Denver Pioneer Women
2012 Overall Rank: #42
Conference Rank: #4 WAC
Denver Team Page
Denver is making the move from the Sun Belt to the Western Athletic Conference this season. It makes geographic sense and it should, at least for now, help out the Pioneer Women. Denver ended last season with an impressive 16-5 record, but failed to make the postseason. The move to the WAC will not likely change the fact that Denver will need to win the conference title to reach the NCAA Tournament, but this is a team that has the talent to possibly have a tremendous season that will propel them into at-large consideration.
2011 Record: 16-5-0, 9-2-0
2011 Postseason: None
Coach: Jeff Hooker
The Pioneer Women know how to score goals and a vast majority of their goal scorers are back. A year ago they ranked ninth in the nation averaging over 2.5 goals per contest. Kristen Hamilton, a 5-3 junior, netted 16 goals last season, ranking 17th in the nation in goals per game. Hamilton’s efficiency in the box is stunning. Of her 46 shots, 22 were on target and 16 ended up in the back of the net. Hamilton will also find the other scorers on the team and led the Pioneer Women with nine assists. Nicholette DiGiamcomo and Kalie Vaughn both scored eight goals during the 2011 campaign. Vaughn spends her time up front with Hamilton, while DiGiacomo is more of a playmaker from the midfield. The return of Kaitlin Bast will make an already potent offensive extremely explosive. The 5-8 senior only played in six games last season before a concussion ended her season. It was Bast who was expected to be the big goal scoring threat in 2011 and she was well on her way prior to the injury. If she is back at full strength, few teams in the nation will score as much as Denver. Add Laura Feehs, a transfer from Azusa Pacific who also was injured in 2011, and the Pioneer Women are full of scoring options.
Denver only losses a handful of players, but the loss of Bria Beardsley and Kari Storslett will test the midfield. Those two were capable shooters and combined for seven assists, but they also did a lot of the dirty work in the midfield. Jessy Battelli and Anna Willis are experienced midfielders and will join DiGiamcomo, but the overall depth in the midfield could become a problem. Fortunately, Coach Jeff Hooker has some backs who can come up and forwards who can drop back, so if freshman Francesca Garzelloni and a handful of slightly more experienced midfielders are not ready to step up their game, at least this team has some options.
The offense will get all of the headlines, but the defense will hold on to win games. It starts with goalie Lara Campbell who only allowed 15 goals in 17 games. The 5-8 senior has an experienced line in front of her, led by the offensive orientated Katy Van Lieshout and emerging sophomores Sam Harder and Shelby Wesley. In the end, this is a very experienced squad under Coach Hooker and the move to the WAC could give them a little advantage. Denver’s defense is good enough to handle everything the WAC can throw at them, but the new opponents in the conference will need time to find a way to stop Hamilton, DiGiamcomo and company.
Projected Postseason: NCAA
Goals: Kristen Hamilton, Junior, F, 16
Assists: Kristen Hamilton, Junior, F, 9
Shots: Nicholette DiGiacomo, Junior, M, 75
Saves: Lara Campbell, Senior, GK, 47