In only the second year of the program's existence as a varsity sport, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College women's soccer team had a record-setting season as the Lady Cougars posted a 14-9 overall record and advanced deep into postseason play.
After opening the season with a 1-0 win against Capital University, MVNC lost its next three matches to Kenyon College, Tiffin University, ranked 12th in the NAIA at the time, and Urbana University by a total five goals.
Then, the Lady Cougars rebounded to win five of their next six matches to improve to 6-4 on the season. During that span, the team set new school records for goals in a match with seven against both Geneva (Pa.) College and Ursuline College. Lisa Hinman and Bethany Seiffert also equaled the single-match scoring record with three goals against Geneva and Ursuline respectively.
MVNC went 2-3 over the next five matches with the three losses coming by a total of four goals to Walsh University, Seton Hill (Pa.) College, and Malone College, the eventual American Mideast Conference champions who were ranked 15th in the NAIA at the time.
The Lady Cougars closed out the regular season by winning their final four matches against Notre Dame College, Shawnee State University, Cedarville University, and Ohio Dominican College with the final three wins coming on the road. MVNC finished conference play with a 10-6 AMC mark.
Then, the Lady Cougars began their postseason play with the team's first-ever NAIA playoff match at Houghton (N.Y.) College in the AMC Tournament quarterfinals. MVNC put up a valiant fight before falling 3-2 in overtime to the eventual NAIA Region IX champions who received votes in the final NAIA poll.
Despite the loss, the Lady Cougars' season did not end there as they earned the right to host the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region championship match. Behind two goals by Catherine Hess and a goal each from Hinman and Amanda Vicroy, MVNC downed Baptist Bible (Pa.) College to claim the region crown and advance to the NCCAA National Tournament for the first time ever.
The Lady Cougars, the seventh seed, opened up play at the national tournament against second-seeded Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University. After another hard-fought battle, MVNC came up just short as the Lady Cougars fell 3-2.
Despite being eliminated from national title contention, MVNC showed a lot of composure by posting a 3-0 victory over sixth-seeded Bryan (Tenn.) College the following day in a consolation match as the Lady Cougars wrapped up their season with a school-record 14 wins. The team's nine losses came by a total of 14 goals with six of the losses coming by one goal.
"I am very proud of this team and what they accomplished this season," said MVNC head coach Jonathan Meade, who has guided MVNC to a 25-17 record in the program's first two years as a varsity sport. "Coming into the season, the team knew this would be the season to prove that last year was not a fluke. I believe the players on this team definitely confirmed last season's success and began to build the women's soccer tradition here at MVNC."
Four senior players (Tiffany Chappell, Krista Reynolds, Sheri Shuler, and Holly Shuler) provided leadership for the 2001 team. Chappell and Sheri Shuler anchored the Lady Cougars' defense that posted seven shutouts and allowed just 34 goals in 23 matches. They also played more minutes than anyone else. Meanwhile, Reynolds registered four goals and four assists in the midfield, while Holly Shuler added one goal and four assists up front.
"The seniors played a key role in our success," Meade said. "They helped to add to the foundation of this newly-established tradition by pushing others to improve each day. It truly was special to see the team peak at just the right time this season - just prior to heading into the postseason. I give the senior leadership a lot of credit for keeping everyone believing and working hard. We will miss each senior a great deal."
Hinman, a sophomore forward, posted another successful campaign as she tied for the team lead with 13 goals and registered a school record-tying 10 assists. She is now the program's all-time leader in goals (33), assists (15), and total points (81).
Hess, a freshman forward, also contributed heavily in her first collegiate season as she matched Hinman with 13 goals while also distributing seven assists. Sophomore forward Janelle Wine, along with freshmen forwards Vicroy and Jessi Gates, all added two goals and one assist apiece as key reserves off the bench.
In the midfield, Seiffert, a junior, made her presence felt as the transfer from Indiana Wesleyan University compiled nine goals and eight assists in her first season at MVNC. Sophomore Cheryl Balogh also recorded five goals and seven assists, while junior Kelly Evans finished with five goals and three assists. Freshman Sarah Helbert also contributed one goal and two assists.
Sophomores Katrina Iles and Karen Stasiowski joined Chappell and Shuler in anchoring the defense. Sophomore goalkeeper Kristi Tuck played in 15 matches with 13 starts as she posted a 1.85 goals against average, while freshman goalie Meghan Schymanski started the final 10 matches of the season and compiled a 0.99 goals against average.
"This has been a truly enjoyable season," said Meade. "Winning and continuing to see the program move forward has been great, but most of the enjoyment is due to the wonderful players on this team. I have been so blessed to be around so many quality young ladies who love the Lord and truly care about each other. The memories the team has made when we are together is what has really left an imprint on me and has made this a very special season."
Despite the loss of the seniors to graduation, the majority of this talented team returns as the future looks bright for Coach Meade and the MVNC women's soccer program.