PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- Team captain Jessica Warren and fellow upperclassmen Jordan Frick and Hadley Stuart should prove critical to Purdue women's soccer's success in 2012 as indicated by their selections among the Big Ten Players to Watch as the new season begins.
Each coaching staff singled out three of its own players, leading to a list of 36 Players to Watch from around the conference.
Women's soccer is the first intercollegiate sport of the 2011-12 school year to open its regular season around the country, kicking off this Friday (Aug. 17). Purdue hosts Toledo at 7 p.m. for its opener at the new-look Varsity Soccer Complex, beginning its season against the Rockets for the third year in a row. Admission is free Friday for all Purdue students.
The Big Ten Conference also unveiled a preseason coaches poll Tuesday. Purdue was predicted to finish ninth in the 12-team league. The top seven teams in the final standings and tournament host Indiana qualify for the eight-team Big Ten Tournament field.
The Big Ten's three NCAA Tournament qualifying teams in 2011 - Penn State, Illinois and Ohio State - were picked 1-2-3 in the preseason poll. Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State were also predicted to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament. Of those seven teams, the Boilermakers host Penn State, Illinois and Wisconsin this fall. Minnesota and Northwestern also visit West Lafayette this fall.
Warren was selected as team captain in the spring. She has played in 48 consecutive games and 59 of the 61 the last three seasons. This year she'll have an opportunity of adding her name to the list of Boilers that have scored a goal in each of their four years. Warren went the distance in 10 of the 12 games in which she started at center back last season. She could return to a midfield position this year but her versatility to play in either part of the field should be beneficial.
Frick was one of three returning Boilers to start all 20 games in 2011. She and classmate Mollie Kuramoto, who will miss this season due to injury, demonstrated the highest level of consistency among the sophomore field players a year ago. The suburban St. Louis native ranked second on the team in minutes played last season while serving as an outside back and corner kick specialist. She helped setup four goals and scored for the first time as Boiler.
The first week of October will mark the two-year anniversary of Stuart suffering a torn ACL in a Purdue loss at Minnesota. After missing the final month of her freshman year, she was able to return for the entirety of the 2011 campaign, scoring three goals while primarily coming off the bench. Now fully recovered from her knee injury, Stuart could enjoy a breakout season in an attacking role this season. She had three goals in the Boilers' two organized team scrimmages this month.