June 26, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. - Only a few months into his tenure as NC State's head women's soccer coach, Tim Santoro has spent a significant amount of time reshaping his program. The goalkeeping position has been completely overhauled, not only with the keepers on the roster, but also how the coaching staff has been structured.
The Wolfpack is expected to boast a squad this fall that features four goalies, a significant increase after regularly carrying no more than three, and usually only two, in previous seasons.
"There is no doubt we have improved the position," Santoro said emphatically. "It's a whole new dynamic. I like that we have two new coaches and three new goalkeepers. We’re kind of starting from scratch which, in my opinion, is good."
From a staff perspective, Santoro has surrounded himself with former Wolfpack keeper Kim Kern, who after one season as Director of Operations, has been elevated to assistant coach, and Justin Bryant, who will man the Director of Goalkeeping position.
Kern not only brings extensive knowledge of the soccer played in this area as a Raleigh native, but also relates well to the players, having finished up her college career at NC State just two seasons ago as one of the top keepers in program history.
"Kim has been around this program now for the last six years and is a familiar face to many of our players. She brings a dynamic work ethic and will really be a strong asset to our goalies," added Santoro.
Bryant brings over 20 years of coaching experience from his time at both the collegiate and professional levels.
"It was a priority of mine to get Justin on my staff,” said Santoro. “I think teaming him with Kim is going to give our keepers an edge not only with training, but also on the mental side of the game. I believe these two coaches are going to be great for us."
As for the new crop of goalies, the three newcomers will land in Raleigh in completely different fashions. Greta Akerlind hails from Ljusdal, Sweden, and brings international experience after spending significant time on her country's under-17 national team.
"Her greatest strength is her international experience," explained Santoro. "The (Swedish) club system is similar to a professional atmosphere, so she won't be rattled easily at our level. Watching her, there is nothing in her game that is weak. Combine that with her experience and we feel she will be farther along than your normal freshman."
Charlotte native Mackenzie Stelljas comes by way of Iona College, and will be a red-shirt freshman after sitting out the 2012 campaign for Mike Barroqueiro, the Wolfpack's associate head coach who was Iona's head coach the previous two seasons.
"Mackenzie has really good size and is a technically sound goalkeeper," said Barroqueiro. "She got great experience training at Iona behind the best goalie in the conference. She is not only a solid player, but a good kid that will do well here at NC State."
The final piece of the new goalie puzzle is true freshman Karly Gustafson from nearby Fayetteville, N.C. She played four seasons in net for Terry Sanford High School, and was recently named Player of the Year by The Fayetteville Observer.
"Karly is an athletic kid, that like the others, brings good size to the keeper position. She will battle for playing time this fall,” Santoro said.
The lone returner is junior Victoria Hopkins, who played behind Kern for two seasons before making 16 starts last fall in her first opportunity at extended minutes at the collegiate level.
"Vic has all the tools to be a successful keeper at the ACC level," said Santoro. “If she can return in time from injury, she will have a chance to play significant minutes as well.”
The coaching staff looks forward to having four quality keepers on the roster this fall. Training and competition is where the club will benefit the most.
"You can never have too many goalies," said Santoro. "Your body takes such a beating at that position. To be able to have four in the rotation, it takes reps away from each player, allowing each of them to stay fresh during the year."