NewsMVNU Women's Soccer Team Ready to Take the Next Step
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - After establishing a winning foundation over the program's first three varsity seasons, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University women's soccer team is poised to take the next step as the Lady Cougars look to kick off the 2003 campaign.
MVNU is coming of a 14-8-1 overall record in 2002 as the Lady Cougars equaled the school record for wins in a season. The team finished third in the highly competitive American Mideast Conference South Division with a 5-1-1 overall record that included a win over Tiffin University, the AMC South Division and NAIA Region IX champion. MVNU also notched its first-ever NAIA postseason victory as the Lady Cougars downed Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College in the first round of the AMC/NAIA Region IX Tournament. After falling to top-seeded Houghton (N.Y.) College in the NAIA Region IX Tournament semifinals, MVNU advanced to the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament in Kissimmee, Florida, as the East Region champions and ended up finishing fourth out of eight teams.
Head coach Jonathan Meade, who has compiled a 39-25-1 overall record while leading MVNU the past three seasons, returns 13 players from last year's squad. "I am looking forward to another great season," said Meade, who was named the AMC South Division Coach of the Year in 2002. "This is the most talented we have been and also the deepest the team has been. I am excited about the development of the returning players. They have shown good dedication in the off-season, and with the talented new players joining us I have no doubt that we have the potential to better last year's record."
"Our strengths will be our overall team speed and work ethic," added Meade. "With the talented attacking players we have, finishing should also be a strength. One of our team goals is to be a better defensive team. If we hope to crack the (NAIA) top 25 this year, we cannot allow more than 25 goals. The players are looking forward to accomplishing this goal. We also want to have a better showing in our NAIA regional."
Leading the attack up front will be sophomore Kristen Votapek and junior Catherine Hess. Votapek burst onto the scene last year by scoring a school-record 26 goals and 61 total points to go with nine assists as she was named to the AMC South Division First Team, the NAIA Region IX Second Team, and the NCCAA Honorable Mention All-American Team. Hess added 11 goals and broke the MVNU single-season assist mark with 12 as she was an AMC South Division Honorable Mention and NAIA Region IX Honorable Mention pick.
Adding depth at the forward position will be senior Sarah Rinehart (one goal and two assists), sophomore Holly Dyer (one assist), and freshmen Katie Farver and Jessica Ward. Farver was an All-Conference Second Team selection at Wadsworth High School, while Ward was a four-time All-Conference First Team pick at Madison High School.
The biggest question mark for the Lady Cougars will be in the midfield where MVNU lost four players including NCCAA First Team All-American and NAIA Honorable Mention All-American, Bethany Seiffert, who is now playing professionally for the Columbus Stars. Senior Lisa Hinman, who holds the program's career goals (36) and career assists (21) records, will be counted on to provide leadership and experience in the midfield.
Hinman will be joined by freshmen Allison Linak, Laurel Lautensack, and Ward in the starting lineup, while senior Katrina Iles, sophomore Bethany Rockwell, and freshmen Lindsay See, Dana Detty, and Farver will give MVNU plenty of depth at the position. Linak was a two-time All-Conference First Team selection at Worthington Christian High School, while Lautensack was an All-Conference First Team pick at Oswego High School. See from Crestview High School and Detty from Pickerington High School both earned All-Conference honors in their senior year.
Defensively, the Lady Cougars will be looking to improve in an area where the team allowed 43 goals last season. Senior Cheryl Balogh, who was an NCCAA First Team All-American and an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American last year, will move from the midfield to anchor the defense. She will be joined by junior Sarah Helbert, an AMC South Division Honorable Mention pick in 2002, and senior Karen Stasiowski. Sophomore Leanna Goss (three goals and two assists) will also drop back from the midfield, and sophomore Audrey Hager will add depth to the defense.
The battle for the starting goalkeeper spot should prove to be very competitive. Senior Kristi Tuck started all 23 matches last season and posted a 1.74 goals against average, and junior Meghan Schymanski also returns. Meanwhile, freshman Krysti Wilson, a two-time All-Conference First Team selection at Big Walnut High School, will challenge right away for the starting job.
MVNU's schedule should prove to be challenging once again as the Lady Cougars look to contend for the AMC South Division title. The team will play division matches against Shawnee State University, Walsh University, Ohio Dominican University, Cedarville University, Urbana University, Malone College (who received votes in the NAIA preseason poll), and Tiffin, who is ranked 24th.
In addition, the team will take on Medgar Evers (N.Y.) College and Nyack (N.Y.) College in the Nyack Tournament to begin the season on August 29 and 30. The team will also travel to Geneva (Pa.) College, Kenyon College, and Indiana Wesleyan University (who received votest in the NAIA preseason poll). In addition, the Lady Cougars will play Trinity International (Ill.) University on the road at Malone.
MVNU will host its first-ever tournament on September 12 and 13 when the Lady Cougars entertain Notre Dame College, Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University, and Siena Heights (Mich.) University, who is ranked 10th in the NAIA preseason poll. The team will also host Oberlin College, the College of Wooster, Cumberland (Ky.) College, and Saint Vincent (Pa.) College in non-conference matches.
"Once again, our schedule has gotten tougher than the previous year," said Meade. "Our divisional race should be close again. Tiffin and Malone remain the top teams, but I feel like we made a statement last season by defeating Tiffin on their home turf for their only division loss. If we want to be a team that is known on the national level, then we have to win big matches. However, no match can be taken lightly or overlooked. We are still feeling the pain of letting the divisional title slip through our hands last season when a good Urbana team was ready to play and we were not. Our non-conference schedule will also help prepare us for the postseason, too."
"This is a good team, but no matter what happens I know that this season will be enjoyable," Meade added. "The players make it easy to be around them and coach. They are a hard-working team that truly cares for one another. God has a way of bringing the right group of teammates together - ones who challenge us, others who support us, some who lead, and others who follow. Each player on this team is special and adds value to the rest of us on the team in their own unique way. No matter what happens this season, these are qualities that a coach cannot replace."