2003 ECU Women's Soccer Outlook
2003 ECU Women's Soccer Outlook
Following its third place finish in Conference USA and a C-USA tournament bid, the East Carolina women's soccer team looks to continue its winning ways in 2003. The Pirates finished the 2002 season at 11-6-4 overall and 5-2-3 in C-USA.
Guiding the Pirates is fifth-year head coach Rob Donnenwirth, who continues the pursuit of a C-USA championship. With four consecutive 10-win seasons and back-to-back C-USA Tournament appearances, Donnenwirth hopes to guide the Pirates to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program's short history.
For the Pirates, accomplishing such a feat will be a difficult task with key losses of two-time All C-USA forward Amanda Duffy, forward Kristin Hoyle and defender Unicity Dittmer. Donnenwirth will look to an experienced bench to help guide his vision of a conference championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
2003 SCHEDULE OVERVIEW
East Carolina will open its season against the University of Texas on Aug. 29 in Raleigh, N.C., at SAS Stadium, home of the WUSA's Carolina Courage.
Three of ECU's opponents—Texas, Cincinnati, and Charlotte—finished with top-25 rankings in 2002. In addition, Florida (Sept. 12)—the 1998 NCAA champions, Wake Forest (Oct. 1), and Miami (Oct. 17) all have the talent to be top-25 teams during 2003.
The Pirates' first home game will be against Liberty on Aug. 31, then they travel to Charlotte for a tournament, facing UNC Wilmington on Sept. 5, and Delaware on Sept. 7.
Sept. 19 marks the Pirates' first Conference USA match of the season when South Florida comes to Bunting Field. Among the biggest challenges for the Pirates will be the matches versus Cincinnati, Charlotte, Marquette and Saint Louis. The Pirates will have home field advantage against Saint Louis (Oct. 10) and Charlotte (Oct. 31) , but will face Marquette (Oct. 19) and Cincinnati (Oct. 26) on the road.
This section of the schedule will prove to be pivotal for the Pirates. Wins against C-USA teams will be crucial for making the tournament for the third straight year. ECU will also need to have a strong showing in their non-conference schedule to help strenghthen their chances for postseason play.
Charlotte has been named the host site of the C-USA Championship Tournament for 2003. And like last year, only eight of the 14 conference teams will earn a spot in the tourney. The winner will gain an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
The forward position could be one of the most exciting positions to watch for the Pirates in 2003. With the departure of two starters from last year's squad—Duffy and Hoyle—Donnenwirth will be expecting big things from super sophomore Meghan McCallion.
McCallion scored a team second-best 10 goals and collected a team-high six assists while starting in 20 of 21 games as a freshman, earning her C-USA All-Freshman Team honors and All-Southeast Freshman Team honors from Soccer Buzz.
"Meghan has tremendous speed and a good nose for the ball," said Donnenwirth. "She had an unbelievable freshman year and I think she played better in her spring games than the ones in the fall."
Sophomore Melissa Penney also brings experience to the front line. Penney played in all 21 games for the Pirates in 2002 while scoring one goal and recording one assist. With her experience gained in 2002, Donnenwirth believes Penney will complement McCallion nicely at the forward position.
Junior Krystel Pabey will get a look at the forward and midfield positions for the Pirates. Pabey had a productive season last year playing in 19 games, starting nine and recording two goals and three assists.
"Last year Krystel got some playing time at the forward postion and gave us a great spark. She is very physical and can cause some problems for defenders with her athleticism. We will look for her to continue with that effort again this year."
The Pirates will have some new faces at forward as well. Anastasia Nikas (Scottsdale, Ariz.) leads the group.
"Anastasia is a very good player and we anticipate her to be an immediate impact," said Donnenwirth.
Transfers Kate Lowe and Rennice Sherard will also compete for playing time while Allison Howell and Lesile McCann should add depth.
The midfield position will be the biggest challenge for Donnenwirth and his staff. "We have some questions at this position, but they are good questions because we have players that can play and lots of depth."
The Pirates have five returners with experience in the midfield. Juniors Sarah Stoltz and Krystel Pabey along with sophomores Rachelle Cabeceiras, Stephanie Walker and Ashley Stopa are all returning for the Pirates.
Cabeceiras, selected as one of the team captains for 2003, played in 19 games, collecting one goal and recording one assist. She started the last 11 games and Donnenwirth considers her the most improved player from fall to spring.
Walker and Stopa both gained valuable experience in 2002, playing in 17 games each and both getting one start.
"Walker is a tenacious ball winner, is very aggressive and possesses solid tackling ability," said Donnenwirth. "Stopa is one of the smartest players on the team and is able to really read the game well."
Stoltz will return after an ACL tear that cut her season short in 2002.
"Sarah has been one of our most consistent performers over the last two years," said Donnenwirth. "We are glad to get her back."
