KEARNEY — Chloe Roberts is entering her third year at the helm of the University of Nebraska at Kearney women’s soccer program, but she’s hoping this year’s team will give the program a fresh start.
The Lopers won nine total games over the last two years, but this season, the roster will feature 15 newcomers.
"It’s exciting and it’s like, ‘Where has the time gone?’" Roberts said. "We have a really young group this year. It’s what excites me. I think this is what this program needed to come to where there’s a whole new breath of fresh air, and it’s nearly all the players I’ve recruited."
The Lopers, who went 5-12-1 last season, will hold their first practice Monday. With only 11 returning players, it will be critical for the newcomers to acclimate quickly to the program. They’ll practice for two days at UNK’s Foster Field, before traveling to YMCA Camp Kitaki in Louisville, Neb. for a two-day team retreat.
Developing team chemistry will be critical for the Lopers. It’s one of the reasons why Roberts opted to do an off-site retreat for the second consecutive year. She also hopes the Lopers’ two exhibition games leading up to the first regular-season contest Sept. 6 will help the players develop a comfortable level with one another on the pitch.
This year’s roster has the skill level and ability to play the style of soccer Roberts desires, and she believes it will help provide a positive spark for the program.
"With our style, we are more of a possession oriented team that likes to be creative in the final third and defensively sound," she said. "All of these players fit into that category. We have a wide variety of freshman ranging from every position. The depth in all the positions is greater than last year. All these players fit in perfectly for this program with their technical and tactical abilities."
Scoring goals has been a problem for the Lopers throughout the program’s 10-year history. Last season, the Lopers struggled in the final third and finished the season with 14 goals scored. They averaged just 0.78 goals per game and lost seven contests by one goal.
The Lopers added seven midfielders and forwards in this year’s freshmen class in hopes of at least a couple of reliable scorers.
"We know we are right there," said Roberts on last year’s scoring. "But being right there, is not good enough. We have to be there. That is what we are looking for this year. We have some players coming in this year that know where the back of the net is, and they know how to be creative in the final third."
One position the Lopers are set at is goalkeeper. They return seniors Allie Prososki and Emily Thuss and added freshman Eden Miura.
Prososki played in 14 of the Lopers’ 18 games last season and posted a 1.48 goals against average. She was credited with all five of the Lopers’ victories.
Thuss played a limited role last year, appearing in six games, and recorded a 1.34 goals against average.
Roberts said Miura, out of Las Vegas, Nevada, is a "talented, athletic goalkeeper with huge potential" when Miura signed with the Lopers in January.
Although the Lopers have a proven starter back, Roberts isn’t in a rush to name a starter for their first game of the season against Minnesota State University Moorhead at 5 p.m. Sept. 6 at Foster Field.
"We return two very strong seniors so they will be great leaders for the freshman coming in," Roberts said. "Like I tell everyone, there’s no position taken right now. That’s what preseason is for and why they’ve been training all summer is to show us who should play."