2005 ECU Women's Soccer Preview
2005 ECU Women's Soccer Preview
GREENVILLE, NC – Coming off an 8-9-2 season in 2004 where the Pirates finished fourth in the Conference USA standings, the East Carolina women's soccer program looks to stake its claim among the leagues best teams in 2005 under a new look conference.
At the helm of the Pirate ship in '05 is seventh-year head coach Rob Donnenwirth, who continues the pursuit of a C-USA championship. With four 10-plus win seasons in six years, and three C-USA Tournament appearances, Donnenwirth hopes to guide the Pirates to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program's 11-year history.
2005 SCHEDULE OVERVIEW
The Pirates will play nine teams that were ranked among the top-15 in their respective regions by Soccer Buzz following the 2004 season — non-conference foes Campbell, Furman, Loyola (Md.), Richmond and Texas A&M as well as Conference USA opponents Rice, SMU, UAB and UCF.
In addition, ECU will take on three in-state schools when they travel to UNC Wilmington (Sept. 2) and host Western Carolina (Sept. 4) and Campbell (Sept. 16).
"This year we have a challenging schedule," said Donnenwirth. "We will be playing 10 teams that have made the NCAA Tournament over the last two seasons. With new teams coming into Conference USA and a strong out of conference schedule, this should be an exciting season."
The Pirates will officially open the 2005 season when they participate in the James Madison Tournament on August 26 in Harrisonburg, Va. against Loyola (Md.). ECU will also face Richmond in the tournament on Aug. 28.
Rice has been named the host site of the C-USA Championship Tournament for 2005. Just like last year, the top eight of the 12 conference teams will earn a spot in the single-elimination tournament. The winner will gain an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
McCallion, who ranks second on the all-time goals scored list with 30, posted a team-best 10 goals, five assists and 25 points while starting all 19 games. Against DePaul, she recorded her first collegiate hat trick and posted a personal best seven points in a 4-0 win.
"Everyone knows of Meghan now and she will be marked every game," said Donnenwirth. "Her ability to score goals and run at people one-on-one along with her breakaway speed makes her a force in the conference. What we need now is someone else to step up and complement Meghan."
Both Penney and Howell saw lots of action a year ago with each recording two assists in 18 games played and look to have the inside track at a starting position. But Donnenwirth can't count out FitzGerald and Lowe, as they bring a wealth of experience to the forward position and can easily slide into one of the two starting roles.
Looking to fill the void at the other midfield spot(s) could be junior Tara Shaw or one of four freshmen in Madison Keller (Clarksburg, Md.), Stephanie Rogers (Little Rock, Ark.), Nicole Moore (Spindale, NC) and Taylor Bell (Wilmington, NC). Shaw netted her first collegiate goal in a 4-1 loss to Memphis on Oct. 10, 2005 and two weeks later helped the Pirates to a 3-2 win over Louisville after scoring the game's first goal.
"Despite the youth and inexperience that we have at this position, I think we are sitting on a gold mine," Donnenwirth stated. "Tara has improved over the past year and will be an impact player that we can count on. Our freshmen come from successful high school and club programs where they're use to competing against the best."
Donnenwirth will look to senior Ashely Stopa, who has been sidelined for the past year with injuries, as well as freshmen Kristen Allred (High Point, NC), Sadia Altidore (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Sarah Biggar (Coral Springs, Fla.) to provide depth to the Pirate defense.
Sophomore Mary Puckett provides Donnenwirth with a versatile player who can play at the forward, midfield and back positions. She provides much needed size in the back, is a great ball winner for the midfield position and up top she is very good in the air and very dangerous on corners.
"Mary is someone that has a great work ethic," said Donnenwirth. "If we can put some more aggressiveness into her game and use her height, she will definitely see a lot of playing time."
Contending for playing time in the goal this year will be freshman Amber Campbell (Frederick, Md). The two-time defensive player-of-the-year of the Monocacy Valley Athletic League (MVAL) from Frederick High School brings grit, an athletic build and experience, which was gained while playing club soccer for the Bethesda Eclipse.
"This is a big class coming in and we are excited about what they can do," said Donnenwirth. "When freshmen come to college you really never know how they will handle the transition to college life. I think we have a real solid group of intelligent people and we definitely have some talent to carry this program to new heights in the future."