The MSOE women's soccer team heads into the 2018 season having won conference titles in each of the last three seasons.
For head coach Rolf Zersen, the challenge will come with replacing a second-straight 10-plus member graduating class. Despite that, he's not worried. His smallest roster in years could also be his most talented as a strong returning class will be bolstered by a strong freshman class that could have several starters from day one.
The Raiders' three leading scorers, and four double-digit point scorers overall return to lead the offense while an all-region player will lead a younger offense.
Sophomore Brooke Zidek was the NACC Freshman of the Year last season as she finished second in the league with 12 goals, seven assists, and 31 points. After a slow start through a tough non-conference slate, she hit her scoring stride at the start of conference play and rode that through the end of the season.
Meanwhile, junior Jeray Riffel thrived with added minutes last season to the tune of seven goals and five assists. She was a key reserve for much of the season, making nine starts among her 19 appearances, but Zersen is excited for what she will do in a start role as a junior. Her strength, work rate, and nose for the goal will make her a threat to opposing defenses once again.
A pair of first-year players made immediate impacts in the midfield in sophomores Gracie Horton and Nora Adkins. Horton was a do-everything midfielder that does well to dictate from an attacking position while keying the transition game when she plays deeper. She notched six goals and four assists to finish third on the team with 16 points.
Adkins is a speedy scoring threat that established her ability for breaking through defenses and racked up seven goals in her first season back from injury. She's worked to create herself a more well-rounded attacker in the off-season and will look for another step forward in her second collegiate season.
Sophomore Gabby Hoffman is another young scoring threat. She played in all 21 games last season and made six starts. She scored just four goals but demonstrated a high work rate and a nose for scoring situations that will only get better.
Rounding out the returning offensive players will be senior Emma Nelson at forward. She cut her teeth with 11 appearances in her first season as a Raider in 2017.
Defensively, senior Shelby Namen leads the back line in front of a pair of strong junior goalkeepers. Since taking over a starting role in the central defense, Namen has been named all-region and to the All-NACC First Team in both season. She was also selected as the NACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
She will be flanked by a pair of second-year players in sophomores Jacque Pettigrew and Megan Core. Pettigrew can play both centrally and out wide and made three starts among 10 appearances as a rookie. Core missed much of her first campaign through injury but slides back into an outside defense position she held for the first eight games of last season.
In goal, juniors Abbie Lorenz and Allison Lessila give Zersen a formidable duo regardless of their position on the depth chart. Lorenz earned the edge last season and finished with nine starts in a team-high 16 appearances. She posted a strong 1.10 goals against average and .796 save percentage in just over 900 minutes in her first starting action.
Lessila logged a pair of starts last season as well and yielded just a goal in 209-plus minutes over five appearances. She stopped eight of the nine shots she faced, as well.