By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
The average Summit League women’s soccer roster is made up of just over 27 players. UNO will have nowhere close to that luxury in 2012.
The Mavs will face their first season of a full conference schedule with just seven upperclassmen and only 18 players overall. The only squad that’s close to UNO is South Dakota State with 25 players on the team.
With 11 players a side, that leaves just seven substitutes on the sidelines. College soccer rules allow for unlimited substitutions, but a player is not allowed to re-enter the match in a half she was substituted for.
Thus, while the Mavs do have seven subs, four players will have to be fit enough to play an entire 45 minute half. The lack of numbers doesn’t cause Head Coach Dan Klosterman much of a concern.
“We’re only gonna have 17 or 18 players this season, but it’s 17 or 18 that want to be here,” Klosterman says. “At this point in our development as a Division I member in the Summit League, that’s all I care about.”
Last season UNO had 22 players, still small by Summit League standards, but enough to allow for regular substitutions. Three players graduated and eight others decided to call it quits with the Mavs.
UNO signed its first D-I class in February, adding seven freshmen to the ranks. Despite the additions, the Mavs only had one goalkeeper on the roster. That need was filled by the signing of Meaghan Clark in June.
It might seem like a lot of turnover, but to Klosterman it’s about addition by subtraction.
“If we got kids that don’t wanna make that commitment, don’t wanna play hard, don’t wanna work hard, don’t wanna practice hard, don’t wanna put in the time and effort it takes…the external things like community service, going to class and everything involved, then they shouldn’t be here,” Klosterman says. “I’m very happy with this group we have. We have 18 players that are totally committed, totally wanna be here.”
“I think all of our teams (at UNO) are going through that same process. Finding kids that really, really want to be Division I athletes and know what that means and want to put in the effort and the work and the hours and the sweat and everything it takes to be that kind of an athlete.”
They might want to be there, but they’ll be learning on the fly. The graduation of three and the loss of eight more subtracts 21 points off the roster, eight goals and five assists.
The offensive loss is 60 percent of the Mavs total from all of last year. Only three of those points came from losses due to graduation.
In terms of minutes, the eight who left the team and the three that graduated don’t quite equal the same kind of loss. Those 11 players saw almost 47 percent of the action put in by the whole team last season.
Regardless of what the numbers are, Klosterman’s goal isn’t so much about wins and losses as it is getting better. He feels he has the right players that will focus on improvement and that will give him and the rest of the staff a better idea of what they need to be competitive in the future.
“We can’t concern ourselves with those guys (other Summit League teams) until we see what it’s all about,” Klosterman said. “Our biggest concern right now is getting our players to compete, to play at a higher level, to have some confidence, to go out in every game and try to figure out a way to win some of them.”
Confidence will be tested early. The first year of a full Division I conference schedule is tough enough. But it seems Klosterman had designs on challenging his team in 2012 no matter what squad he could put on the pitch.
In the first six weeks of the season, the Mavs will embark on one of the most ambitious non-conference schedules in school history.
“Our biggest concern, my biggest concern, and it’s my fault, is scheduling,” Klosterman said. “The non-conference schedule is really, really tough for us.”
UNO starts at home on August 17 against Iowa State, plays four more games in nine days, gets Creighton at home, plays another Missouri Valley team two days later then goes on the road for three out west before getting Oral Roberts in Omaha on September 21.
In 2011, the Mavs opponents racked up a lofty record of 93-77-27. Much of the challenge will happen right away.
UNO’s first four opponents achieved 49 total wins in 2011.
“[We are] playing teams from the Big XII, several teams from the Missouri Valley, Portland State, Boise State. That first month and a half of the season is gonna be killer,” Klosterman said. “But if nothing else, early on we’re gonna learn a lot and see what it’s all about.”