Experienced Women’s Soccer Squad Sets Lofty Goals For 2001
Expectations Run High as Seven Starters, 18 Letterwinners Return from Last Year’s 16-6 Team.
The Cincinnati women’s soccer team is expecting big results in 2001. The program returns seven starters and 18 letterwinners from a team that recorded a 16-6 record and Conference USA Championship runner-up honors last season.
The Bearcats look to improve upon that finish this season and reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997. Led by head coach Meridy Glenn, ranked in the top-20 in all-time winning percentage in the NCAA, the Bearcats have the experience and the talent necessary to achieve big things in 2001.
“We must maintain our consistency to be successful,” said Glenn. “We must build around last season and improve upon it. We have a very well-balanced roster this year and I think we can take last season one step further.”
UC will blend the set of returnees with another quality freshman class, providing depth and ability to an already quality roster. Experience at each part of the field, leadership and talent will be the key ingredients for success for Cincinnati in 2001.
As usual, Glenn has put together a challenging non-conference schedule to prepare her team for conference and postseason play.
The Bearcats will face three teams who played in last season’s NCAA Tournament before beginning league play, including home matches against Atlantic 10 champ Xavier and Mid-American Conference representative Miami (OH). A pair of Big 10 teams, Indiana and Minnesota, will also provide competition, as will 2001 NCAA hopefuls Cal Poly and Evansville. In all, four of the nine non-league foes won at least 11 matches a season ago.
Scoring Returns Up Front
Offensive production should be a team strength with the return three players up front who accounted for 12 goals last season. Juniors Amy Simonson and Tianna Oliver with seniors Ann Thomas and Leah Polaski provide a potent scoring attack.
Simonson, the leading returning scorer, started 20 matches last season and scored four goals and five assists. A strong, physical player who can make plays, Simonson will be counted upon this season to score goals.
Oliver, despite only seeing action in 10 matches due to a knee injury, found the back of the net five times early in the season. An impact player with the ability to change the ebb and flow of matches with one shot, Oliver should be a force on the Bearcat offense this season.
Thomas is a quick, footworked-based offensive spark plug who had eight points last season on three goals and two assists.
Polaski established herself as a strong contributor last season as she put in two goals while providing depth up front off the bench.
Newcomer Marie Strelka has the talent and the credentials to replace the scoring void left by all-conference performer Kim Jedlo. Strelka smashed her high school’s scoring record by 75 points her senior season.
Deep Midfield Anchors Bearcat Squad
The Bearcats midfield is loaded with experience and depth, providing a the team a solid link between the defense and offense. Senior co-captain Nickie Luse is the rock of that midfield. She teams with transfer Amy Mink, sophomore Tasha Wagner, junior Kelly Rigsbee and sophomore Ashley Murphy.
Luse provided solid control of possession in the midfield last season and showed offensive production with two goals and three assists. Also the primary server on corner kicks, she will be counted upon step up her leadership.
Mink, a transfer from Massachusetts, established her role on the squad during the spring season after scoring two goals in exhibition play. She was the fourth leading scorer with 14 points as a freshman at Massachusetts.
Rigsbee is an athletic performer who will challenge for a starting role after providing spark off thec bench last season, during which she notched three assists.
Murphy and Wagner, who combined for four goals as freshmen last fall, will compete for a starting jobs. Both have the speed and talent to make an impact within both the defensive midfield and scoring situations. Sophomores Jill Firman and Erin Cain will add depth.
Incoming freshmen Renee Balconi, Ashley Roush and Lisa Stephens will bolster the midfield corps. Stephens is a two-time first team all-state selection, while Balconi and Roush have the talent and the athletic ability to help this team win.
Day Returns to Already Imposing Defense
Cincinnati’s strength from last season returns nearly intact, as the defense which posted six shutouts and allowed just one goal on nine other occassions returns four key players in the back.
Senior co-captain Lisa Day returns to the defense after missing all of the 2000 campaign with a knee injury. Day is joined by all-Conference USA performer Kristina Wilson, two-year starter Heather Herweh, juniors Stacey Kyser and Ashley Moore and sophomore Rachel Lieberman.
Day proved to be one of the team’s top defenders in 1999 while starting 18 matches and hopes to pick up where she left off after a rigorous rehabilitation process.
Wilson came out of nowhere to be the rock of the defensive last season, rewarded with a third team All-C-USA selection. Wilson also contributed offensively, scoring two goals and adding two assists last season.
Herweh returns to the defense after finishing second on the squad in assists in 2000. She also provides the service on free kicks.
Kyser is the stalwart of the defenses, usually assigned to the opposition’s top offensive threat.
Moore possesses good height and quickness and is fully recovered from a knee injury which has hindered her the last two seasons. Lieberman adds maturity and technical ability to the position. Both are intelligent players who understand the defensive schemes.
Newcomer Angie Meyer also joins the Bearcat defense, a proven defender on the Ohio high school and club level.
Hoffman Closes Career In Goal
Senior co-captain Christy Hoffman will continue to add to her credentials as one of the best goalkeepers in the Cincinnati women’s soccer history. Hoffman enters the season fourth on the all-time shutout list with 18. She was named most valuable goalkeeper of the 2001 Conference USA Championships and third team all-league.
Newcomers Marche Gendrew and Tracy Hale will benefit from the experience of playing behind Hoffman. The two will begin the race for the starting nod in 2002. Both have impressive resumes.
Gendrew, a product of Cincinnati Roger Bacon High, was a first team all-league and All-Ohio All-Star MVP as a senior. An athletic and aggressive keeper, evidenced by her credentials in basketball as she earned second team all-state honors on the hardwood as a senior.
Hale was named first team all-league and all-district as a senior at Westerville South High.
Experience, Youth Must Blend For Success
With the return of so many veteran starters and experienced reserves, the newcomers will have a battle for playing time. The seven first-year players have the credentials to make an impact.
UC’s early schedule will force the Bearcats to be a battle-tested group heading into league play. The season will be pointed towards the C-USA Tournament and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA championship.