Jimmies relying on youth in net, experience up front in 2022-23
The Jimmies are hoping to get similar production from Diaz and Fiscus in their senior seasons.
JAMESTOWN — While the University of Jamestown did lose five seniors from their 2021 squad that went 18-2-1, they are returning five of their top six goal scorers as they attempt to win their first conference title in program history.
Those five returners combined to score 35 goals and 20 assists good for 90 points. The most prolific amongst those was senior Cassandra Diaz, who had 16 goals, four assists and 36 points.
“I think that pressure is always there but that’s not the main focus,” Diaz said. “I think that’s an added bonus if I can get the goals in but I don’t want to just set myself to scoring goals all the time. It’s nice to have that but still focus on other things too.”
Jimmies head coach Nick Becker is heading into his 11th season at the helm and has continuously seen improvement each season. Heading into the 2022 season, the Jimmies are picked to finish first in the GPAC by the conference’s coaches.
“I think we started the year really well last year and like Cass said earlier it’s because of the team bonding of the group and so obviously we had a good year but now the target is going to be painted on our back,” Becker said. “I think the standard is to win the conference and get back to the national tournament and not lose where we lost last season, pick up and continue to move forward from there. I think the players this summer put more work in than they ever have before and I think our recruits coming in understand where our standard is. They might not know what that actually looks like but they know that’s where we want to get to.”
The Jimmies did lose both of their goalies from last season in Alex Nowka and Aida Roldan. Becker and his graduate assistant coach Gareth Corrigan brought in three freshmen goalies to fight for the spot, and Tea Pence has been named the starter. Becker said Pence took the starting job thanks to a willingness to improve her craft and being able to take criticism.
“I think we got a good group of keepers that came in and I think Tea has really shown that she can step into the role right away,” Becker said. “Anna (Cole) is hurt a little bit now and Tea played against (the University of North Dakota) and did a good job making saves but also coming off her line, she’s got good size, plays with her feet really well. So, I think she’s got a better base there for us to really mold and work with.”
While Nowka transferred, Roldan retired and moved into a coaching role on Becker’s staff.
Becker said he is looking for big seasons from Pence, freshman wingers Emersen Kimball and Isabel Vaca and senior midfielder Ryley Bedard. Becker highlighted Bedard’s ability to send passes past the opponent's back line and to the attackers and Kimball’s unending energy. Becker said Vaca’s composure will allow her to make a big impact for the team.
“Emersen Kimball is probably one, she played against UND and she’s the only player to play 90 minutes and she didn’t need a sub and she did just fine and played three positions,” Becker said. “Isabella Vaca from Washington, she did just fine as well and we played here in Northern (State University) and UND and I don’t think you could really tell she was real nervous or shy. But there are certain times where she needs to have a little bit more composure.”
After heading into the GPAC championship game undefeated, the Jimmies faced Briar Cliff and lost 1-0 in overtime before falling in the first round of the NAIA tournament. Diaz said losing the last two games the way the Jimmies did gives the team more motivation to try to get further into the tournament.
“Knowing we could have had that win, it just lights a fire under you to just want to do better,” Diaz said. “We can do it, we just have to really push for it. I think we’ll be able to get there.”
The Jimmies start their season with five road games, which Becker said was not by design but was instead a result of trying to find games. Through the first four games of the season, the Jimmies will travel 3,233 miles to St. Louis, Missouri, for their first two games before driving to Oregon for their next three.
The trip could be fruitful for the Jimmies as they face three teams ranked in the top 10, including the No. 4-ranked Oregon Institute of Technology.
“That not a decision made by us; that’s a decision made by whoever would play us," Becker said. "We could not find games at home, we could not find games away within six hours. So, the games we have are literally the only games we would play, so, we don’t want to go to St. Louis and then flip around three days later and go to Oregon, but it was literally the only games we could find.”
Diaz said the goals for the team are to continue to build on what they did last year.
“I’m actually really stoked,” Diaz said. “I’ve been waiting for a while to get back into it. It should be very interesting to see how this year goes but I think we could do it.”
The Jimmies open the season at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 26, against Aquinas College.