NewsMVNU Women's Soccer Team Continues Winning Ways in 2004
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University women’s soccer team added another successful chapter to the program’s young history in 2004 as the Lady Cougars posted a 19-5-0 overall record, captured the American Mideast Conference South Division crown for the second straight year, and finished as the National Christian College Athletic Association national runner-up.
Coming into the 2004 campaign, MVNU knew that it faced the task of replacing six four-year players who had graduated after leading the team to a 20-3-1 record and the NCCAA national title in 2003. However, despite having nine new players on the roster and having to overcome numerous injuries prior to and during the season, the Lady Cougars came together as a team and added to their winning legacy.
"This was a special season that I don’t think anyone on the team will forget,” said MVNU head coach Jonathan Meade, who was named the AMC South Division Coach of the Year for the third straight year and has now compiled a 78-33-2 overall mark in the program’s first five years as a varsity sport. "There are three things that distinctly stand out about this year - we consistently improved throughout the season, we exceeded all expectations but our own, and we had a lot of fun.”
"After finishing 20-3-1 last year and losing nine players from that team, most people thought this would be a rebuilding year,” said Meade. "However, our players never believed that, and we actually set higher goals than what we had the previous year. We knew it would be tough with nine new faces and a couple of key injuries, but the players have created a culture that emphasizes moving forward and that is what the team made a commitment to do. We purposely stretched ourselves in our athletic, academic, and spiritual goals so that we would get the most out of our potential. Our freshmen made a quick transition to the college game, the sophomore and juniors continued to improve in the off-season, and the seniors provided steady leadership on and off the field. All of this combined to provide the strength we needed to excel.”
The season got off to a slow start as MVNU won just one of its first three matches and stood at 3-3-0 after six matches. However, two of the losses came against Houghton (N.Y.) College and Spring Arbor (Mich.) University, who finished the season ranked ninth and 19th respectively in the final NAIA national poll.
At that point, the Lady Cougars kicked things into high gear and proceeded to win their next 14 straight matches to set a new school record for the most consecutive victories. MVNU also captured its second straight AMC South Division title with a perfect 7-0-0 record to become the first team ever to go unbeaten and untied in the AMC South Division. The team continued to get stronger as the season went along which was evidenced by the fact that the Lady Cougars closed the regular season with shutouts against Ohio Dominican University, Saint Vincent (Pa.) College, and Malone College. Then, MVNU blanked Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College and Tiffin University to open the AMC/NAIA Region IX Tournament.
"Like any coach would hope for, the team was peaking as we hit the postseason,” said Meade. "Looking back at August and September, I know the team and I knew that we were a better team than our early record indicated. I give the players a lot of credit for working hard and not settling for the average play we were producing early in the season. It was important to the team to make every practice and match worthwhile as we had set high goals for the season. I am proud of the team’s determination to make the most of this season.”
The victory over Tiffin propelled the Lady Cougars into the NAIA Region IX Tournament championship match for the first time ever where MVNU fell to Houghton 5-1 to finish as the NAIA Region IX runner-up as the team came up just short of reaching the NAIA National Tournament.
Then, the Lady Cougars switched gears to focus on defending their NCCAA national title from the year before at the NCCAA National Tournament in Kissimmee, Florida. MVNU downed Asbury (Ky.) College 5-0 and Chowan (N.C.) College 4-1 to reach the championship match for the second straight year, but the Lady Cougars fell 2-0 to Trinity International (Ill.) University to finish as the NCCAA national runner-up.
Individually, three seniors wrapped up their careers for the Lady Cougars after having led the team to a 67-25-2 record over the past four years. Forward Catherine Hess led the team with a career-high 24 goals and a school-record 17 assists in 2004, and she finished her career as the program’s all-time leader in goals (67), assists (52), total points (186), matches played (91), and matches started (89). Meanwhile, Sarah Helbert, a defender, played in all 24 matches with 20 starts, and Meghan Schymanski, a goalkeeper, played in four matches with two starts. Helbert registered two assists and helped the back line post 10 shutouts, while Schymanski posted a 1.24 goals against average during her time in goal.
"I am very proud of our seniors and will miss them,” said Meade. "They are the smallest class to graduate in the program’s history, but they have left a huge impact on the tradition and success of this team and the program as a whole. They have each finished a great career on the field with character and respect, and I know that they will move on to excel in their endeavors after MVNU.”
Freshman forward Kristy Brandolini made her first college season a memorable one as she finished second on the team with 20 goals and 14 assists as she formed an explosive one-two scoring punch with Hess up front. Junior forward Holly Dyer also saw action in 14 matches off the bench.
The Lady Cougars’ midfield was anchored by sophomores Allison Linak, Allie Warnemunde, and Lindsay See, along with junior Audrey Hager. Linak registered six goals and 10 assists, while Warnemunde tallied six goals and four assists. See scored one goal, and Hager finished with four goals and one assist. Freshmen Heather Ross (three goals and one assist), Amanda Suever (two goals and one assist), Molly Dible (one assist), and Jessica Pagano (one assist) added depth in the midfield along with junior Bethany Rockwell and sophomore Laurel Lautensack (one assist), who each suffered injuries that forced them to miss half of the year or more.
The back line for MVNU was strong once again as the Lady Cougars allowed just 30 goals in 24 matches while posting 10 shutouts. Junior defenders Leanna Goss and Jessi Gates (one assist) teamed with Helbert and freshman Samantha Tomlinson (four assists) in the starting lineup. Freshmen Stacy Robey (one goal and one assist) and Stephanie Riley also contributed to the team’s defensive success.
"This team had a lot of fun this year,” said Meade. "Obviously, winning helps with the fun aspect, but even in the difficult times this team kept a good perspective on soccer and was able to laugh and enjoy the fellowship of their teammates. It is important to me and this team that we care about each other and enjoy our time together. This doesn’t always come easy and sometimes it takes effort to get along, but it is important to the success that takes place on the field and also to the great memories the players experience off the field. I know that the fun atmosphere on this team is a direct reflection of each player’s dedication to her faith in Christ and her daily attempt to lead a life pleasing to the Lord.”