Sept. 28, 2007
By Lindsay Jacki
Purdue sports information student assistant
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind - Purdue's women's soccer team keeps making history on a weekly basis. Last weekend's victories over Oregon (3-2) and Western Michigan (3-0) have the Boilermakers rolling into Big Ten season on a program-best eight-match winning streak.
Purdue's 8-1-1 win-loss record is its best through 10 matches and to start conference play.
Despite the fantastic start, senior team tri-captain Amber Henkle believes the team needs to improve in a few areas before it heads into this weekend's matches against Wisconsin and Northwestern. The team spent all of Wednesday's practice working in front of the net.
"I think we did pretty good last weekend in that we produced a lot of chances and were working the ball really well on the field, but we really needed to work on our finishing," said Henkle. "We need to work on making sure we're accurate on our passes, and try to reduce the amount of errors we make during the game."
Purdue is finding a lot more rest in between practices now that they're no longer playing midweek games. Purdue head coach Rob Klatte noticed the team was exhausted vs. Oregon and made the decision following the game to give them off Monday and Tuesday.
Henkle is optimistic the team will maintain its momentum transferring into the Big Ten schedule regardless of the brief hiatus from practice.
"We're taking a lot of rest this week," said Henkle. "We've had so many games in a row; we could feel that our legs were getting tired. Coach (Rob Klatte) gave us a couple days off which I think has helped a lot. Today (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday) we'll be working a lot on finishing and organization throughout the field."
With recent high scoring matches and a 2.8 goals per game average, Purdue is on track to score 48 goals this season, which would tie the program record origninaly set in 2003. Having first-hand experience on both the 2003 and 2007 squads, Henkle feels this year's edition can certainly top that mark.
"In 2003 I felt that we were very fit," said Henkle. "I think that's a parallel to where we are today. Being fit is attributed to a lot of us working hard over the summer. We didn't have to worry too much about working on fitness because we all came back in great shape."
Purdue experienced a significant drop in offensive production from 2003 to 2004. The program lost eight seniors to graduation, many of whom were starters. As a result, the Boilermakers went from scoring 48 goals and a third-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament to 22 goals and a .500 record at 10-10.
Henkle was a redshirt freshman on the 2004 squad and helped break in all the newcomers, who are now permanent fixtures in the starting lineup. Parrissa Eyorokon led the 2004 offense with four goals and four assists through 20 matches; this season, she's already scored five times with four assists.
Incredibly, Purdue's scoring totals from the first 10 games of 2007 have overshadow the final offensive totals from the 2004 season. The Boilermakers already have scored 24 times and provided 19 assists, while the 2004 club notched a program-low 13 assists and only 57 points.
In addition to Eyorokon, six other Boilermakers from that freshman class have started regularly over the last four years: Kira Bilecky, Zarinah Blockton, Christy Riggle, Jill Sarbaugh, Jordyn Shaffer and Shauna Stapleton. All remain on pace to play 80 matches, which would place them among the program's top 10 in career matches played.
Being a part of both the 2004 and 2007 teams, Henkle can speak for the rest of her senior class about the challenges ahead.
"We have a lot of people that are very comfortable on the ball," said Henkle. "There are a lot of seniors that are extremely excited. It's their last year and they're ready to just put everything out there on the field. They've been working hard for four years now on their foot skills and that helps the team with keeping the ball in possession. If things aren't open we can work it around in our team. I feel as if we did that a lot in 2003. We were able to keep the ball and be patient until something showed up so we weren't trying to force it in every time."
With success comes an increase in attention. This interest in Purdue soccer not only comes from its base of fans and local media, but the national polls as well, one of which (NSCAA/adidas) tabbed Purdue as the 11th best team in the country this week. Rankings posted by Soccer Buzz Magazine and Soccer America weren't as generous, listing the Boilermakers at 15th and 20th, respectively.
Purdue's No. 11 ranking is its highest in the program's 10-year history. The Boilermakers' previous high ranking was No. 13, which it attained for a week in 2002; they also reached 14th the following year in 2003.
The number attached to Purdue's name makes them a target for any team that's ranked lower or not at all. What the Boilermakers accomplished a few weeks ago vs. No. 1 Portland (W, 1-0), is what Wisconsin and Northwestern will be trying to do at the Varsity Soccer Complex this weekend.
The Badgers come into Friday's match at 3-3-1, while the Wildcats are 5-2-1.
Purdue and Wisconsin kickoff at 5:05 p.m. and will be featured live on the Big Ten Network. The match is scheduled to be replayed at midnight. Purdue and Northwestern start Sunday at 1 p.m.