Soccer Season Preview: The Midfielders
The LSU Soccer team will kick off its 2014 season on Friday night when it plays host to the Troy Trojans with kickoff set for 7 p.m. CT at the LSU Soccer Stadium in Baton Rouge. As we look ahead to the start of a new season, LSUsports.net will preview each position in the squad to give Tiger fans a glimpse of what to expect when seeing the team in action. Part 2 of 4 of our “LSU Soccer Season Preview” series features a talented group of midfielders that looks to be one of the team's strongest units in 2014.
Part 1: The Strikers
Part 2: The Midfielders
BATON ROUGE – One look at the makeup of LSU's squad with each passing season of the Brian Lee era reveals that the success of the Tigers is built on the foundation of a strong midfield as they feature one of the SEC's elite units year in and year out.
In fact, of the 20 first-team or second-team All-SEC honors earned by the Tigers in eight previous seasons under Lee's direction, 13 have been awarded to the midfield as the group leads the charge in attack while also providing the first line of defense.
Following in the footsteps of two-time SEC Player of the Year Malorie Rutledge and All-SEC performers like Melissa Clarke and Natalie Martineau, Emma Fletcher carried the torch as one of the top attacking midfielders in the SEC and NCAA with an All-SEC rookie season in 2013.
The Canadian international enjoyed a record-setting debut season with the Tigers last fall, smashing LSU's freshman record with an SEC-leading 12 assists while facilitating LSU's attack from the traditional No. 10 role as the primary attacking midfielder behind the front line. Fletcher also scored one goal in a home draw against Tennessee for 14 points as LSU's second-leading scorer on the season.
It was a performance that earned Fletcher recognition as a Second-Team All-SEC attacker by the league's head coaches in 2013, as well as a Freshman All-American as a member of the TopDrawerSoccer.com Freshman Best XI First Team and Soccer America Second-Team All-Freshman selection.
Fletcher rejoins the Tiger squad this fall after leading Canada's Under-20 Women's National Team in to the quarterfinals at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup this month. She started in midfielder in all four games at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup as one of Canada's bright young stars during the competition.
A native of Victoria, British Columbia, Fletcher now competes in the Canadian Women's National Team system after representing New Zealand at the U-17 level at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.
Along with Fletcher, the Tigers are blessed with a wealth of attacking options in midfield with Alex Arlitt, Natalia Gomez-Junco and Heather Magee sure to contend for the same postseason honors in the 2014 season.
Arlitt returns as the most experienced, and perhaps the most versatile, member of the squad as she has started each of LSU's 63 matches since arriving on campus as a freshman for the 2011 season. She has displayed the versatility to play any position in the midfield as both an attacking and defensive midfielder and on the back line as a central defender or right back while starting matches in each position during her career.
An All-SEC contender in her final season as a Second-Team All-SEC pick in the preseason by College Sports Madness, Arlitt will serve a leadership role for the squad as the only senior on the roster this season.
LSU's midfield features a capped member of the senior Mexican Women's National Team as Gomez-Junco will compete with the Tigers for the first time this fall. She recently joined fellow Mexican international striker Fernanda Pina in training with Mexico's senior squad in the spring ahead of the start of the 2014 collegiate season.
A former All-Conference USA player at the University of Memphis, Gomez-Junco redshirted her first season in the program a year ago after transferring to LSU following her sophomore season in 2012. She scored 10 goals in two seasons at Memphis, including eight goals as a freshman in 2011. Gomez-Junco earned her first career international cap at the senior level as a member of Mexico's team competing at the 2013 Algarve Cup in Portugal where she featured twice for Las Tri.
Magee also provides the squad with valuable experience this fall as she has started all 40 matches of her collegiate career over the past two seasons, scoring two goals and dishing out a pair of assists while playing in an important holding midfield role during the 2013 campaign.
The midfield is sure to be the deepest unit on the field for the Tigers throughout the 2014 season with Haley Emerson and Mariel McLaughlin returning as letterwinners for their sophomore seasons this fall. A trio of Class of 2014 recruits will also look to earn their spot in the playing rotation this year, including Ohio State transfer Kristen Pavlick (Danville, California) and freshmen Christyna Pitre (Austin, Texas) and Madeline Ramsey (Rock Hill, South Carolina), who will each wear the purple and gold for the first time.
A member of the U.S. Women's National Team player pool at the U-15, U-17 and U-18 levels during her prep career, Pitre signed with the Tigers as one of the top defensive midfield recruits in the country for the Class of 2014 as the No. 104-ranked player nationally by the staff at TopDrawerSoccer.com. Pitre joined Ramsey as members of the Region III Olympic Development Program Team as emerging youth standouts.
Pavlick received a redshirt during her rookie season at Ohio State a year ago and will line up as a redshirt freshman with the Tigers in her debut season in Baton Rouge this fall.