December 4, 2020

The Sporting Insider: Fresh(man) Faces

Freshman athletes don’t usually make this kind of impact this early into their collegiate careers.

Josh Sellmeyer

Josh Sellmeyer — The Journal Sports Editor

A freshman’s role on a given team typically entails fetching water for a thirsty upperclassman or picking up trash at the end of a game. Freshmen aren’t supposed to be playing an extensive amount of minutes.

But the crop of 2011 freshman fall athletes is bucking that trend. Even though we are only a few short weeks into the fall sports season, freshmen have already shown what they’re capable of.

Their potential is tantalizing not only for the current sports season, but for the next three years as well. This is especially the case for the women’s sports teams — the volleyball, soccer, tennis and cross-country teams are loaded with freshman talent.

Coach Merry Graf has not been hesitant to start freshmen in the early goings of the volleyball team’s season.

Freshmen Jenny Howard, Allie O’Toole, Emily Ratkewicz and Jordan Vehlewald have started all six of the squad’s matches, while freshman Kristen McDowell has started half of the Gorloks’ contests.

The only non-freshmen players to have started a match for Webster are seniors Caroline Kargus and Gretchen Rieger. The freshmen have posted good numbers and have given Graf no reason to believe they’re not ready for the upgrade in competition that collegiate volleyball brings.

Howard, Vehlewald and Ratkewicz rank first, second, and third in kills for Webster, while O’Toole has more assists (118) than the rest of the Gorlok players combined. With that amount of talent, Webster has the ability to dominate the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for years to come.

Coach Luigi Scire has eight freshmen on the women’s soccer team roster, and all of them have seen the field. Goalkeeper Jessica Davis has played in two games and has not allowed a goal.

Forward Kristin Montgomery has started all of the Gorloks’ games and has one goal. Kortney Luaders and Lauren Scalise have one goal apiece, while Whitney Scott and Amy Schield are playing major minutes for Webster.

The women’s tennis team is loaded with fresh faces from across America, thanks to the recruiting efforts of coach Michael Siener. Of the 10 players on the team’s roster, six are freshmen. All six got a chance to play in the team’s season-opening 7-2 win over Maryville University.

Marissa Lewis, who attended high school in Oklahoma, was dominant in her first collegiate match. Lauren Hacker (Arizona), Isabella Espinoza (California) and Sandra Gutierrez (California) also won against Maryville. Kathleen Kennedy (Illinois) and MacKenzie Wilder (Texas) figure to play big roles in the near future for the Gorloks.

Coach Dusty Lopez added four freshmen to the 2011 women’s cross-country roster. Freshmen Kassandra Ochoa and Sarah Graham participated in their first collegiate meet on Sept. 3, with Ochoa posting the Gorloks’ third-best time.

There are, however, two sides to every coin. With so many freshmen playing vital roles, several returning athletes have seen or will see their playing time slashed.

This could cause unneeded stress in the locker room and negatively impact on-field performance. It’s imperative for Webster coaches to keep a close eye on team chemistry over the coming weeks. I’m a proponent of the idea that the best players on a team should play, regardless of age, but not all Webster athletes adhere to that philosophy.

If enough benched upperclassman athletes become irritated, the benefits of so many freshman athletes playing so frequently might not outweigh the potential consequences of team deterioration.

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