Heading into the 2000 season, no one knew exactly what to expect out of the Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's soccer team as the Lady Cougars prepared to take the field for their first varsity season.
As a club team in 1999, MVNC had posted a respectable 4-7-1 record as the Lady Cougars played a schedule that consisted primarily of varsity teams.
As MVNC prepared to kick off the 2000 season, the team set a goal of winning half of their 18 matches in order to qualify for postseason play. To some that may have seemed like a lofty aspiration, but the Lady Cougars set out determined to reach their goal.
After dropping a hard-fought 2-1 decision to Taylor (Ind.) University in the first round of the Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University Classic, MVNC rebounded the next day to defeat the host Lady Tigers 3-1 for the program's first-ever varsity victory.
The next match was the team's home opener against Kenyon College. The Lady Cougars blanked the Ladies 1-0 for the program's first-ever home victory and first shutout.
That was the beginning of what would end up being a school-record 11-match winning streak for MVNC. During that span, the Lady Cougars posted American Mideast Conference wins over Urbana University, Notre Dame College, Cedarville University, Ohio Dominican College, Geneva (Pa.) College, Saint Vincent (Pa.) College, and Shawnee State University. The team also picked up non-conference victories over Lake Erie College and Huntington (Ind.) College.
During the winning streak, MVNC posted nine shutouts. The Lady Cougars also outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 39-2.
The winning streak finally came to an end with a 3-2 loss to Walsh University. That loss began a six-game losing skid that MVNC went on to end the regular season. Three of the matches were decided by one goal, while the Lady Cougars lost two other matches by identical 4-2 scores.
With an 11-7-0 overall record, MVNC earned a berth in the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region Tournament. The Lady Cougars dropped a hard-fought 2-1 decision in overtime to Nyack (N.Y.) College in the semifinals of the tournament as the team's season came to an end with an 11-8-0 record.
"I am proud of this team and their accomplishments this season," said MVNC head coach Jonathan Meade. "Just a year ago, I was thinking that I would be happy winning six or seven matches. However, once we started, expectations rose and we wanted more. Even making the postseason was not enough, we wanted to go to the NCCAA National Tournament because we believed we were good enough. The disappointment we felt after losing told me a lot about the players' desire and expectations."
"This a great season to build off of for next year," Meade added. "We are returning 20 of the current 23 players, and I expect the players to work hard in the off-season because of the way this season ended."
Individually, several players had outstanding seasons. Senior forward Shelly Aldrich recorded at least one point in 17 of the team's 19 matches during the season. She compiled 16 goals, a team-high 10 assists, and 42 points. She also set a school record with three assists in a match against Saint Vincent. For her efforts, Aldrich was named to the NCCAA East Region Team. She was also featured in the October 9th issue of Sports Illustrated in the "Faces in the Crowd" section.
Senior midfielder Amy Seiffert also provided solid play and excellent leadership as a captain on the team. She recorded five goals, seven assists, and 17 points. She also joined Aldrich on the NCCAA East Region Team.
"Shelly and Amy were exemplary leaders on the team this year," said Meade. "Both provided the character to keep fighting and working hard when things got tough. They encouraged, helped, and allowed the younger players to learn and grow, and they carried the team when the team was struggling. Everything about them will be sorely missed."
Three freshmen also joined Aldrich and Seiffert on the NCCAA East Region Team. Forward Lisa Hinman led the team with 20 goals and 45 points. She also recorded three hat tricks in a row at one point in the season. Cheryl Balogh, a defender, anchored the Lady Cougars' back line and also recorded four assists. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Rita Mullins helped the team post nine shutouts as she finished with a 1.46 goals against average.
"I am excited to have players like Lisa, Cheryl, and Rita returning for three more years," said Meade. "They each had an excellent season, and I cannot wait to see them play next year after they have had a full off-season to improve and apply the things they learned this year. Since they put in so much time as freshmen this season, they will be considered veterans next year as only sophomores. I will expect them to continue to help lead our team in building upon the success of this season."
Sophomore midfielder Kelly Evans added three goals, five assists, and 11 points, while junior midfielder Krista Reynolds tallied four assists. Junior midfielder Sarah Kump scored one goal to go along with three assists, and junior midfielder Holly Shuler also finished with two goals and one assist. Juniors Sheri Shuler, Tiffany Chappell, and Shauna Dickinson along with freshman Katrina Iles also contributed to the back line defense that posted nine shutouts.
With all but three players returning for MVNC in 2001, the future of the young Lady Cougar soccer program looks very bright.