11/01/04 — MOC women ready to get tourney started

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MOC women ready to get tourney started

Published in Sports on November 1, 2004 1:55 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- At this time last year, most of the members of the Mount Olive College women's soccer team were probably ready for the season to come to an end. This year, the Trojans want to make the season last as long as they can.

Third-seeded Mount Olive plays host to No. 6 Limestone in the first round of the 2004 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Women's Soccer Tournament Tuesday. Match time is 2 p.m. at Trojan Field. The match marks Mount Olive's third appearance in the eight-team CVAC Tournament and the first time the Trojans have hosted a tournament match.

Mount Olive (17-3-0 overall, 8-2-0 CVAC) concluded its regular season Saturday with a 1-0 victory at Lees-McRae. April Jacobs scored the game's only goal in the 39th minute, while the Trojan defense made it stand with the team's 10th shutout of the season.

This year's squad has not just broken, but shattered virtually every individual and team school record and has even set an NCAA II women's soccer record for the greatest one-season improvement. Mount Olive is assured of improving by at least 12 1/2 games over last year's 3-15-0 mark, beating the current record of 11 1/2 games set by Metro State (Colo.) in 2002.

Among the school records, Mount Olive has set this year:

* Most wins in a season: 17 and counting (previous record: 6)

* Most conference wins: 8 (previous record: 4)

* Highest conference finish: third (previous record: eighth)

* Most goals in a season (team): 85 (previous record: 27)

* Most goals in a season (individual): 24 by Melanie Cobb (previous record: 10)

* Most assists in a season (individual): 16 by Heidi Philip (previous record: 6)

In addition, Gina Dos Santos and Emily Escolas have both eclipsed the previous single-season goal-scoring record and a total of seven players have tied or broken the assists record. Prior to this year, no Mount Olive player had won CVAC Player of the Week honors. This season, Melanie Cobb has won the award three times, while Dos Santos also won the award once.

No matter what, 2004 will go down as the greatest season ever in Mount Olive women's soccer history. But second-year head coach Chris Shaw says his team isn't satisfied with just the records and accolades. They're playing for a championship.

"The girls are having a great season and they want to keep playing," said Shaw. "They feel that they have a legitimate chance of winning it all and they're not satisfied yet."

Senior goalkeeper Heather Ressler, who added to her school single-season and career record with her ninth shutout of the season Saturday night, has been the Trojans' starting goalkeeper all four years. She says she is having the senior season she had hoped for back in August.

"I couldn't ask for a better season or a better team to be a part of," said Ressler. "I'm very excited to play in the tournament and to go out with a bang."

Sophomore defender Val Buchite says the team's attitude has been a major key to success this season.

"We have a lot of positive attitudes on the team this year," said Buchite, who has started in 18 matches this season, including one match at goalkeeper. "Everyone is very focused and I sensed this during the preseason. I felt like we were capable of a top four finish."

Mount Olive, which went winless in conference play last year, becomes only the second team in CVAC women's soccer history to host a quarterfinal-round match in the tournament after not qualifying for the tournament the previous season. Belmont Abbey accomplished the feat in 1996.

Along with a positive attitude, talent and depth have been keys to the Trojans' success this year. Whereas last year the Trojans dressed only 11 players for most contests, this year's squad has 20 players on the roster. And it isn't just a matter of having numbers on the roster - these are players who are putting up big numbers.

Cobb scored 24 goals during the regular season and not only leads the CVAC, but ranks third in the nation in goals per game. The sophomore forward, who is also a forward on the Trojan women's basketball team, played one match last year before opting to focus solely on basketball.

Dos Santos, who had her eight-match goal-scoring streak snapped Saturday, has 18 goals this season, including 12 in her last nine matches. Dos Santos credits the team for her scoring outburst.

"I feel like I've gained more confidence on the field and the atmosphere of the team helps a lot," said the freshman forward, who assisted on the Trojans' game-winning goal Saturday, her seventh assist of the season.

"This is a great bunch of girls. I'm very excited about going into the tournament and I feel like we're going to do well."

The Trojans have started eight freshmen throughout much of the season.

Heidi Philip, who has 16 assists and ranks second in the nation in assists per game, and Kate Painter (nine assists) have been mainstays in the midfield all season. April Jacobs not only has helped Mount Olive's defense limit opponents to 0.70 goals per game but has also been an offensive force as well, scoring seven goals and nine assists. Jacobs says the team is going to try to keep doing what got them to this point.

"We're all very excited and we're ready to play well," said Jacobs, a freshman from Fayetteville. "We just want to do the things we know how to do. We can't wait to play on Tuesday."

Limestone (7-11-0, 4-6-0) is coming off a 2-0 win over St. Andrews Saturday. Limestone, which is making its first appearance in the tournament since 2002, was in danger of not finishing in the top eight and missing the tournament heading into its regular season finale, but Saturday's win lifted the Saints into sixth place. Limestone has three shutouts in its last four conference matches.

Mount Olive defeated Limestone 3-0 October 9 at Trojan Field. The Trojans outshot Limestone 23-4 and Escolas and Jacobs staked Mount Olive to a 2-0 lead, but Limestone goalkeeper Liz Eichhorn kept the Saints in the match with nine saves, including several on almost certain goals.

Dos Santos added a goal in the 84th minute. Freshman Lauren Slattum recorded two assists.

Shaw says Limestone was a tough opponent in the first meeting and will be even tougher Tuesday.

"They have a really talented goalkeeper and a good defense overall," said Shaw. "They've had some good wins down the stretch and I'm sure they're going to want to get some revenge."

Tuesday's contest is one of four first round matches in the CVAC Tournament. Only the top eight finishers in the regular season standings qualify for the tournament. Tuesday's winner advances to the semifinal round Friday against the winner of No. 2 Pfeiffer and No. 7 Anderson.

The semifinals and Saturday's championship match are hosted by Belmont Abbey College.

Mount Olive was picked 11th - out of 11 teams - in the preseason poll back in August. After playing the role of the underdog most of the season, the Trojans enter the first round as the higher-seeded team. But Shaw isn't too concerned about the team's perceived role coming into a match.

"I think being an underdog was a luxury we had this year, even if it wasn't something we necessarily wanted," said Shaw. "But regardless of whether you're the underdog or the favorite, you have to go out there and get a result. And all of that doesn't matter once the whistle blows."

CVAC Women's Soccer

Tournament Quarterfinals

(All games Tuesday at 2 p.m.)

No. 8 Lees-McRae at No. 1 Belmont Abbey

No. 7 Anderson at No. 2 Pfeiffer

No. 6 Limestone at No. 3 Mount Olive

No. 5 Queens at No. 4 Barton

MOC Sports Information