UNC’s soccer squad has high hopes after best season in school history | MyWindsorNow.com

UNC’s soccer squad has high hopes after best season in school history

Samuel G. Mustari
smustari@greeleytribune.com

Encore, encore.

The University of Northern Colorado soccer team can't help but think about it, but more than a thought process will be key for the Bears.

Coming off their most successful season in school history — qualifying for the NCAA postseason tournament — the Bears open the season at 7 Friday night in a nonconference match against South Dakota State on the pitch at Jackson Soccer Stadium.

It's the beginning of the season after.

"We're ready to get into the season," said junior Madeline Burdick, who will man the goal for the Bears. "We left on a good note and we want to get it going."

Burdick was in goal for the Bears' 1-0 victory over Idaho in the Big Sky Conference championship match, stopping three goals and three penalty kicks.

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UNC coach Tim Barrera and his squad haven't been infatuated on the team's success from last season, winning the Big Sky Conference postseason tournament and advancing to the NCAA regional round, losing on the road at Arizona.

However, the bar has been set and high expectations go without saying.

Burdick and a horde of seniors know their roles.

"That was a great group that went out the door, and it's a new chapter, but our goal every year is to win the regular season, the conference tournament and get to the NCAA playoffs. We certainly have experience on this team," Barrera said.

Make that quality experience.

There are six seniors on the UNC roster, but a big chunk of talent comes from sophomore midfielder/forward Mariel Gutierrez, who spent the summer playing for the Colorado Springs Pride, a prestigious club team.

"She's one of those kids who wants to get better every day," Barrera said. "She's the first one on the field."

Gutierrez was the Freshman of the Year in the BSC last season and was named to the All-Pacific second team along with garnering several weekly honors during the regular season.

Gutierrez had seven goals on the season, including the Bears' lone goals in 1-0 victories over Weber State University and Portland State University.

"She's not a freshman anymore, so people know about her," Barrera said. "But she's up for that kind of challenge. She'll be getting a lot of attention, but she's a tremendous talent."

The Bears' early season schedule includes three home matches — 7 p.m. Friday vs. South Dakota State; 7 p.m. Aug. 19 vs. Colorado College; 7 p.m. Sept. 2 against Drexel University.

"I'm feeling great," Gutierrez said. "I'm super excited to be training with this team, and we're having a pretty good preseason so far. We definitely have good talent, and we're feeling confident and excited."

Barrera also cited the return of senior midfielders Kassy Castillo and Sydney Schroeder.

Gutierrez will be surrounded by talent as seniors Madeline Chase and Paige Morris return and are listed as defenders.

Morris took 16 shots last season with six of them finding the back of the net. Chase has started 44 straight matches for the Bears.

The Bears' preseason goals haven't changed, but the bar has been set a tiny notch higher as the defending BSC champs and NCAA qualifier.

"We're going to work hard every step of the way," Gutierrez said. "The bar is just as high, if not even higher. We have high expectations.

"I know that I expect a lot from myself in every way, shape and form … I want to be better fitness-wise and a better teammate, a better player overall and to make my team proud," Gutierrez added. "I'm really proud to be working with them."

At a glance

» WHO: University of Northern Colorado women’s soccer

» WHAT: 2016 season

» LAST SEASON: The Bears won the Big Sky Conference Big Sky Conference postseason tournament, beating Idaho 1-0 on the road to advance to the NCAA Division I regionals before losing to the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.

» TOP RETURNEES: Madeline Burdick, jr., goalie; Madeline Chase, sr., defender; Kassy Castillo, sr., midfielder; Paige Morris, sr., midfielder/defender; Brooke Braden, jr., forward; Makayla McBride, sr., defender/midfielder; Stephanie Scarcello, sr., defender; Sydney Schroeder, sr., midfielder.

» SCHEDULE: Season and home opener, 7 p.m. Friday vs. South Dakota State. BSC opener is 3 p.m. Sept, 23 at Weber State University.

» TIDBITS: The Bears have a series of promotional matches. Check uncbears.com for more details. … One preseason highlight will be a 4 p.m. match on the road, Aug. 26 at Colorado State University.

» PRESEASON POLL: UNC is picked to finish third in the BSC in a poll voted on by the coaches. In the poll, the Bears earned three first-place votes but were picked to finish behind Idaho and Eastern Washington University.

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