08/22/06 — Lady Trojans rising to the top

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Lady Trojans rising to the top

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on August 22, 2006 2:29 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Seniors Emily Anthony and Molly Morrow have been winners for a majority of their careers at Mount Olive.

The Trojans won the CVAC tournament title during their sophomore campaign in 2004 and advanced all the way to the championship game one year ago before falling, 1-0 to Pfeiffer.

Before those two seasons, there was "THAT year," as Anthony referred to her freshman year. In 2003, also head coach Chris Shaw's first season, Mount Olive had just 13 players and finished at 3-14 overall and 0-10 in the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference.

What a difference a few years make.

In 2006, Shaw returns nine starters -- including three, two-time All-CVAC selections -- and has 23 total players on the roster.

"Neither one of us (Anthony and Morrow) had experienced a losing season, because we come from very strong high school programs," Anthony said. "That was a very humbling experience. Then we won the CVAC as sophomores and since then it's been growing. But if you never experience the bad, you don't appreciate winning as much."

Anthony and Morrow, the Trojans' co-captains, are the first two players to play four years under Shaw. They hope to go out with a bang and continue to help build the once-fledgling MOC women's program into a CVAC and regional power. With the amount and quality of retention -- mixed with a handful of newcomers -- Shaw likes his teams' chances to be back at the top in 2006.

"At this point, we're just trying to maintain that level and try to get to the next level ... the NCAA tournament," Shaw said. "We always want to be one of the top 2 or 3 teams in the CVAC. If we can maintain that, we'll be happy."

The Trojans were 14-9 overall and 8-3 in league play before their run to the tournament finals in 2005. They were picked to finish fourth and just one point behind third-place Barton in the 2006 CVAC preseason coaches poll. Belmont Abbey and Pfeiffer were picked one and two, respectively.

On top of the competitive league slate, Shaw has put together "our toughest schedule yet" during non-conference play. MOC opens with three straight on the road starting Saturday at Millersville (Pa.) and Sunday at Goldey-Beacom (Del.) before taking on Division I South Carolina State on Aug. 29. Regional opponents Catawba, UNC-Pembroke and Wingate are also on the Trojans' schedule.

"We're looking forward to this schedule," Shaw said. "We have a squad with better retention and making things tougher by the end of the season assures we are in good form and can make a run."

If the Trojans do make a run, they will have a chance to finish it on their home field as the CVAC tourney is Oct. 27 and 28 at Trojan Field.

"It would be awfully nice to play in the finals in front of a home crowd after being on the road the last two years," Shaw said. "The goals are to have a successful season, be competitive in the CVAC and be peaking at the right moment."

Shaw is 37-27 overall during his tenure but 34-12 the last two years.

On the attack

Mount Olive scored 80 goals in 23 games last year (3.5 per outing) led by the efforts of the school's all-time leading goal scorer and All-CVAC performer, junior Gina Dos Santos (19 goals, 6 assists), and sophomore Lyndsay Brennan (16 goals, 10 assists).

Both juniors Emily Escolas added seven goals and four assists, while Kate Painter contributed four goals and six assists. Another junior, Caitlyn Wright, played most of her minutes on defense last year but will likely see time at forward. Anthony played in four games as a junior and will offer solid leadership.

Newcomers Jenna Gudac, a former North Johnston standout, and Lauren Condon (Fayetteville Pine Forest) will add to the depth and prowess up front.

"We've got Gina back, who has scored 20 and 19 the last two years and Brennan, who had 16 last season," Shaw said. "Kate Painter is creative on the ball. We've got a lot of experience and goals coming back, and the young freshman have shown a lot of promise. I would have to say that the forward position is where we have the most depth on the team."

In the middle

Juniors April Jacobs and Jessica Smoot are back and are essentially coaches on the field. Jacobs, the Trojans' first-ever, two-time All-Region selection, had 13 assists and six goals last year. Smoot wasn't far behind with 11 goals and five assists.

"April is now a junior. She has the experience and knows the expectations," Shaw said. "Smoot is coming off a good freshman year, but we're looking for more consistency and leadership out of her."

In MOC's 3-4-3 alignment, freshmen Stephanie Behrend -- a Rosewood product and the 2006 News-Argus co-player of the year -- and Nia Celata (Fayetteville Southview), along with red-shirt sophomore Carly Lavallee should also challenge for playing time. Escolas and Gudac, both outside forwards, can also drop back and play outside midfield.

Stopping the attack

Much like forward and midfield, the Trojans feature a mixture of experience and young talent on defense.

Portia Taylor is coming off a solid freshman year, while Lauren Slattum played in 2004 but sat out last season and returns for her sophomore campaign. Freshman Kirsten White from Canada should occupy the central defensive position. Morrow played in 12 games as a junior, and Dani Boyes -- a freshman from Gloucester, Va. -- will also push for a spot.

"We've always had a good mix the last two years," Shaw said. "I've always said if freshman is good enough to start, I don't discriminate based on their year. We'll put the best 11 on the field every game."

Ali O'Steen is the most experienced goalie in the program as the sophomore played in 11 games and started in five behind Heather Ulep. Amanda Huber (Winterville South Central) may push O'Steen for playing time.

The Trojans gave up less than 1.5 goals per game and posted seven shutouts in 2005.