MOC women's soccer preview
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on August 29, 2004 2:00 AM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Leadership roles on most teams are usually assumed by players with experience.
Second-year Mount Olive coach Chris Shaw doesn't buy into that theory.
Seniors Heather Ressler (GK) and Jamie Brooks (D/M) are the only two seniors on the Trojans' roster this season. Shaw doesn't feel it is necessary to put any additional burden on the upperclassmen duo.
"I'm not big on divisions within the team," Shaw said. "Leadership isn't determined by your age. We have girls that can lead that are freshmen. We are young, but I'm not trying to put extra pressure on our seniors."
With just 11 players on the field and few or no substitutes for most of last season, Shaw added 13 freshmen to give the Trojans a much-improved 21 players in 2004. Shaw put special recruiting emphasis in the midfield and at forward.
The better numbers will obviously give Mount Olive more options on the field on game day, but the benefits in practice have paid equally important dividends.
"Having 11 players limits what you can do in practice and what you can do on the field tactically," Shaw said. "If they are having a bad game, they had to work their way through it last year. Having numbers is exciting.
"More important is that we have quality numbers and players who have played at a high level with successful clubs and high school programs."
Sure, the Trojans will be young again with 13 freshmen, nine sophomores and two seniors. Shaw believes this could work to his team's advantage.
"I think it's an advantage. We may lack experience, but we will make up for that in enthusiasm," he said. "Young players don't know what they are not capable of doing. Seniors might know they aren't supposed to beat the top teams in the conference. Young players may not know."
Local athletes Stephany Speck (Charles B. Aycock) and Jamie Lee (Spring Creek) are both part of the Trojans' freshman class.
Mount Olive finished 3-15 overall last season.
Mount Olive returns four sophomores who scored goals last season, including Val Buchite (three goals), Melanie Cobb (two goals, two assists), Kristin Kinnaird (one goal, one assist) and Jessica Steffne (one goal, one assist). Cobb -- also a basketball player -- played in just one game last season.
Buchite will be moved to defense this season as freshman forwards Gina Dos Santos and Jackie Gimenez will look to make an immediate impact.
Four players who scored last season, including leading scorer Sondra Allen (four goals), have left the program. The Trojans lost no players to graduation.
"Last year my leading scorer had four goals and she was a left back. To say we struggled offensively is an understatement," Shaw said. "My goal was to bring in some playmakers and dangerous players, and I think we accomplished that. We will be a fun team to watch."
At midfield, recruits Heidi Philip and April Jacobs should be rising stars for the Trojan program.
Defense proved to the strong suit for Mount Olive last year and it returns a majority of its starters in the back. Buchite will join sophomore Molly Morrow and senior Brooks as anchors in the back.
Ressler, a four-year starter and an All-Carolinas/Virginia Athletic Conference performer as a sophomore, returns in the goal. Ressler had 140 saves in 18 games last season with three shutouts and ranked 21st in the nation in saves per game.
The Mount Olive defense allowed 3.44 goals per game last year overall.
"She's (Ressler) has been here for four years. I think she's seen the program at it's lowest," Shaw said. "I'm hoping we can send her out on a positive note her senior year. She made the statement to me that it's the most talented group she's seen on the field at Mount Olive."
Mount Olive was picked 11th in the 2004 CVAC preseason poll. The Trojans received 18 points to finish nine points behind Anderson and Limestone, which tied for ninth place in the poll.
The Trojans posted a conference record of 0-10.
Last year's CVAC champion Belmont Abbey received the maximum 10 first-place votes and placed first in the poll with 100 points. Queens received the lone remaining first-place vote and finished with 82 points.
"I think that's fair, because that's where we finished the last couple of years," Shaw said. "That's where I want to be right now, but that's not where I want to end up. I sincerely hope the 10 teams above us go into the games thinking we are supposed to finish last in the conference. I think we might surprise some teams."
Shaw also sees Limestone as a possible sleeper in the CVAC.
A look at the preseason poll:
School, first place votes Points
1.Belmont Abbey (10) 100
2.Queens (1) 82
3. Barton 73
3. Lees-McRae 73
5. Pfeiffer 71
6. Coker 56
7. Erskine 42
8. St. Andrews 36
9. Anderson 27 9. Limestone 27 11. Mount Olive 18
Mount Olive opens play at home on Monday against non-conference North Greenville, before traveling to Pfeiffer for its CVAC opener on Wednesday.
The Trojans face non-conference opponents Converse, Ferrum and Meredith on their home field.
Mount Olive travels to face Averett, Methodist, Shenandoah, Charleston, West Virginia Tech and N.C. Wesleyan in non-conference action.
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