Kansas State soccer enters the 2023 season with a completely new set of challenges and players. With 13 seniors leaving, the task of rebuilding a roster is tough. To solve the issue, head coach Mike Dibbini replenished the roster with new talent from recruiting and the transfer portal.
The largest challenge for the Wildcats is replacing goalkeeper Alaina Werremeyer, who held the position firmly for the last two seasons. Dibbini now turns to sophomore transfer from Sunshine Coast, Australia, Murphy Sheaff.
“I’m gonna be honest, I think all of America is a culture shock to me at the moment,” Sheaff said. “Some things are a bit different than others but you know, nothing you can’t handle.”
The transition from Australia to the United States has been an adjustment for Sheaff, but help from coaches and teammates made the transfer process extremely smooth.
“It’s just been fabulous, the atmosphere here,” Sheaff said. “I’ve heard great things about it the whole time. Everyone’s doing that ‘oh I can’t wait to play at home’ and I guess you have to see it to believe it. The camaraderie on the team, it’s just a great bunch of girls and they just make everything so easy here [to] slide right in.”
In Sheaff’s freshman year of college at Jacksonville University, she saw eight starts and recorded the highest save percentage in Division I women’s soccer. Sheaff’s role has expanded to starting goalie at K-State where she has already been named to the College Soccer News Team of the Week.
Shutouts on lock 🔒🧤
— K-State Soccer (@KStateSOC) August 29, 2023
“I think she’s [Sheaff] still trying to adapt and get used to a different backline than she had last year and I think she realizes we’ve got some depth,” Dibbini said. “I think once they’ve played more games under their belt, the confidence is only going to help us win when we get into Big 12 play.”
Another large acquisition for K-State was forward Kiran Singh, transfer from UTSA. As a senior, Singh brings a veteran presence to the team and plays an important role as a starting forward.
“I think Kiran has done a really good job of getting us in attack and helping us on the attack with a lot of the returning core players,” Dibbini said.
In her time at UTSA, Singh led the roadrunners in goals, assists and points. Singh’s debut featured her first assist off a corner kick, resulting in a Wildcat goal.
Recruiting continues to play a large factor in cultivating talent for the Wildcats. Two freshmen have made names for themselves early and have seen consistent minutes in the starting rotation.
Forward Morgan Struttmann helped push K-State past UTSA with a late goal at the end of the first half, helping score the second and final goal of the night, resulting in a K-State win. Struttmann was assisted by fellow freshman forward Jo Sees.
Sees picked up momentum in her first game for the Wildcats against Green Bay with a goal in the final minute of play. After helping defeat Green Bay, Sees followed up with another score against UTSA.
“I definitely think the confidence is coming,” Sees said. “It wouldn’t be there without the supporting cast of a great team. The coaches treat all the players equally. I mean, they’re tough on us, they want us to succeed, but at the end of the day we know that they ultimately want what’s best for us and care about us so much.”
Veteran experience and guidance have helped propel growing younger players into larger roles. Upperclassmen have led the way for a new developing core.
“Riley Baker was my original host on my first visit to K-State and I’ve looked up to her ever since I committed,” Sees said. “It’s been such a great opportunity to be able to become friends with her and have her take me under her wing as another forward and help me transition into a new level of play.”
The value of having young players pick up large roles in the team’s offense displays positive signs for the future of the program. Building relationships and trust with a young team cultivates positive team chemistry, which can be seen on and off the field.
Dibbini and his coaching staff continue to develop a team that can potentially find themselves in contention for a Big 12 title in a short amount of time.