âThe Tomcats of St Thomas are entering year three of their DI era. And, because they are still ineligible for conference tournament play (more on this later), their most clear role to play in the Summit League this fall may be as a chaos agent thatâs tough to play against and refuses to give needed results to its opponents. Thanks to continued internal growth and the addition of some impact players, they may be perfectly positioned to own that role.
How might they line up?
St Thomas spent their spring learning a new (and little deployed â at least by teams we cover) 4-2-2-2. The âboxâ midfield was deployed by Head Coach Sheila McGill in response to feeling like, at times, St Thomas was overrun in the midfield by opposing teams while in their 4-3-3 formation. Would a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 have been a bit simpler to implement for both players and coaches? Possibly. The 4-2-2-2 asks a lot of the attacking unit in terms of connectivity, communication, spacing, movement, and decision making. At times, the front line players will provide the width. Other times, the âmiddleâ line will work wide and allow attackers in front of them to serve as in-the-box threats. You might also see the outside backs work forward (they seem to almost start at the level of the holding midfielders), allowing the entire front six to maintain their position down the spine.
In short, the box midfield provides a lot of different options. But as a player takes advantage of those different options, it also asks every other player to adapt and shift a *bit* more than formations we see more frequently at the college (or any) level. That, in part, is why you might still see a fair amount of the 4-3-3 â the other âpartâ being that maybe three of the best (or consistent/dependable/bankable?) St Thomas players could populate that starting 3 in the midfield. And obviously Camryn Rintoul, Ellie Tempero, and Sofia Caballero can work well in the box, as well. But they so naturally fit as the holding, box to box, and attacking midfielders in that 4-3-3 respectively that our soccer brain sort of just gravitates to it.
To finish out the midfield outlook: expect those three to settle in as three of the starters. Look for Molly Knoblach and CJ Fredkove to see minutes as solid holders â particularly if the Tomcats deploy two holding midfielders for heavy minutes. Lexi Huber, whoâs shown well as a front line player in previous years, has looked really good in attacking midfielder minutes this fall. Our early obsession with the potential for Sofia Englund as already spelled out in our early camp preview and she should see plenty of time in attacking mid roles OR up top.
âShe and fellow freshman Abby Hoiska are both going to be impactful in their first fall campaign and both could play anywhere that puts them vaguely close to goal â Hoiska more at the wing and up top, âLundyâ more as an attacking mid with some time on the front line possible. Mariah Nguyen and Arianna Sanchez look like starters in a two front, with Emma Fournier and Jasmine Gates bringing veteran guile there as well. In a three front you could see any mix of those four starting and a player like McKenna Lehman working central in that formation at times.
On the backline, expect returners Anna Koepke and Annika Ekroth and transfer Sydney Kubes to rotate centerback minutes (Kubes has shown well as a corner kick threat, which the team may desperately need once games grind down a bit in Summit League play). Lissa Mizutani continues to be lethal from the right back spot and Abby Brantner has done well in her transition from ârun for miles, bounding wingerâ to stable, veteran left back (that also still bounds down into the attack plenty). The only wildcard at outside back will be Ella Bryant, who showed about as well as any Tommie during exhibition play and might have earned herself some rotation minutes at outside back.
In goal, junior Olivia Rowe (two âLivsâ in the keeper group, on top of Annie Bantner and Abby Brantner on this rosterâ¦ come on Tomcatsâ¦) has reportedly inked her name in the starting spot and will be the third keeper starter in three years for St Thomas. And, since we know McGill has a penchant for subbing *just* a bit, donât be surprised if Tori Crivello, Karlie Greenthal (both showed pretty well in exhibitions), Kendall Quall (also had moments), Tatum Trettel (still working back from a ton of injuries but continues to be highly rated in terms of potential) and others see time in various spots at some point.
If that seems like a lot of players: it is. But 21 players were in at least the outer reaches of the rotation last year and *every single player* saw at least some minutes.
Where might they finish?
First, letâs grapple with a quirk that weâre all of the sudden somewhat frustrated by. In the Summit League, four teams used to make the conference tournament. Recently, the tournament field was expanded to six. That timing *could* have been fortuitous for new members St Thomas except that it was decided that, because of their five year transition period to DI which bars the team from participating in the NCAA Tournament, the Tomcats would not be eligible for the Summit League Tournament (which, of course, qualifies a team for the NCAA Tournament).
Until now, that decision hadnât really seemed to matter much. But with the team continuing to progress AND the realization that the same decision is not universal across all sports (see below) this is now something we plan to clarify directly with the Summit League office.
âWhatever the conference tournament implications, St Thomas has been slotted at 3rd in the Summit League by Woso Independentâs modeling. That kind of regular season finish certainly seems possible for the Tomcats if they continue on their same trajectory. â
On the flip side, the coaches poll puts St Thomas at 8th, or second worst, in the Summit League. As Head Coach Sheila McGill said during our preview show, the coaches polls can sometimes default to a relisting of the previous seasonâs standings (she did not seem phased when I was the one to âbreakâ the news of the 8th place prediction live on our show). In a sense, you can certainly think of those two marks â 3rd and 8th â as the floor and ceiling for St Thomas this season. â
Thursday, August 17th
4PM vs Northern Iowa
St Thomas South Field
Saturday, August 19th
11AM vs Niagara
St Thomas South Field
Anyone up for some bloody maryâs on Saturdayâ¦ (weâll be there).
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