PALATINE HILL -- With two seniors graduated from last year's team, the 2018 Lewis & Clark Pioneers bring back a lot of familiarity from a year ago including all of the team's offensive leaders from last season.
Led by ninth-year head coach Jim Tursi, the Pios have Chase Jordan and Traci Nakamura back on the sideline as assistants. Tursi also added long-time national and collegiate coach Bill Irwin to tutor the defense and goalkeepers, the latter a role he's held for the United States Federation of Soccer.
Lewis & Clark begins the season at home for the second straight season, hosting four non-conference games beginning on Saturday against Carroll.
The Pioneers return most of their team from a year ago, only two of which are seniors. Mali PetersonWood is a four-year starter who is having her best fall camp to date. In the starting lineup for 44 of 47 career matches, PetersonWood is a key defender who will help shape the success of the team. Erin Lutz is also back for her fourth year with the program. The striker scored her first career goal as a junior and has great ability to add more in 2018. The Pios added one additional senior, Sara Hogman, who has been a three-year member of the women's basketball team at Lewis & Clark. Hogman's leadership has been evident already, and she will boost the strength of the midfield.
Lewis & Clark gets much of its core from the junior class including three returning captains. Paige Barta scored her first goal last season and will have additional offensive responsibilities from her left-side back position. Fellow captain Alexa Hanson returns off an All-Northwest Conference selection in 2017 and anchors the middle of the back four. Hanson is a returning captain and three-year starter. Caroline Hennes led the Pioneers in goals as a freshman when she scored eight times. The three-year starter and returning captain is moving up from the midfield and will be a targeted threat for the Pios this year. Sarah Howard plays out wide in the front and adds a good dose of speed with her dual-sport background. A sprinter for the track and field program, Howard is expected to create some offense for the Pioneers. Anna Saucedo is expected to be one of the team's best players up front. A consistent chance-creator, Saucedo led the team in shots a year ago and will seek to add to her goal total. Emily McCarty and Terra Clarke both return for their third seasons. McCarty returns in great fall condition after hard work over the offseason, and Clarke is poised for her best season after competing in 12 games as a sophomore.
The sophomore group will be key in their second year with the program. Kennie Beighle is the team's returning goal scorer from 2017 and was a finalist for Lewis & Clark's Female Rookie of the Year award last year. Beighle missed five games in her first season and returns this season fit and ready to add goals. Giana Losson is the team's enforcer in the middle and gives the Pioneers quality possession. She started 13 and played in all of the team's games last season. Caitlin Gallagher has a great opportunity at center-back for the team and will help fill the gap left from graduated senior Kori Swanson. One of the team's leaders in assists as a freshman, Courtney Schmidt will look to heal and bring her tenacious ball-chasing ability to the team. Schmidt is an opportunity creator. After earning the team's freshman MVP nod, Becca McCullough will seek to build on a strong freshman year. She was a 19-game starter as a freshman. Like Howard, Emily Tash competed as a sprinter for the Lewis & Clark track and field team in her first year. Tash played in 17 of 20 games in 2017. Anjali Kothari could have a good impact in year two after an up-and-down health season last year. She was limited to 12 games as a first-year member of the team. Megan Sawyer was a starting goalkeeper for part of her freshman season and returns as the team's most experienced in net. She has good tools and presence in goal.
Lewis & Clark added eight freshmen ahead of this season. Milan Davis has shown good presence as one of the team's two freshman goalkeepers. From Salt Lake City, she chose Lewis & Clark because of its location, the quality of education and soccer. Julia Hager was a member of three state title teams in Bend, Ore. and is a midfielder. She moved northwest from her hometown because of Portland and her love for a small liberal arts college. Sara Klott is strong and will play out wide in her first year. Like Hager, Klott is an Oregonian from Jacksonville near Medford and was a two-time all-conference first-team pick. Speedy and quicky, Ani Love from Anchorage, Alaska will start the season as a defender and could move out wide. Love is a former all-state selection who picked Lewis & Clark because of the many experiential opportunities both Portland and campus provide. From Sandy, Utah, Angelina Peterson could have an impact this year. The midfielder/forward was selected all-state twice in high school for her state-championship program. Like Davis, Abby Prager is a goalkeeper who brings good presence and size to the position. From San Diego, she was her league player of the year and won a state championship before joining the Pios. Maya Udani is also from Oregon, competing for nearby Beaverton High School. She was an all-league selection and club champion prior to Lewis & Clark and has shown solid knowledge and speed so far through the fall. Ella Viesturs is from Sun Valley, Idaho where she was four-time all-conference and a state tournament MVP. She brings high potential up front and an ability to get to the goal.
Lewis & Clark will begin the year with nine of their first 10 games at home in Griswold Stadium. Beginning Saturday with Carroll, the Pios will host Fontbonne, UC-Santa Cruz and Chapman through the first two weeks of the season.
The Northwest Conference schedule begins on Sept. 15 against Willamette in Portland and then a road game at Pacific the next day. The Pios welcome Linfield, Puget Sound, George Fox and Pacific Lutheran over the next weeks. Lewis & Clark shut out the eventual NWC champion PLU in the regular-season finale last year.
The Pioneers have a long road stretch to end the year with only three home games in their last 10. Lewis & Clark hosts Whitman and Whitworth over the final weekend of the season.