July 10, 2009

WPS Draft Revisited-Saint Louis Athletica

For the final installment on the 2009 WPS draft, we'll examine Saint Louis Athletica.

Who They Drafted
1st round (#6)-Kerri Hanks, Notre Dame; 2nd round (#9)-Kia McNeill, Boston College; 3rd round (#20)-Stephanie Logterman, Texas; 3rd round (#21)-Elise Weber, Notre Dame; 5th round (#34)-Niki Cross, Connecticut; 6th round (#37)-Jillian Loyden, Villanova; 7th round (#48)-Lisa Stoia, West Virginia; 8th round (#51)-Megan Kerns, Florida; 9th round (#62)-Sheree Gray, Penn State; 10th round (#65)-Lydia Vandenbergh, Clemson.

In the first round, they chose two-time MAC Hermann Award winner Kerri Hanks. In the 2nd round, they became the first team to choose a player who was not a college senior, Kia McNeill. After Hanks, they concentrated on defense with McNeill, Logterman, Weber, Cross, and Vandenbergh. They selected a backup keeper in Jillian Loyden. Most of the players were young, with 8 of the 10 being 23 years old or younger at the time of the draft. They also made a minor trade with Washington.

Saint Louis traded their 4th round pick (#23) and Joanna Lohman to Washington for the Freedom's 3rd round pick (#21). The trade ended up being Lohman and Parrissa Eyorokon for Elise Weber. Neither Lohman, who was recently waived, nor Eyorokon has seen much action. Meanwhile, Weber has 8 starts for Athletica and has scored a goal.

Current WPS Status
For Saint Louis Athletica, 7 of their 10 draft picks are still on the roster, with Hanks being recently traded and Vandenbergh making the developmental roster, but being waived later on.

Full time starters (3)-McNeill, Logterman, Weber
Part time starters & other full roster players (3)-Cross, Loyden, Stoia
Developmental (1)-Gray
Traded (1)-Hanks
Released (2)-Kerns, Vandenbergh

Note that Logterman did not join the team immediately, but is now a full time starter. Weber has started a majority of Athletica's games, but now is used primarily off the bench. Stoia started Athletica's first 6 games, but only one since. Gray was originally on the full roster, but was waived and added back as a developmental player. Hanks started a majority of the games before being traded to Sky Blue FC.

What They've Done
Hanks-10 G, 6 GS, 587 Min, 1 goal, 1 assist, 3 points, 15 shots, 6 SOG
McNeill-13 G, 12 GS, 996 Min
Logterman-7 G, 7 GS, 630 Min, 1 shot
Weber-12 G, 8 GS, 774 Min, 1 goal, 2 points, 3 shots, 1 SOG
Cross-6 G, 3 GS, 245 Min
Stoia-9 G, 7 GS, 664 Min, 3 shots, 1 SOG
Gray-4 G, 122 Min

Loyden-1 G, 1 GS, 90 Min, 6 saves, 1 shutout, 0.00 GA

Total Offensive Output-61 G, 43 GS, 4018 Min, 2 goals, 1 assist, 5 points, 22 shots, 8 SOG.
Total Goalkeeper Output-1 G, 1 GS, 90 Min, 6 saves, 1 shutout, 0.00 GA.

G=Games; GS=Games Started; Min=Minutes; SOG=Shots on Goal; GA=Goals Against Average

The Players

Kerri Hanks-Hanks was recently traded to Sky Blue FC. Expectations were high for Hanks, as she was a proven goal scorer at Notre Dame with over 80 goals to her credit. However, that scoring ability didn't translate easily into the pros. Early in the season, she seemed a step slow and never seemed to be in position to put one away. She isn't fast enough to get by on pure speed and not big enough to be a power forward like an Abby Wambach. However, we saw glimpses of her ability against the Freedom, when she struck a beautiful, long through ball to set up Eni Aluko for a goal. Just before being traded, she worked a nice give and go with Aluko, burying the shot for her only goal. On other occasions, she didn't take advantage of opportunities. Because she doesn't possess great speed, she will need great anticipation to succeed. She has good, if not great, ball skills. I have heard that she is very determined and tenacious, but I only started to see that toward the end of her run in Saint Louis. If she can summon those qualities, she can still be a quality player in this league and perhaps the change in scenery will do her good.

