"Well, we went on the road this weekend and, just like last year, opened up with two wins. It's always great to start out that way. But we have high expectations. We expected to win both those games. Creighton has an incredible new facility. It's over $7 million and I know Jeff played there last year and it was just, the atmosphere was exciting. We had our All-American, Heather Taggert, speak to our team a little bit and we got a great shutout, great start.
"Yesterday's game was extremely exciting in the fact that Kansas is ranked 23rd and we're going to their place. Carolina played Colorado the game before ours. So the atmosphere was electric and a few of our top performers put it away for us. Katie Lindenmuth had two and Amy Vermeulen had the game-winner. And those are the kinds of things we actually expect our team to be able to do. We have a lot of experience.
"Looking into this weekend, the thing is, it's a very new thing, this Big Ten-Big 12 challenge. We're going to be able to look across the conferences and see who can match up against each other. But we have Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, two teams we've never played, so that's kind of exciting. Kansas is part of that conference and so just to get three wins against the Big 12 is something that is part of this challenge. And, you know, pitting our top conference teams against theirs should be exciting.
"The neat thing about, I think, our team this year is beyond the experience, it's obviously a very focused group, a leadership group of four captains. It's difficult for me to leave one of those four out of the mix. And I think one of the key players you'll see this year throughout our team will be Marisa Brown. She's coming off a tremendous summer season with a Boston Renegade team where she was a leading scorer for their team, played up front to our surprise, because she's our top center midfielder. And so I joked with her, she'll probably have to play a little bit up front for us. She actually really created the final goal for us with a tremendous forward run.
"And our team showed just this resiliency after the Kansas had about four corner kicks in a row in overtime. That's not what a coach wants to see, four in a row. Four in a row. And on the fifth one we countered and scored. And so it was, one of the things about this team is where we lost one key player, Molly Meuer, and basically the same team is back, and that's what's exciting about what we had to look for, is just some real high expectations."
Traditionally how good is the Big 12 compared to the Big Ten?
"Well, their top teams are really right there. They're top-heavy: Texas A&M, Texas, Nebraska. Those are really the three, and Kansas is now the newest newcomer in that mix. They put, I think, seven, eight teams in the NCAAs two years ago. Much like our conference, one of their eighth seeds won their conference tournament to put them in there. The next team in hand is Colorado, and then you look at the Oklahoma, Oklahoma State. So they're similar to our conference, and on a national scale their top three are as good as any around."
Is it fair to say you're a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big Ten, according to the coaches? Do you agree with that?
"No. But you've got to go out and prove it. And, you know, they put a Michigan team ahead of us, and obviously Michigan played Kansas, so we were looking for a little separation in terms of that this weekend. And Kansas really out-shot Michigan, really caught them on their heels, and even out-shot them 12-2 in the first half and Michigan was leading 1-0.
And then I think in the tally they out-shot them 35-12 or something. And that, our game against Kansas was very even and I think that's what you look at when you're really comparing teams, shots and those kinds of things. The end is the result. You know, we got a win, they got a tie, and I think that's just something that's real important. Early on picks, you just don't know.
"And I think that, you know, we have things to prove this year. We were fifth last year. Dropped two games against two lower opponents that should never have happened, but that's life. Against the top teams we fared very well. So that's what we're kind of, we're anticipating a top-three finish. That's where our kids are expected, in their minds that's where they'll finish. I think we can truly compete for the title this year."
About Amy Vermeulen, I'm thinking in recent memory, she may be one of the best athletes this university has, female athletes this university has seen and people besides you and your players don't know too much about her. Would you agree with that?
"Yeah. You know, growing up where she came from in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, she played multiple, multiple sports, you know, track and field, obviously soccer and hockey, and excelled in hockey and soccer. And fortunately for us she was a hockey recruit and wasn't on our radar screen and just loved the university, loved being here.
"But in terms of her athleticism as a soccer player, her mobility isn't as much as you would really want to see it, but her timing and sense of being where she needs to be is tremendous. She's like a huge post player that can get a ball at her feet and beat one or two players and seems to always find the back of the net. And it's players, players like that just make a difference on any team, and just her athleticism to strike the ball, she strikes the ball like a man.
"She is so dangerous on corner kicks and those other kind of areas that make it exciting. And you know that teams are keying on her, and yet she's still breaking away. The neat thing about where we're at this year with Amy is that we've got seven to eight other players to really score for us, so it takes a little extra pressure off her, I think.
"So that's kind of, it's great to be around an athlete of that caliber because of also her intensity and focus. She's expecting a lot from herself. So I can use her as an example to get her to play better in front of the younger players, and because of her experience, she's played in front of 60,000 with the Canadian national program, so she's had sort of those things to bring to our team."