CEDAR FALLS -- Bruce Erickson made some changes. He wouldn't call them monumental.

Named the sixth head coach in Northern Iowa women's soccer history in February, Erickson was in a watch and evaluate mode during the Panthers' spring season when they went 4-0-1.

It was a perfect situation, Erickson says, to get a true read on what he inherited.

"Did we tweak things in the spring? A few," Erickson said. "But the great thing is, I came in and I knew nobody. Everybody was a player, they weren't a freshman or a senior and nobody was position-specific. I watched how they played and what they did and formulated my own opinion.

"I don't know if we changed anything monumental, but I know by the end of the spring we were playing at a very high level."

UNI is coming off one of its best seasons in program history when it earned the No. 3 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and finished 8-8-3, including a sparkling, 7-2-1 mark at the Cedar Valley Soccer Complex.

Erickson spent the last two seasons at Division II Wayne State, but the Brooklyn Park, Minn., native spent 15 seasons at former MVC member, Creighton, where he was the MVC Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2010.

"I don't know if we will look different," said senior defender Kelsey Hansen of Cedar Falls. "Coach Erickson is a good coach and knows his stuff. He is very good at communicating what his expectations are for us and how we can execute that."

Nine starters return from 2017, and it's a group with high aspirations.

"We have a deep squad and all of us have a great attitude and have the same mindset that we want to win the Missouri Valley Conference championship," said senior midfielder Sarah Brandt, one of two second-team all-conference selections returning along with midfielder Hannah McDevitt. "It has been a good start to the fall. The intensity has been good."

The biggest hole the Panthers must fill comes at goalkeeper where UNI returns neither of its primary keepers from 2016.

Erickson is going to rely heavily on his most experienced goalkeeper, Butler Community College transfer and Wichita, Kan., native Jami Reichenberger. UNI's other two keepers are freshmen Jordyn Petty of Hopkins, Minn., and Katie Cooper of Grinnell.

"I actually recruited her prior to coming here so I know Jami," Erickson said. "She really won the job in the spring. We have to keep her healthy because we are really inexperienced behind her."

UNI also added Murray State transfer Maddy Germann, a native of Colorado who started 13 games for the Racers last year and played more than 1,000 minutes as a true freshman. She will add depth to the Panthers' forward group.

In addition, Erickson added five new freshman -- Petty, Cooper, Paige Sieren of Johnston, Johnnie Hill of Denver, and Olivia Stearns of Gilbert. 

Several other key pieces are back, and Erickson said he is impressed with the jumps that sophomore forward Sydney Hayden of Robins and Jenny Wick of Iowa City have made.

"I think the biggest change you are going to see from us is the jumps Sydney and Jenny have made, especially Sydney," Erickson said. "I thought she was one of our best players in the spring and has been very sharp early on. I expect big things from her and think she can be one of the best attackers in the league."

Brandt led UNI in scoring last year with six goals as the Panthers return eight of their top nine scorers. Jamie Althiser was second with four.

"I like the dynamic of this group," Erickson said. "They have high aspirations, which is good because they meet the high standards I have."


Sports Writer

Sports reporter for The Courier

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