NewsLady Cougars Post Another Winning Soccer Season
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University women's soccer team took another step forward in the program's third season as a varsity sport as the Lady Cougars finished the 2002 campaign with a 14-8-1 overall record to match the school record for wins and set a new record for winning percentage (.630).
"This was a critical year for our program," said MVNU head coach Jonathan Meade. "It was up to this team to put the finishing touches to the foundation of our young program, and I believe the team was successful. From this point on, it will be up to future players and teams to continue the tradition of being a team that is known for its work ethic, attractive style of play, and play that reflects a commitment to Christ."
The season got off to a good start as MVNU won the Malone College Invitational with victories over Geneva (Pa.) College and Bethel (Ind.) College. The Lady Cougars followed up the tournament title with three more wins as the team improved to 5-0-0 for the best start in its brief history.
After a pair of losses to nationally-ranked Houghton (N.Y.) College and at Capital University, MVNU rebounded with four consecutive wins to move to 9-2-0 as the team moved into the NAIA Region IX top five rankings.
The Lady Cougars slipped to 9-5-0 with three straight losses, but the team moved right into the thick of the American Mideast Conference South Division race with wins over Ohio Dominican University and Tiffin University. The win at Tiffin marked the only loss in conference play for the Lady Dragons who would go on to play in the NAIA National Tournament.
Needing two more wins in its final two matches to clinch at least a tie for the AMC South Division crown, MVNU battled Urbana University to a 2-2 draw through regulation and two overtimes. Then, the team knocked off Walsh University to close out the regular season with a 12-5-1 overall record and a 5-1-1 conference mark that was good enough for third place.
For the second straight year, the Lady Cougars qualified for the AMC/NAIA Region IX Tournament. A win over Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College in the first round marked the program's first-ever NAIA postseason victory. The win also gave MVNU the NCCAA East Region title.
After falling to top-seeded Houghton in the NAIA Region IX Tournament semifinals, the Lady Cougars turned their sights on competing for the NCCAA national title. MVNU, the fifth seed, advanced to the NCCAA National Tournament semifinals with a shutout of fourth-seeded Trinity International (Ill.) University in the first round.
However, in the semifinals, the Lady Cougars dropped a hard-fought 3-1 decision to top-seeded and eventual NCCAA national champion Malone College. Then, the team finished out the season with a fourth-place finish out of eight teams as MVNU fell to second-seeded Spring Arbor (Mich.) University in the consolation match.
"Our victories over Tiffin and Trinity International were the highlights of the season," said Meade, who was named the AMC South Division Coach of the Year by his peers. "Both of those teams are traditionally very strong. With these victories, I believe the team proved that they are ready to move to a higher level of play that will put us in the company with teams that will be getting votes for the (NAIA) national poll or who are actually in the top 25."
Individually, several players had outstanding seasons for the Lady Cougars. Senior midfielder Bethany Seiffert wrapped up her stellar career with seven goals and eight assists. Kelly Evans, another senior midfielder, added five goals and six assists, while classmates Stephanie White (one goal and one assist) and Krista Reynolds (one assist) added depth to the midfield.
"The success of our team this year is a testament to the great senior leadership that we have had," Meade said. "The seniors have been exemplary on and off the field, and I know the underclassmen have a strong desire to uphold their legacy in the years to come."
Freshman forward Kristen Votapek posted an incredible rookie season with a school-record 26 goals and nine assists for a school-record 61 points. She also scored in a school-record nine straight matches at the end of the season, and set a new record with four goals in a match at Notre Dame College. In addition, she matched the school-record with three assists versus Bethel.
Sophomore forward Catherine Hess also put her name in the school record book as she tallied a team-high 12 assists to break the previous mark. Hess was also second on the team with 11 goals and 34 points.
Junior forward Lisa Hinman added to her school-record career totals with three goals, six assists, and 12 points as she remained the program's all-time leader in those three categories. Sophomore Jessi Gates also contributed three goals and two assists, while junior Sarah Rinehart tallied one goal and two assists.
Junior goalkeeper Kristi Tuck posted a 1.74 goals against average for the season with five shutouts. She also recorded a school-record 91 saves for the season.
Junior defender Cheryl Balogh helped to anchor the defense that posted six shutouts while she also contributed one goal and three assists. She was joined in the back by juniors Karen Stasiowski and Katrina Iles and sophomore Sarah Helbert.
Freshmen Leanna Goss (three goals and two assists), Audrey Hager, Bethany Rockwell, and Holly Dyer also added depth to the team this season, while sophomore goalkeeper Meghan Schymanski backed up Tuck in goal.
With the top three scorers (Hinman, Votapek, and Hess) in the program's history returning for the 2003 season along with every defensive starter, the future of the MVNU women's soccer program looks bright.
"Even though we are losing a great senior class, I am extremely excited about the returning players and what they are capable of accomplishing next year," said Meade. "They are already talking about working hard in the off-season so that they will be prepared to take this team to even greater heights. I love this attitude about our younger players because even though we have attained so much in such a short time they are still hungry for more."