Kia McNeill-McNeill is a strong, physical defender, who has experience with the US U-23 team as well as the Swedish Damallsvenskan. She possesses good speed and can play both center or outside. She is one of the strongest players in the WPS on headers and will not back down from anyone. She pairs well with teammate Tina Ellertson, but she seems somewhat uncomfortable when Ellertson is not along side. She will make an occasional mistake, and unfortunately in her case, they have been costly. A misdirected header led to Sonia Bompastor's tying goal in the 3-3 game against the Freedom and a blocked clearing effort led to Rebecca Moros' game winner in June. Athletica does probably gamble more on defense than any other team in the league which can lead to individual defenders getting exposed. McNeill is a very good back and could be a top notch defender if she can cut down on mistakes and be more selective as to when she displays her physicality.

Stephanie Logterman-Logterman got a late start due to her decision to finish school before joining the team, but Athletica thought she was worth the wait. She has played pretty well at the outside left back position. Logterman does like to go forward a lot, although to this point, she hasn't been particularly dangerous. She shows nice anticipation in stepping in front of opposition passes. She also possesses good passing and dribbling skills. Nonetheless, she can get a bit careless at times and she can be beat on the dribble. One must remember that she is two months behind everyone else on the learning curve, because of her late start. The fact that she has started and finished every game since joining the team says a lot about how highly Jorge Barcellos thinks of her.

Elise Weber-The second of two picks out of Notre Dame, Weber has played on both sides at outside back. She is fairly poised for a young player and does well with the ball at her feet. She will get forward on overlapping runs, but probably not as much as other backs in the WPS. She did, however, score the game winning goal against Sky Blue recently. She generally makes good decisions, but occasionally, some of her passes out of the back are not accurate and possession is surrendered. To me, she also tends to choose the long pass too much from the middle third. She defends well and should improve as she gets more playing time. Overall, Weber has been a pleasant surprise and a solid pick.

Niki Cross-Cross has seen action in six games, making three starts. She has good size and decent speed for a defender. She has added depth to Athletica's defensive corps and can play both center and outside in the back.

Jillian Loyden-Loyden has played one game, stepping in for Hope Solo against Chicago. She earned the shutout and Player of the Week honors for her efforts in that game. Loyden has surprising agility for a keeper of her size. She moves well side to side and has excellent command of the penalty area. She isn't as good at distributing the ball as Solo, but then, who is? She should get a couple more starts as Solo is likely to be called up again in July. But Loyden's future as a starter in the WPS may lie with one of the expansion teams, possibly Philadelphia, where she attended college, growing up a short distance from that area.

Lisa Stoia-At age 26, Stoia was the oldest player drafted by Athletica. She started the first 6 games at holding midfielder, but later gave way to Kendall Fletcher. Stoia is an accurate passer and her play is generally steady. She can be outrun by the swiftest strikers in the league and it appeared that she was responsible for marking Bompastor on the Freedom's game tying goal early in the year. Still, 7 starts out of a 7th round pick is excellent and she held down the defensive mid position early in the year. She adds excellent depth in the midfield for Saint Louis.

Sheree Gray-Gray saw action in Athletica's first 4 games, primarily as a defender. She played well against the Sol, but had a bad outing against Boston. She has good speed, but her lack of height can be a liability on the back line. Gray was waived to make room for Fletcher and Welsh, but added back as a developmental player.

Saint Louis has gotten a lot out of their draft picks. Seven of them have started at one time or another and five have started at least 5 games. Hanks was a bit of a disappointment, but did show improvement before being traded. Ultimately, Athletica was able to get Sarah Walsh for Hanks, which could help offensively. The next three picks have all done a nice job contributing to the back line and Athletica has gotten 30 back line starts out of this group, which is pretty amazing. McNeill can ultimately be a top center back. Weber and Logterman have done well on the outside and hopefully will continue to improve. Loyden was an excellent pick to fill the role of backup keeper. Stoia has performed well, considering how low she was taken in the draft. Cross and Gray add depth to the squad.

McNeill is probably the strongest pick of the group, but several of these players have filled roles nicely throughout the season. While there are no all-stars and certainly not a lot of scoring in their draft, Saint Louis did a decent job overall and especially well on the defensive end. The Hanks situation was frustrating, but the trade was probably best for both parties. This was a solid, if not great draft.