EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) - While the UW-Eau Claire soccer team had a successful season in 2009, it failed to advance to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in four years, but a strong group of returners will help give the Blugolds a good chance to make it back again.
In 2009, Eau Claire took second place in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) after finishing with a 6-1-1 WIAC record. According to the sports information director's preseason poll, the Blugolds are predicted to again take second despite returning a large part of last year's team. Eau Claire did receive two first place votes in the poll while UW-Stevens Point was predicted to take the top spot.
Heading in to 2010, the Blugolds return 18 letterwinners from last season while losing just seven. In addition, nine starters are back while the team lost two. The Blugolds also welcome 12 freshmen to this year's squad.
The Blugolds return a high-powered offense, which was third in the conference last season with 50 goals while leading the league with 349 shots. This year's returners accounted for 40 of the team's 50 goals a year ago while the top six point scorers from last year are back.
Shyla Gilbertson (So.-Waunakee, Wis.), who will be a sophomore this season, led the Blugolds in points and goals last year and was an All-WIAC pick for her efforts. She scored 10 goals, which tied for the fifth most in the conference.
A strong defense will also be back, led by All-WIAC selection and team defensive MVP Megan Hillesheim (Sr.-Ham Lake, Minn./Blaine). The Blugolds gave up just 28 goals in 20 games last year, which ranked fourth best in the league.
The Blugolds will begin their season Wednesday, September 1 with a game at the Bollinger Fields against St. Olaf College (Minn.). Action is set to get underway at 2 p.m.