BY PAUL DANZER/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Katie Burton praises her predecessor's team recruitment

COURTESY: PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY - Midfielder Krystal de Ramos is one of about a dozen returning women's soccer players for new Portland State coach Katie Burton. Katie Burton knows what it is like for a player when there is a coaching change. She had that experience as a defender for the Sacramento State women's soccer team.

"It kind of makes everyone work a little bit harder, run a little bit faster just because there's no established starting lineup anymore so everyone's got to fight for it," Burton says.

Such battles are underway at Portland State, where Burton is beginning her first season as a head coach. Her first official match is at 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Portland. The Vikings played a Tuesday exhibition against Fraser Valley from Canada.

Burton replaces Laura Schott, who resigned in May after nine seasons as Vikings coach. Under Schott, PSU went 44-21-11 in conference play and won four Big Sky regular-season titles.

The Vikings finished 6-11-1 overall last season and seventh in the Big Sky Conference, one spot outside the conference tournament.

Burton takes over a team that returns more than a dozen contributors and has 13 newcomers — all recruited by Schott.

"I'm walking into something very rare I think for a new coach because they've got such a great foundation set," Burton says.

When training camp started, Burton was impressed by the talent and energy level she found.

"It's a very talented group of players with some untapped potential," Burton says.

Front and center are returning all-Big Sky players Katie Forsee and Kristin Moyer — two of only four seniors who will be counted on for leadership on and off the field.

Forsee has played every field position in her time at Portland State and last season led the Vikings with five goals and three assists. She will play an attacking midfield role to start this season.

Moyer has been a constant presence in the Vikings' defense since arriving in 2013. Except for a redshirt year in 2014, Moyer has led the team in minutes played every year.

Forsee and Moyer will be counted on to lead a team that features 11 freshmen and eight sophomores on a 28-player roster.

With an abundance of attacking talent and a desire for experience and leadership on defense, several veterans start the season in new positions. Senior Lauren Owens has moved from midfield to center back and senior Rachel Michieli has moved from forward to defense. Redshirt sophomore Maxine Nagramada also figures in the back four after she played all 18 matches on defense last season.

Junior Morgan Matthews, who played forward last season, has been shifted into a defensive midfield spot to take advantage of her fitness and athletic ability.

Among the players in line for attacking roles is junior Krystal de Ramos, a 2016 honorable mention all-Big Sky midfielder who shared the team lead with five goals.

Forward Ellie Vasey from Pheonix, Arizona, is among several freshmen attackers who made a strong impression in training camp. Also competing for spots as attacking midfielders are twins Tasi Poore and Tea Poore out of Aloha High.

In goal, redshirt junior Abbie Faingold returns after earning the starting job last season. She will be pushed by Tiegan Horton, an all-conference keeper at North Idaho College last season.

Eleven of the newcomers arrive out of high school and join a sophomore class that includes defender Kasey Isobe and sophomore midfielders Liv Jillings and Tamara Mikamura who played in every game as freshmen last season.

Forward Molly Joyce arrives after scoring 25 goals at Clark College in Vancouver last season en route to being named Northwest Athletic Conference player of the year.

Burton praised Schott's recruiting class.

"I think there are going to be players that come in and make a really big difference," Burton says.

Burton was pleased to see skills that should allow her to instill a system that emphasizes possession. While the early focus of training was on defending, Burton says she has "also seen how creative they can be on the offensive side of the ball."

At Sac State, Burton was all-conference in 2007. She played for a 3-15 Hornets team as a freshman and experienced the program's evolution to conference champions four years later.

The growth she experienced playing at Sac State sparked her interest in coaching.

"I went in (to college) wanting to be a doctor," Burton says. "When I hurt my knee the first time and had to sit out and watch, I got to help other players playing my position. That's when I knew I wanted to be a coach."

Her college coaching journey started at UNLV. She spent four seasons as an assistant coach at the University of San Francisco and most recently was the associate head coach for two seasons at Sacramento State.

The Hornets finished second in the Big Sky last season.

Like Burton, new assistant coaches Maureen Whitney and Jenny Lawrence played and coached at Sac State. The three are good friends and Burton says the coaching staff's knowledge of the Big Sky will help her transition.

"You always want to align yourself to be successful, and I felt like staying in this conference was going to help me be successful as a first-time head coach," she says.  

The Vikings are picked ninth among the 11 Big Sky women's soccer teams in the preseason coaches' poll. Eastern Washington, which returns the top scorer in the conference in Chloe Williams, is picked to win the league. The Eagles finished fifth last season, then won the conference tournament for the first time.

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