by PETE WATKINS, WSU director of athletic communications
The Winona State University (WSU) women's soccer team is ready to start their 2022 campaign, and the team features veteran depth in many areas as well as some key new faces. The Warriors will be led into the season by Riley Harmon and Bailey Deininger, having been tabbed as WSU Players to Watch on offense and defense, respectively, in the 2022 NSIC Soccer Coaches' Poll.
The Warriors are looking to reset after a 2021 season in which they saw nine games decided by a single goal. After a .500 start to the season that included an impressive 3-0 win over the University of Minnesota-Duluth, WSU suffered a string of one-goal losses in the middle part of the schedule. Then, after a 6-0 victory over University of Minnesota-Crookston at home in mid-October, WSU took the road for four of their final five matches, all of which were losses by one score.
In the 2022 NSIC Coaches' Poll, Winona State was picked for ninth by the coaches around the league with 101 points. Minnesota State-Mankato earned the top spot in the poll, notching 217 points, while Bemidji State University was selected a close second with 210 points.
Riley Harmon returns for her final year at Winona State having amassed 33 games for the Warriors, collecting six goals and an assist over that time. Harmon had a key strike against Northern Michigan University on September 10 last year, notching the game-winner in the second half in a 1-0 WSU home win over the Wildcats.
Bailey Deininger has been a leader in the Warrior defensive corps for three seasons, also appearing in 33 matches so far in her career. As a freshman in 2019-2020, Deininger played in all 18 Winona State matches and featured in 15 of WSU's 17 games last season, missing two due to injury. With Deininger in the lineup, Winona State has tallied seven shutouts over the most recent two seasons.
Head Coach Matt Kellogg embarks on his fifth season at WSU and welcomes back a veteran group, as well as some talented newcomers to the team. Winona State is looking to put last year's 4-13-1 season in the rearview mirror quickly and will have a handful of scrimmages and exhibitions to fine-tune the squad before the first regular season on Friday, August 26, at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Kellogg will count on both Harmon and Deininger, two veterans who are a part of a Warrior roster that features 14 players with two or more college seasons of experience.
Also new to the sideline this fall is Jill Leibforth, who will serve as Kellogg's top assistant. Leibforth lands in Winona after a strong playing and coaching stint at Loras College. Winona State is looking to take the pitch with a Warrior mindset this fall and will have to battle early in a schedule that features seven matches on the road to the start the campaign. After their August 20 exhibition against the University of Southern Indiana, WSU won't be home again until their Sunday, September 23 matchup with Minot State University.