Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spokane’s Megan Lindsay to test Richland’s Hope Solo Monday in first friendly for Sounders Women, US National Team stars

Lindsay in action for Seattle Pacific University (photo: SPU)
It is only a friendly Monday evening, but Spokane native Megan Lindsay (Gonzaga Prep High School) will lead Seattle Pacific University against the Seattle Sounders Women in an exhibition at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Wash. The game is the first of the university’s spring campaign and will be the first match for the new-look Sounders Women, who have signed five US Women’s National Team players for the 2012 campaign.

The striker is one of four juniors on the squad that will be called upon face the Sounders, pitting her up against Richland native Hope Solo, the starting goalkeeper for the Olympic-bound US National Team and star from last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

"I'm really excited to test Hope Solo and see how she is in person,” said Lindsay about the upcoming contest. “She did really awesome in the World Cup, making fantastic saves. There are balls that she gets to that most goalkeepers wouldn't even think of diving for, and she saves them. She's super-good at PKs. I'm actually in awe of how great of a goalkeeper she is.”

"It will definitely make me more focused and determined to actually come out and play against such a great goalkeeper like Hope Solo."

And while there is a longstanding hockey rivalry (ironically currently being played out in the WHL playoffs) between Spokane and the Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick, Monday’s meeting will be all about firsts.

"Definitely the nervousness and tenseness will probably be at high levels for us,” Lindsay added about the expected emotions leading into the match. “The first half we're probably just going to try to test them and see what they are like. Since they haven't played together yet, it's a new thing for both of us.

"It's definitely going to be a good matchup. The first spring game is always going to be a good determinator of how our team's looking, not only for the spring, but also for the fall. I'm really excited to play against the National Team players, so the competition is definitely going to be at the highest level."

The other internationals, who arrived fresh from the three-team, two-match Kirin Challenge Cup in Japan where they tied the hosts 1-1 and blanked Brazil 3-0, set to play for the Sounders Women have just as quality a soccer resume as their keeper.

Stephanie Cox has been on two World Cup squads in her seven-year international career, registering an assist in last year’s tournament. Sydney Leroux, who played for Seattle rival Vancouver Whitecaps last year, is regarded by many as the player who will possibly be the USA’s next great striker, finishing her U20 career with 24 goals in 39 appearances and making her senior team debut last year, Alex Morgan became a star at the World Cup a year ago with a goal in the semifinal and championship. Morgan, who also became the first player in the history of the team to tally a goal and an assist in a World Cup Final, was named to FIFA’s 10-player short-list for the World Player of the Year honor for 2011. Megan Rapinoe, the only one of the five not expected to play Monday, saw action in all six World Cup contests last year, registering three assists.

"I've seen Alex Morgan and she's a fantastic player,” said Lindsay of her positional peer. “She showed really well in the World Cup. She is one of those players that can get to the ball. She is really, really fast, has incredible speed and pace on the ball and she has a great shot. I'm really excited to have our team play against such great players."

And don’t expect Seattle Pacific coach Chuck Sekyra to stifle that brimming excitement of Lindsay, or any of her teammates, too much. For him, the spring season is about enjoying yourself while facing obstacles.

“It’s gonna be a challenge, but fun, Sekyra said in a video interview on the school’s site about the exhibition. “Our kids are up for the challenge. I think that's what we want. Our kids want to be challenged; our kids want to play against tough opponents. We want to see our kids be challenged from the standpoint of areas we need to work on. We want to see our kids exposed a little bit. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't.”

One of the unique features of the spring college season is that opportunity to test and observe a changing squad without its graduating seniors or the incoming freshman. Players like Lindsay, who will be seniors in the fall, are now the veterans on the squad in charge of developing the team core and chemistry for the next season, setting a tone for new players joining the team.

"We use the spring to kind of find the core of the team,” she said. “The freshmen aren't coming in until the fall and we did lose some incredible seniors. If we develop the core of the team, it will make us that much stronger for the freshmen to come in for the fall and see what we are made of. It's tough playing without a full roster, but we play our hearts out for the spring season.

According to her, things seem to be on track.

"Spring is going great. The girls are looking good and we've had some really great leaders that have stepped up on the field and off. Team chemistry is really good. We've done a lot of fitness, so we're ready to play the Sounders and get the spring season off to a good start."

And if SPU starts well with all of the attention, it could lead to future opportunities for Lindsay or her teammates.

Lindsay Profile: Lindsay led SPU and the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) last season with 12 goals and was second on the team in assists while starting 16 of 20 matches on the year, bringing her career total at the school to 29 goals and 17 assists thus far. Prior to attending SPU she was a three-time Greater Spokane League first-team selection, finishing her career at Gonzaga Prep as the all-time scoring leader not only at the school, but in the history of the league and the area.