11/07/04 — MOC women win CVAC soccer title

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MOC women win CVAC soccer title

Published in Sports on November 7, 2004 2:03 AM

BELMONT -- The team picked to finish last in the women's soccer conference standings is the team coming home with the championship trophy.

Gina Dos Santos scored two goals and tournament Most Valuable Player Melanie Cobb capped the match with her 28th goal of the season as No. 3 seed Mount Olive defeated No. 8 Lees-McRae 3-1 in the championship match of the 2004 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Women's Soccer Tournament Saturday at Belmont, N.C. The women's soccer championship is the first ever for Mount Olive, which went from a last-lace finish in the conference standings last year to a 20-win season and a conference championship this year.

Also named to the All-Tournament Team for Mount Olive were forward Emily Escolas, midfielders Kate Painter and Lauren Slattum, and sweeper Caitlyn Wright.

Mount Olive (20-3-0) got on the scoreboard less than six minutes into the match when Slattum crossed the ball to Escolas, whose shot attempt deflected off a defender to Dos Santos, who was open for the goal from 15 yards out. The Trojans outshot Lees-McRae 9-1 in the first half and had six corner kicks in the half, but the match remained a one-goal game until the 42nd minute when April Jacobs served the ball to Dos Santos, who lined a 25-yard rocket to give Mount Olive a 2-0 lead at halftime. Dos Santos' two goals give her 20 on the season.

"Gina had two super goals for us today," said head coach Chris Shaw. "Her second goal was one of the best I've seen this season."

Slattum set up the Trojans' third goal of the game when her throw-in from the right sideline in the attacking third went all the way into the box past the Lees-McRae goalkeeper. Cobb captured the ball and was able to walk it into the goal to extend Mount Olive's lead to 3-0. Slattum finished with five assists in three matches in the tournament.

"Lauren did a great job getting us forward and setting up attacks," said Shaw. "She has great athleticism and her throw-ins are tremendous."

With her goal, Cobb not only extended her individual single-season school record, but she eclipsed the previous team high for goals in a season. Mount Olive scored a total of 27 goals in 2000.

"Melanie is an outstanding athlete and she has a nose for the goal," said Shaw. "She has scored big goals for us all year."

Cobb herself was in awe of her accomplishments this season.

"I never imagined having this kind of season," said Cobb, who scored in each of the three tournament games and 14 of her last 17 matches. But Cobb, a member of the Trojan women's basketball team, confesses that she won't have much time for celebration.

"I have basketball practice Sunday at 3," said Cobb, a sophomore from Richlands.

Lees-McRae (4-13-3), which had defeated No. 1 seed Belmont Abbey and No. 4 seed Barton to reach the championship, avoided the shutout in the 75th minute when Heather LaFlamme scored from just to the right of the box to pull the Bobcats within two goals. Lees-McRae almost cut the lead to one three minutes later, but Trojan goalkeeper Heather Ressler made a save on a line shot by Samantha Sturt. The Bobcats made one last threat in the 84th minute, but Ressler was able to smother a loose ball in the box.

Mount Olive outshot Lees-McRae 16-4 for the match. Bobcat goalkeeper Anita Hekman recorded seven saves, while Ressler had three saves for the Trojans.

After enduring three sub-.500 seasons, Ressler, the lone four-year senior on the squad, was still taking in what she and the team had accomplished this year.

"I stayed focused on the game, but the closer it came to the end of the match, the more I couldn't believe it was really happening," said Ressler, a senior from Gahanna, Ohio. "I don't think it's sunk in yet."

"Heather has been a force for us for four years," said Shaw. "I think the girls wanted to win it for her as much as they wanted to win it for themselves."

Ressler got a lot of support from the Trojan defenders on the field, including Wright, who moved to the sweeper position in early October.

The Trojan defense held opponents to 0.69 goals per game this season and allowed only two goals in the tournament. Wright's slide tackle in the box preserved a shutout in Friday's semifinal against Pfeiffer and she helped prevent a late comeback Saturday.

Mount Olive finishes the season with the greatest one-year improvement in NCAA Division II Women's Soccer history. After posting a record of 3-15-0 last year (0-11-0 CVAC), the Trojans improved by 14 1/2 games, shattering the previous record of an 11 1/2-game improvement by Metro State (Colo.) in 2002. Mount Olive ended the season with a seven-match winning streak.

While this year's starting lineup often included as many as eight freshmen, Shaw says this year's success began last year with his seven returning players coming back after enduring a difficult 2003 season, which saw the Trojans dress only 11 players most of the season.

"That's one of the things I tried to stress last year to keep the players we had so we weren't rebuilding every year," said Shaw. "They were instrumental in the team's success this year."

Along with Ressler, the returning players from last year were senior Jamie Brooks and sophomores Emily Anthony, Val Buchite, Kristin Kinnaird, Molly Morrow and Jessica Steffne.

Prior to this season, Mount Olive had qualified for the CVAC Tournament only twice before and had never advanced past the quarterfinal round. In the CVAC Preseason Coaches Poll, Mount Olive was picked 11th - out of 11 teams.

"Finishing third in the conference standings, winning the tournament championship and posting the greatest turnaround in Division II women's soccer history exceeded our greatest expectations," said Shaw. "And probably everyone else's."

"I wanted to end my collegiate playing career with a bang," said Ressler. "But I never imagined in a million years it would end with a conference championship."