Entering the 2011 season, most defensive eyes were focused on Fort Lewis Colleges returning All-American Hayley Hollenga.
At this point, a few more eyes have shifted Emma Cannis way. Given her numbers, however, apparently not enough.
After finishing second on the team with 17 goals as a freshman, the sophomore striker leads the Skyhawks womens soccer team in goals (6), points (17) and is tied with Sara Egbom for the team lead in assists (5).
Not bad for someone who spent her offseason running around Europe getting work experience with the London Olympics planning team. Cannis majors in tourism and resort management, and her 3.51 grade point average recently placed her on the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference All-Academic team.
I wanted to come in playing just as hard as I was, because I knew we had a bunch of freshmen coming in, and I didnt know what to expect, Cannis said.
Despite that workload, Cannis still found plenty of time to remain in top form. After playing the opening two games of the season with a scratched retina, Cannis recovered and went on her own tear, tallying a point in seven consecutive games.
I think we knew that Emma was definitely going to impact, and I think impact significantly, in comparison to last year. ... You always have to have someone capable of stepping up and carrying the team when its needed, and I think Emmas been able to do that this year at times, FLC head coach Damian Clarke said.
The sophomore strikers emergence hasnt diminished Hollengas game but instead has redefined it. In her first two full seasons, Hollenga racked up 18 assists, and Cannis emergence as a goal-scoring threat alongside eight combined goals from Sam Weiss and Megan Striedel has allowed the senior to become more of a facilitator again.
I think that after last year playing with everyone ... we kind of figured out how each other worked more, so that made it easier to kind of set each other up, Hollenga said.
Together, Hollenga and Cannis make an imposing offensive duo, combining for 11 goals, nine assists and 31 points. Its the kind of year Hollenga said she envisioned after each scored in a 2-1 comeback victory over Winona State in last seasons NCAA Sweet 16 game.
I was really excited to play with her again up top. I mean, every year since I was a freshman, Ive played with somebody different every year up top, Hollenga said. This year, I was like, it better not (change). I dont want that to change yet; Im not ready yet because I knew me and Emma had some unfinished business.
The moment Clarke knew his hopes for a breakout season for Cannis likely would come to fruition was in early season games with Dixie State and Grand Canyon. Cannis had a goal and two assists in Hollengas absence, setting up Weiss with both assists. It was in those games that Cannis said she heeded some of the lessons learned from Hollenga.
Hayley was a great mentor for me. ... I knew I had big shoes to fill. I knew Sam ... works hard, and she always does, and shell listen to you, Cannis said.
Cannis growth illustrates a potentially bright future for FLC. With a balanced attack paced by Cannis and Hollenga up top, the presents not too shabby either.