With a very successful first varsity season under its belt, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's soccer team will look for an encore performance when the 2001 season kicks off on Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. versus Capital University at the Kenyon College Tournament.
The Lady Cougars surprised nearly everyone but themselves by posting an outstanding 11-8-0 overall record last season in the program's first year at varsity status. MVNC also compiled an impressive 7-4-0 record in the highly competitive American Mideast Conference to finish fifth. In addition, the team recorded a school-record 11-match winning streak at one point during the season.
Head coach Jonathan Meade, who has been with the program since its inception as a club sport in 1999, knows that his team will not be able to sneak up on anyone this year. "After doing so well last season, I think everyone is expecting us to come out and do better," said Meade. "The team and I feel that we have what it takes to go to a higher level of play this season, but we will be playing a tougher schedule, too. I think we are like any other team in that we want to have a better finish this season in both the conference and the postseason. I think we can do this, but it will be challenging."
With 13 returning letterwinners and seven starters, the foundation has been set for a successful season. However, Meade will also have to replace at least one key player at every position including forward Shelly Aldrich (16 goals and 10 assists), midfielder Amy Seiffert (five goals and seven assists), and goalkeeper Rita Mullins (six shutouts and a 1.46 goals against average).
Sophomore Lisa Hinman returns to lead the team at the forward position. Hinman led MVNC with 20 goals and 45 total points in 2000 as she was named to the AMC First Team, the National Christian College Athletic Association All-East Region Team, and the NAIA Region IX Second Team.
"As a freshman, Lisa did a great job scoring," said Meade. "I expect her to continue scoring for us but also make the players around her excel, too. She has worked hard in the off-season to become a more complete player, and I think she will show it this season."
Joining Hinman on the attack will be sophomores Janelle Wine and Emily Snyder and freshmen Catherine Hess and Jessi Gates. A knee injury sidelined Wine for most of the 2000 season, and Snyder played in 11 matches and scored one goal. Meanwhile, Hess was a one-time All-State player in high school with a school-record 71 goals during her career.
The midfield will be patrolled by junior Bethany Seiffert and sophomore Cheryl Balogh. Seiffert transferred to MVNC after helping Indiana Wesleyan University to back-to-back NCCAA national titles, while Balogh moves to the midfield after earning AMC Honorable Mention and NCCAA All-East Region honors as a defender a year ago.
"Bethany is a lot of fun to watch," said Meade. "She adds a lot of creativity and field awareness at center mid. She will provide great skill and vision as well as sound tactics in the center of the field for us."
"Cheryl is a born leader," Meade added. "She played an outside back last year but has worked hard and has proven that she will provide great strength, effort, and toughness at center midfield this season."
Seiffert and Balogh are joined in the midfield by seniors Krista Reynolds and Holly Shuler, junior Kelly Evans, and freshman Amanda Vicroy. Reynolds recorded four assists last year, while Shuler scored two goals and added an assist. Evans also finished the 2000 season with three goals and five assists.
Seniors Sheri Shuler and Tiffany Chappell along with sophomores Katrina Iles and Karen Stasiowski all return to anchor the Lady Cougars' defense which posted nine shutouts and allowed just 27 goals in 19 matches last year. Reynolds and freshman Sarah Helbert will also add depth to the back.
Sophomore Kristi Tuck has earned the nod as the starting goalkeeper after serving as the back-up last season. Freshman Meghan Schymanski will also compete for time after earning All-Conference Honorable Mention honors in high school.
MVNC will once again compete in the 17-team AMC race. Defending conference champion Tiffin University is ranked 12th in the NAIA preseason poll, while newcomer Houghton (N.Y.) College is 17th. Seton Hill (Pa.) College also received votes in the poll.
"The AMC will be difficult once again this season with teams like Tiffin, Houghton, Malone Seton Hill, Cedarville, and Walsh all returning some very talented players after good seasons last year," said Meade. "But, even the teams that did not have great seasons last year are ready to leave their mark in the conference this year. If we are not ready physically, mentally, and emotionally, we could find ourselves coming up short."
With 16 conference matches to play, the Lady Cougars will only have three non-conference matches. In addition to playing Capital at the Kenyon Tournament, MVNC will face the host Ladies of Kenyon. The team's only other non-conference match will be against Grace (Ind.) College.
"Our non-conference matches will be just as trying as well," Meade said. "However, we are competitors and look forward to a tougher schedule because we realize this will only make us raise our level of play and better prepare us for the postseason."