NewsLady Cougars Look to Continue Winning Ways in 2005
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - After repeating as the American Mideast Conference South Division champions, returning to the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament championship match, and appearing in the NAIA Top 25 for the first time ever in 2004, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University women’s soccer team is ready to begin a new chapter of success in the program’s young history as the start of the 2005 season approaches.
With eight returning starters and 16 returning letterwinners, head coach Jonathan Meade has an experienced and deep roster of players to choose from as he begins his sixth season. "I am very excited about this team,” said Meade, who has compiled a 78-33-2 record (.699 winning percentage) in the past five seasons and has been the AMC South Division Coach of the Year for three straight years. "This will be the deepest team that I have ever coached and it will allow us to have some different looks throughout the season. The added depth has brought on some great team-oriented competition during the preseason that is pushing every player to take her game to the next level.”
"The success that we have experienced over the past couple of seasons has not come easily, especially when you consider our tough conference schedule,” Meade added. "We realize that our past success does not guarantee future victories. This team knows that to remain successful we must continually strive to outperform our play in the past.”
The MVNU defense will be anchored by junior goalkeeper Krysti Wilson, who returns as a starter for the third straight year having already posted 21 career shutouts. Wilson was named to the NCCAA All-American First Team and the NAIA Honorable Mention All-American Team in 2004. Freshman Whitney Tatko, who set school records for saves in a season and in a career at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, will back up Wilson in goal.
Defensively, the Lady Cougars return three starters on the back line in seniors Leanna Goss and Jessi Gates and sophomore Samantha Tomlinson. Goss was an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American in 2004, while Gates and Tomlinson were each NAIA Region IX Honorable Mention picks. Sophomore Stacy Robey, who came on strong at the end of her freshman season and started one match, and freshman Mara Hughes, who helped Pickerington North High School post 13 shutouts in 21 matches as a senior, will both have a major impact in the back. Sophomores Molly Dible, Jessica Pagano, and Stephanie Riley will add to the depth on the back line as MVNU has lots of experience and quality players to work with on the defensive end.
In the midfield, juniors Allison Elifritz, Jessica Ward, Lindsay See, and Laurel Lautensack all return with starting experience. Elifritz was named to the NCCAA All-American First Team and the NAIA Honorable Mention All-American Team in 2004 after recording six goals and 10 assists, while See started all 24 matches and scored one goal. Ward missed the entire 2004 season as she recovered from an injury suffered in the preseason, and Lautensack missed the final 12 matches of the year as she also rehabbed an injury. Freshman Page Miller will have an immediate impact in the midfield after being a four-time All-Conference selection at Bethel-Tate High School, while freshman Diana Flannery from Xenia High School has been a pleasant surprise and adds to the quality depth at the midfield position.
Sophomore Kristy Brandolini is the lone returning starter at the forward position but proved to be one of the top attackers in NAIA Region IX last year by registering 20 goals and 14 assists while being named the AMC South Division Freshman of the Year. Junior Allie Warnemunde (6 goals and 4 assists) and sophomore Heather Ross (3 goals and 1 assist) both saw action up front last year, while freshmen Kelly Sgambellone (Hilliard Darby High School) and Bethany Watkins (Mount Vernon High School) both bring good speed to the attack. Seniors Holly Dyer and Bethany Rockwell and freshmen Amber Pagano (Toledo Christian High School) and Raquel Crocker (Chapelgate Academy) will all add depth to the position.
"I really like the personality of this team,” said Meade. "They are a fun group that is hard-working and disciplined. As long as we stay healthy, our depth could be a new strength to help us move forward to a higher level of play. Knowing this, I think we could be a very solid team with the potential to be the best women’s soccer team yet to put on the Lady Cougar uniform.”
MVNU, which is ranked 22nd in the NAIA preseason poll, will get the season under way with non-conference matches at Missouri Baptist University, Taylor (Ind.) University, and Spring Arbor (Mich.) University, who is ranked 16th in the NAIA preseason poll. Then, the Lady Cougars will host the W.G. Grinders Cougar Classic on September 9-10 with matches against Saint Xavier (Ill.) University, ranked 21st in the NAIA preseason poll, and Houghton (N.Y.) College, ranked 11th.
In addition, MVNU will play non-conference matches against Saint Vincent (Pa.) College, Geneva (Pa.) College, Grace (Ind.) College, and Virginia Intermont College, who is ranked fourth in the NAIA Region XII preseason rankings.
The Lady Cougars will also look to defend their AMC South Division title with conference matches against Tiffin University, Malone College, Urbana University, Cedarville University, Walsh University, Ohio Dominican University, Shawnee State University, and the University of Rio Grande.
"Outperforming our play from the past will be challenging since we will be playing a very tough schedule,” said Meade. "The conference race has been extremely tight over the past three years, and I expect more of the same this season. Every conference match will need to be looked at as the championship match. If anything, our tough non-conference schedule should help prepare us for the hard-fought conference play. Our first six matches are all against very formidable opponents with a stretch of three matches in a row against Top 25 teams. This is what the team has been preparing for, though, and we look forward to the challenge.”