Lady Pirate Soccer Opens 2005 Season Against Loyola College
Aug. 25, 2005
GREENVILLE, N.C. -- The East Carolina women's soccer team will open the 2005 season this Friday, Aug. 26 at 5 p.m. against the Loyola Greyhounds in the opening match of the James Madison Tournament in Harrisburg, Va.
The Pirates (8-9-2, 6-31 C-USA) got off to a great preseason start when they defeated Longwood, 3-1, in their only exhibition match of the season on Aug. 18. Since then, he Pirate have turned their focus towards the first game of the 2005 season and 2004 NCAA participant Longwood.
"We are excited to get the season started this weekend," said seventh-year Head Coach Rob Donnenwirth. "The team has put in a lot of hard work this preseason and I think we are ready to face some good competition to start the season. It is important that the team understands that it is a long season and we need to focus on the task at hand, which is Loyola then Richmond."
Once again will look to a young, yet experienced group, which includes 15 freshmen and sophomores, to help ECU make its second straight Conference USA Tournament appearance and its first-ever NCAA appearance.
The forward position will be one of the most exciting positions to watch in 2005. Led by two-time first-team All C-USA performer Meghan McCallion, the Pirates will look to provide her with some support up top in the form of seniors Melissa Penney, Kate Lowe and Tracy FitzGerald, along with junior Allison Howell and freshman Blair Heffner (Kings Mountain, NC).
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.
At first glance, the midfield position looks to be a little thin. However looks can be deceiving as the Pirates return juniors Anastasia Nikas and Rachel Hils for their third tour of duty in the middle. As a freshman, Nikas led the team and ranked third in C-USA in assists with seven. Hils, one of three captains for the Pirates this year, brings 37 games worth of experience to the table for Donnenwirth. In two seasons, she has recorded 24 starts, four goals, two of which were game-winners, and two assists.
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."
The Pirate defense looks to be back on solid ground with three sophomores set to patrol the backfield in 2005. The trio of Kat Norris, Patty Pierce and Jami Dickerson combined to play in 52 games with 40 starts in their inaugural campaign. Both Norris and Pierce started every game gaining valuable on the field experience from departing seniors Megan Schwanke and Rachelle Cabecerias.
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."
Senior co-captain Lindsi Troxler returns to anchor the Pirate defense in goal. Last season she saw action in nine games with four starts posting a 2-2-1 record. As a sophomore, she started 17 of 18 games played logging 1554 minutes in goal while posting a 5-6-5 record, which included four shutouts. Currently she holds the single-season (1.10) and career (1.31) records for goals against average, while ranking third all-time in saves per game and keeper minutes and fifth all-time in saves and shut outs.
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 Fredrick High School brings grit, an athletic build and experience, which was gained while playing club soccer for the Bethesda Eclipse.
The Pirates' will wrap up the James Madison Tournament on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 11 a.m. against Richmond.