that team and the current one: Long’s 2009 squad was 7-1 with only three goals against through the first eight games.
Long, who became the program’s third head coach when he took an interim role in 2008, has spent the majority of his tenure with a limited dose of scoring threats. During his first four seasons, forwards Duncan (2007-10) and DeSumma (2008-11) provided the bulk of his offense. Duncan, who would go on to capture the school record for career scoring (23 goals), registered nine goals in the 2008 and 2009 seasons before tallying five in 2010. DeSumma emerged in the latter half of Duncan’s career with five goals in 2010 and six more in 2011.
Over the course of those four years, only two other players scored more than three times in any one season, and no one else in the goal-starved 2011 season found the net more than twice.
This season could very well see an end to the one-dimensional teams of the past.
Erin Simmons and Kelly Culicerto lead Marshall with three goals apiece through the first eight games of 2012. Simmons, a Gahanna, Ohio native, began the scoring for the Herd in the 3-1 home-opening win over Ball State on Aug. 17 then quieted down until the first week of September, when she struck twice in the 2-0 triumph at Morehead State.
Simmons was the Ohio state scoring champion in her senior year at Columbus Academy and was also the first freshman member of a Thundering Herd team to reach three goals in a single season since current senior Sarah Vinson scored three times back in 2009.
Culicerto, a native of Charlotte, N.C., joined Simmons atop the team’s goal-scoring lead when she bagged a pair last weekend.
Both Simmons and Culicerto are on pace to become the first freshman to lead Marshall in scoring since Erin Johnson notched three goals to take the scoring crown in 2003.
Senior Chelsey Maiden, another forward, also stands as one of Marshall’s scoring threats. While Maiden has found her way past opposing goalkeepers only twice this season, she has had a hand – foot, rather – in four other goals. The Vienna, W.Va. native assisted the match-winning goals against Ball State and Akron, she assisted the goal that forced overtime against James Madison and another tying goal against Saint Francis.
Maiden’s biggest goal of the season came later in the Saint Francis match when she broke a 1-1 deadlock in the 83rd minute to propel MU to its second victory.
Maiden is matched by Alyssa Cathey with two goals this season. Cathey followed Simmons in the home-opener against Ball State by registering the match-winner early in the second half. The Fort Collins, Colo. native scored her second goal Sunday afternoon in a shutout victory at Akron.
Simmons, Culicerto, Maiden, and Cathey, while the only players to find the net twice, represent only a portion of the complete list of Long’s offensive diversity. Sarah Vinson, Robin Waskowski, and Lizzy Lemons each own one goal to their credit and have proven an ability to create opportunities for themselves and for others.
Further, junior Casey Walsh and a handful of Herd newcomers may just need more time to find their rhythm. Walsh registered two goals and an assist last year and has already provided an assist this season along with freshmen Brittany Entz (Glen Allen, Va.) and Jenna Dubs (Green Lane, Pa.).
Marshall’s defense appears to be just as deep and rock solid as the numbers have indicated for the offense. Senior Lindsey Kerns has a wealth of experience in goal and will likely go down as one of the best goalkeepers to play in a Marshall uniform. Through the first eight games of the season, Kerns ranks fifth on the all-time saves list with 120 in her career, 17 behind Kai Nordness (2003-05) for fourth and 49 behind third-place Ashleigh Woods (2001-04).
Kerns, a native of nearby Hurricane, W.Va., also has seven career shutouts under her belt, ranking fourth in Marshall history in that category as well.
Kerns and the bevy of weapons at the other end of the pitch should see more and more success as they continue to grow.