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Match-heavy preseason begins for Spirit

Preseason began Monday and the Washington Spirit have scheduled five preseason matches within three weeks’ time to help them finalize their regular season roster.

The Spirit will first face Penn State on March 17.  The Nittany Lions had a very successful postseason making it all the way to the NCAA title game before falling to North Carolina.   Penn State has lost MAC Hermann Trophy finalist Christine Nairn as well as All-Big Ten second team selections Maddy Evans,  goalkeeper Erin McNulty and four other seniors. The Nittany Lions will challenge the Spirit defense as they return their second and third leading scorers in Maya Hayes and Mallory Weber.

The following Sunday, March 24, the Spirit will face Duke University. The good news for Duke is that they will be returning their top offensive power in Laura Weinberg and Kim DeCesare.  Weinbueg and DeCesare notched 16 goals combined last year in the Blue Devils’ run to the Elite Eight.  The bad news for Duke is that they have lost their starting keeper Tara Campbell and several other key defensive players.  Duke‘s offense should be a good test for the Spirit’s back line while the Spirit’s albeit young offense should have little trouble exploiting Duke’s  untested defense.

On March 30 the Washington Spirit will play the reigning NCAA champions, North Carolina.  The Tar Heels will be a tough opponent for the Spirit as they return Kealia Ohai, who scored the lone goal of the U-20 World Cup final last fall and 2012 MAC Hermann Trophy winner Crystal Dunn.  The Tar Heels are missing some key components to last fall’s championship team including ACC Midfielder of the Year Amber Brooks and starting goalkeeper Adelaide Gay. Despite the loss of Brooks and Gay, the Tar Heels will be the Spirit’s toughest preseason opponent.

The following Wednesday, April 3, the Spirit will travel to College Park to take on the University of Maryland. Although the game will take place on Maryland’s home field, expect an overwhelmingly pro-Spirit crowd.

The Terrapins had a roller coaster year in 2012. The team finished second in the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference but then exited the NCAA tournament in only the second round. The team lost forward Becky Kaplan and defender Domenica Hodak but returns the rest of its defense as well as leading scorer Hayley Brock. Brock’s speed could be problematic for the Spirit defense. Washington’s defense could include Hodak, who was recently signed by the Spirit as a discovery player.

Washington will round out its preseason schedule with a match against Virginia on Saturday April 6. Virginia went 18-5-1 on the season. They won the ACC Championship game and made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament where they fell to Duke.  The Cavaliers have lost MAC Hermann Trophy finalist Caroline Miller and midfielder Julia Roberts.  Miller was the Spirit’s second round pick and Roberts was signed by the Spirit as a discovery player.

Virginia returns midfielder Morgan Brian, a first team All-ACC selection and member of the 2012 U-20 World Cup team.  The Cavaliers will also return defender Molly Menchel and goalkeeper Danielle DeLisle, both of whom played for DC United last summer.

All of the exhibition games are open and free to the public.  Fanscan sign up for tickets through the Spirit’s ticketing website at https://tickets.washingtonspirit.com/.

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