Complicating matters, freshman Rachel Hils and sophomore transfer Carmen Calpo will bring more talent into the midfield position.
"Rachel is a strong defensive prescence in the midfield and Carmen will bring a lot of skill as an attacking midfielder," said Donnenwirth.
Freshman Tara Shaw and sophomore Tracy FitzGerald are both solid left-footed players that can see time at outside midfield.
The defenders will anchor the squad as all four starters return from last season, led by a pair of all-conference selections in Penny Perrott and Mindy Nixon. Perrott scored five points for the Pirates in the backfield on her way to earning second-team all conference honors and All-South Region second-team honors.
Nixon, a two-time all-conference selection and 2003 co-captain for the Pirates, also scored five points in 2002 and is considered one of the fastest players in C-USA by Donnenwirth.
Senior Tina Rivera's great instincts along with junior co-captain Megan Schwanke's tough and tenacious defensive play will give the Pirates the leadership they need to contend for a conference championship.
Senior Cristin Bowman, sophomore Lindsay Harchick and freshman Meghan Glassmacher will provide good depth in the back position.
The starting goalkeeper position is wide open. Sophomore Lauren Church returns as the lone keeper who saw playing time for ECU last season, allowing a goals-against average of 1.57.
Also looking for some playing time will be sophomore transfer Lindsi Troxler, who posted a goals-against average of 1.02 and a .864 save percentage at Elon University during the 2002 season, and freshman Kari McCullough (Fairfax Station, Va.) who is expected to compete right away for the starting job.
Of the nine newcomers to the Pirate program, seven are either forwards or midfielders and two are goalkeepers. Sophomore forward Carmen Calpo comes to ECU from the University of Hawai'i where she scored four goals and collected six assists as a freshman.
Sophomore Kate Lowe is another transfer player who has joined the Pirates in 2003. A forward at Barton College in Wilson, N.C., Lowe scored a team-high 15 goals and collected seven assists on the way to earning second-team all-conference honors as a freshman.
The Pirates have six freshman that could gain some valuable playing experience in 2003. The freshman class is led by Anastasia Nikas (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Rachel Hils (Columbus, Ohio), and Meghan Glassmacher (Fairfax Station, Va.). All are expected to compete for starting positions right away.
Nikas was a member of three Arizona State ODP teams and a four-time Arizona State club level champion. Hils is a three-time Ohio State ODP member and helped guide her club team to three championships. Glassmacher, a two-time Virginia club level semifinalist, is an athletic defender that brings a good understanding of defensive principles to the Pirate program.
Tara Shaw (Malvern, Pa.) and Allison Howell (Advance, N.C.) will add complimentary depth to the Pirate attack. Along with the other newcomers, they will battle for playing time, but their collective talent should make for a very balanced team.
CONFERENCE USA OUTLOOK
Cincinnati made it back-to-back Conference USA Tournament championships in 2002 with a 2-1 victory over Marquette. This marked the fourth overall tournament title for the Bearcats'.
Returning 16 letterwinners, seven of which are starters, the Bearcats look to continue their C-USA dominance with an experienced squad that must overcome the loss of first-team all-conference player Heather Herweh, second-team all-conference Amy Simonson and conference tournament defensive MVP Stacey Kyser.
Charlotte captured the 2002 regular season title with a conference record of 8-0-2 and a program-best 16-2-2 overall mark. Led by first team All-American forward Courtney Crandell, who set a new league mark for single-season goals (21) and points (50) in 2002, along with 14 returning letterwinners, the 49ers look to defend their regular season title in 2003 while trying to add a conference tournament championship title, which they last won in 1998.
Marquette earned its fourth bid to the NCAA Tournament after advancing to the championship game of the C-USA Tournament. The Golden Eagles (13-8-3) return four starters from last year's squad and are led by senior midfielders Anne Loder, a second team all-conference selection, and Kristen Jensen a third-team all-conference pick in 2002.
Saint Louis is a program that can contend for the conference title in 2003. Posting an overall record of 13-6-1 and 6-3-1 in C-USA play, the Billikens return six starters including junior Jamie Perry, who scored 13 goals, and sophomore Christie Cigno, who scored nine goals and collected four assists. Perry earned first team all-conference honors and was also named to the NSCAA All-Region Team.
For the first time in C-USA's history, three teams earned NCAA berths in 2002. Cincinnati made its second-straight appearance, advancing to the second round before falling to host Tennessee, 2-1. The 49ers ended the year with a 1-0 loss to James Madison and Marquette finished with a 3-2 loss to in-state rival Wisconsin in the first round.
In C-USA action, the Pirates will also face South Florida, DePaul, Louisville and Houston along with Tulane and Southern Miss, which they have not faced since the 2001 season.
The 2003 season will see more balance at the top of the conference with Cincinnati trying to defend its title with Charlotte, Marquette, Saint Louis and East Carolina making serious threats come tourney time.