NewsMVNU Women's Soccer Team Looks to Build on Success
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - In just five short years, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University women’s soccer program has gone from being a club sport to winning a conference and a national title.
The Lady Cougars, who captured their first-ever American Mideast Conference South Division crown and National Christian College Athletic Association national championship with a 20-3-1 overall record in 2003 in only the program’s fourth varsity season, will look to build on that success when the 2004 campaign gets under way on August 27 at the Trinity International (Ill.) University Tournament.
Head coach Jonathan Meade, who has led MVNU to a 59-28-2 overall record (.674 winning percentage) in four seasons of varsity competition, will have to replace six four-year seniors who were responsible for laying the cornerstone for the Lady Cougars’ early success.
"We graduated a strong group of seniors this past year who anchored our defense and provided a great deal of leadership,” said Meade, who has been named the AMC South Division Coach of the Year in each of the past two seasons as well as being the 2003 NCCAA National Coach of the Year. "At this early stage of the season, there are still some question marks that need to be answered. However, I am confident in the returning players’ ability to step up and lead this young team. The newcomers are also talented and come from a wealth of soccer experiences, and I expect that they will make the transition (to the college game) quickly.”
"I know that this team realizes the standard that has been set by past teams and we look forward to defending the titles we won last year,” Meade added. "We are excited to move forward with our own vision and goals this year. That is one of the most exciting things about a young team - allowing them to form a new vision that will stretch the vision from the past.”
MVNU will look to its returning starters at forward and midfield to continue to lead a strong attack that saw the Lady Cougars score a school-record 76 goals in 2003. Senior forward Catherine Hess will lead the way after scoring a career-high 19 goals and registering a school-record 16 assists last year in earning NCCAA All-American First Team and NAIA Honorable Mention All-American honors. She currently ranks second in school history with 43 career goals and is the program’s all-time leader with 35 career assists.
Joining Hess up front will be freshman Kristy Brandolini, who set school records with 121 goals and 61 assists during her career at Twinsburg High School where she was named to the Western Reserve Conference First Team all four years. Sophomore Jessica Ward (three goals and four assists in 2003) and junior Holly Dyer return to add depth up front, while freshmen Heather Ross and Allie Warnemunde will both have an opportunity to see action in the forward spot. Ross, who ranked tenth in Ohio with 21 goals as a senior at Aurora High School in 2003, was a three-time All-Conference First Team selection, while Warnemunde played club soccer at the University of Kentucky last season and was an All-Conference First Team selection at Lakota East High School in 2002.
The midfield is expected to be a foundation for the team’s success and will be led by the strong sophomore class of Allison Linak (three goals and six assists), Laurel Lautensack (one goal), Lindsay See (two goals and three assists), and Ward, who each had key contributions last year after a quick transition to the college game. Warnemunde, Ross, sophomore Bethany Rockwell, and freshmen Amanda Suever, Jessica Pagano, and Molly Dible also all have the ability to contribute. Suever was the Western Buckeye League Player of the Year in 2003 and a two-time WBL First Team pick at Elida High School, while Pagano was an All-Conference First Team selection at Toledo Christian School. Dible was a two-year varsity letterwinner at Hilliard Darby High School after playing her sophomore season at Grove City High School.
Defensively, the Lady Cougars will be anchored by sophomore goalkeeper Krysti Wilson, who earned NAIA Honorable Mention All-American status as a freshman after allowing just nine goals in 24 matches. She set new school records with 117 saves, 14 shutouts, and a 0.39 goals against average as MVNU allowed just 12 goals in 24 matches and posted a school-record 15 shutouts. Senior Meghan Schymanski will provide experience as the back-up goalkeeper having played in 21 matches with three shutouts and a 1.22 goals against average.
Senior Sarah Helbert and Leanna Goss will lead the back line as returning starters, while returning juniors Jessi Gates and Audrey Hager are both vying for starting spots in the back along with freshmen Samantha Tomlinson, Stacy Robey, and Stephanie Riley. Tomlinson was a two-time Central Buckeye Conference First Team pick at Tippecanoe High School, while Robey was part of a defense at Northwestern High School that allowed just six goals in 2003 on her way to being named to the Central Buckeye Conference First Team. Riley also played two years at perennial power Greenon High School.
The Lady Cougars will get the season under way with a pair of games at Trinity International on August 27-28 against the host Lady Trojans, the 2003 NCCAA national runner-up who received votes in the NAIA preseason poll, and Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University. Then, the team will travel to the Houghton (N.Y.) College Tournament on September 3-4 with matches against the host Lady Highlanders, who are ranked 10th in the NAIA preseason poll, and Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College. MVNU will also host the second annual Cougar Classic Invitational with matches against Wilmington College and Spring Arbor (Mich.) University.
In addition to competing in the three tournaments, the Lady Cougars will play a tough non-conference schedule with matches against Union (Ky.) College (NAIA #15), Milligan (Tenn.) College (NAIA receiving votes), Madonna (Mich.) University (NAIA receiving votes), Geneva (Pa.) College, and Saint Vincent (Pa.) College.
MVNU will also look to defend its AMC South Division title with matches against Malone College (NAIA #19), Tiffin University (NAIA receiving votes), Cedarville University, Walsh University, Urbana University, Ohio Dominican University, and Shawnee State University.
"This will be a challenging season since we have never had a tougher schedule with three teams in the NAIA preseason Top 25 and four others receiving votes,” said Meade. "On top of this, I believe our conference continues to get tougher and tougher each year. We cannot afford to take any team lightly.”
"With the experience of our returning players at the regional and national level coupled with the quality of our newcomers, I believe this team has the potential to do very well,” Meade added. "However, it will all come down to their ability to act upon their commitment and vision. If preseason is any precursor to what we will be like during the season, I know this team will play with great heart and in a manner pleasing to God no matter what our record is. Everything else will fall into place from there.”