Having rewritten Cal Poly’s goal-scoring record books as a sophomore last season, Elise Krieghoff has enough laurels to supply a kindergarten class at naptime.
Perhaps the best thing that could have happened to Krieghoff and the Mustangs, who opened training camp Thursday, was Krieghoff’s invitation to train with 25 other players for the U.S. under-23 national team this past offseason.
The Clovis-Buchanan High product performed well at the weeklong Chula Vista training camp yet also realized she had more work to do to if she wanted to get a call back.
Cal Poly should be better for it.
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“It’s definitely in the back of my head that there’s a chance that I could be complacent,” said Krieghoff, who scored 21 times to lead the nation in goals per game in 2013, “and I think what I learned from the national camp gives me so much motivation to come to this year and really set myself apart. I really want to take my game individually to the next level, and doing that takes our team to the next level.”
Coming off a Big West Conference regular-season title, the ninth conference crown under 23-year head coach Alex Crozier, the Mustangs play a preseason exhibition against Westmont at Alex G. Spanos Stadium at 7 p.m. Thursday.
From a team that went 11-7-1 overall and 7-1-0 in conference play, Cal Poly also returns veteran goalkeeper Alyssa Giannetti and nearly all of its goal scorers in addition to Krieghoff, who’s now aware she has the potential to earn a roster spot with the national team.
“It opened her eyes a little bit,” Crozier said of Krieghoff’s tryout. “She went in kind of worried about whether she’s at that level, and she finished second in the fitness test and just realized she can do this.
“Whether she goes back or not, we’ll see, but my message to her is have an outstanding college season, and there’s no reason for them not to call.”
That’s true, especially if Krieghoff is able to replicate last season’s success.
She averaged 1.105 goals per game, and her 21 scores and 45 points broke school records set by Kolleen (Kassis) McNamee in the program’s inaugural season in 1992.
With the consistent offensive attack, the Mustangs went into the Big West Tournament as the top seed but ended up falling to fourth-seeded Cal State Fullerton in the semifinals. The Titans continued their upset run and earned the conference’s berth to the NCAA Tournament.
The loss to Cal State Fullerton, which came on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw, is all the motivation the rest of the returnees need to improve their skills.
“You kind of need that kick in your butt to get you going,” Giannetti said. “All of us, it’s in the back of our head every moment of training, every time we’re running fitness. We’re hungry. Next time we come out against Fullerton, they know we’re coming out for them because they got away with it last year.”
Along with Giannetti, junior center back Robin Mertens returns and is joined defensively by junior Allie Begin on the outside.
Five of the top six points leaders return. Sophomore Megan Abutin had four goals and three assists last season. Senior Sara Lancaster had two goals and five assists, and sophomore Kendra Bonsall had two goals and two assists. Junior Sara Epps had a goal and three assists.
Cal Poly does lose Kacey Held, who had a team-high six assists but also adds 12 freshmen, including former San Luis Obispo High standouts Brady Candaele and Katarina Drake.
“Last year is last year, and Elise just tore it up,” Crozier said. “Is that going to happen this year; who knows? We didn’t come into last year expecting that to happen, but that’s what happened.
“We have a very good group that returns and we have a lot of talented freshmen. So, right now, we have a lot of good individuals, and we’re trying to shape that into a team. We can be very, very good. It just depends on how we get on the same page.”