With a new coach at the helm, the Knox women’s soccer team hopes to make some noise in the Midwest Conference next season.
In December, head coach Melissa Joseph, was hired to replace former coach, Nikki Ayers, who stepped down after four seasons. Joseph was the head coach at the University of Mount Union (Alliance, Ohio) for four years before coming to Knox. Her first head coaching opportunity came in 2001 at Washington & Jefferson College (Washington, Penn.), where she won 49 games in five years.
Joseph takes over a talented Prairie Fire squad that returns five seniors. Knox showed a substantial improvement in 2010, finishing 7-11, (2-8 MWC), after a disappointing 2-15 (1-9 MWC) season the previous year.
Joseph said she plans to build on that success and has faith that the team can realize their potential, based on what she has seen in the offseason.
“I think the biggest thing is the heart of the players,” Joseph said. “They’re the reason I took the job here—their dedication and their heart. So, although we’re going to be a small squad, we’ll definitely make up for it with our desire and dedication.”
She added that her experience at the Division III level should help make for a smoother transition at Knox.
“It’s helpful that everywhere that I’ve been has been a private liberal arts college,” Joseph said. “The dynamic of this team is pretty similar, so the biggest thing will be getting more recruits in and working with what we already have.”
Knox has received just two commitments from incoming freshmen, but Joseph, who was hired midway into the offseason, attributes that to her late start.
Joseph takes over a promising Knox team that features junior Emma Swanson, who was selected to an All-Midwest Conference Second Team. Other players to watch for are sophomore Arielle Dorman, who set a single-season school record in 2009 for goals by a first-year player, as well as junior Laura Johnson, who was third on the team in scoring.
The Fire completed spring practices earlier this month, which Joseph said gave her an opportunity to hash out an offensive strategy for the upcoming year.
“We’re going to really work on our transitional game,” Joseph said. “When people see that we don’t have a lot of numbers, we’re going to surprise them and really build on the counter attack. I was excited to see that we’re capable of that.”
Joseph believes that one of the biggest keys to the season will come from fan support and fostering a tight-knit relationship on campus.
“I’m very big on supporting other teams,” Joseph said. “So we’d love to see as many people out there—athletes and non-athletes—because we try our best to support everything that’s going on here on campus, not just athletics.”