2004 Women's Soccer Preview
Aug. 16, 2004
After the Lady Tigers lost eight matches last season by one goal, including all seven losses in Conference USA play, fifth-year head coach Brooks Monaghan is hoping that those tough losses will turn into wins this year with an experienced and veteran team under his instruction.
Nine starters and 15 letterwinners return from last year's squad that went 5-10-3 overall and 2-7-1 in C-USA. This includes seven seniors and four juniors.
"On paper, last year's team was probably the strongest that we've had as long as this program has been around," said Monaghan. "Every one of those games we felt we could have won.
"The players definitely realize how close they were last year to being on top and that will help them put in the extra work they need to reach that level."
Three of the Tigers' top four point scorers return as do nine of the 10 players that recorded at least one goal last season. Memphis also adds a total of eight newcomers, including seven freshman and one transfer to the mix. Two redshirt freshmen also return to the active roster after sitting out last season.
"It was unique in that we felt we had a better spring team than we had a fall team last year and that usually does not happen," Monaghan commented. "We return almost everyone on the team and that is important. There are some talented newcomers that will push for playing time but the core of the team is already in place." Forwards
Conference USA's leading goal scorer Yuiko Konno returns for her senior season to anchor the Memphis attack. Konno scored 12 goals and recorded 27 points, which was tied for first in the conference. For her efforts, she garnered All-C-USA first team accoldes and was also named All-Central Region third team by both the NSCAA and Soccer Buzz, becoming the first player in the program's history to garner regional recognition. She was also a 2004 preseason All-C-USA pick.
"Every good team has a goal scorer," said Monaghan. "Yuiko has a knack for scoring goals and is a phenominal technical player. We are expecting big things from her."
Joining Konno up front will be sophomore Madison Cheek. She played in all 18 games last year, starting 10 of them as a freshman. Cheek co-led the team in assists with four and also scored one goal for six points.
Another scoring option the Tigers should have this year is sophomore transfer Shoko Mikami, who comes across town from Christian Brothers University. Mikami led the nation in scoring in Division II last season, racking up 33 goals and also leading the country in goals per game (1.65) and points per game (3.80). She also tallied 10 assists for a total of 76 points.
"Shoko also has a knack for scoring and she showed that last year," commented Monaghan. "I think she will keep teams honest because they will be looking for Yuiko. It is tough to defend against two good goal scorers."
A trio of freshmen will also battle for playing time up front while providing depth at the position. Candace Halvorson, who redshirted last season after suffering a knee injury, as well as true freshmen Caroline Barrett and Carla Scanniello will also figure into the mix. Both Barrett and Scanniello will also see some time in the midfield.
"Candace has a strong spring coming off her injury. We expect big things from her," said Monaghan. "Caroline and Carla are both very athletic and have great speed. We will look to them to contribute from that start." Midfielders
The other All-C-USA honoree from the Tigers last season, junior Nicky McLeod, will anchor the midfield. The only Memphis player to start all 18 games last year, McLeod finished third on the team in points with eight, scoring two goals, both of which were game-winners, and recording four assists, tied for the most on the team. She joined Konno on the 2004 preseason All-Conference team.
"Everyone knows who Nicky is," said Monaghan. "She has good speed and is our workhorse."
A pair of seniors that saw quite a bit of action last year will also figure to see quite of bit of action this year. Susannah Dawells, who started eight games last year, and Annika Moller, who started 11, should provide a large number of minutes as well as invaluable leadership and experience in the middle of the field. Dawells recorded two assists last year while Moller had a goal and three assists, with all three helpers coming in a single game, which tied the conference record.
"Both Sussanah and Annika are leaders, Sussanah on the field, while Annika leads more by example," Monaghan remarked. "Both have improved every year they have been here."
A pair of sophomores that also saw a lot of minutes last year should once again see a lot of time on the field. Melissa Savage playing in all 18 games, starting 16 of them while recording two assists. Classmate Brittany Strung started two games and played in 15, netting a single goal but she will sit out this year as a redshirt after sustaining a knee injury.
Also figuring to see some playing time this year are junior walk-on Heather Wilson, who played in four games a year ago, as well as the freshman trio of Vicki Greenwell, Kelsey Irish, and Halley Jo Sullivan. Defenders
Perhaps the strongest part of the team, the Tiger defense returns all four starters from last year. Led by seniors Leanne McGee, Mary Shelton, Monica Powell, and Jocelyn Raine, the defense also boasts the most experience of any position. McGee played in all but one game last year and started 15 of them while Shelton played in all 18 and started 17. Both also amassed some offensive numbers as well as McGee recorded a single assist and Shelton a single goal. Powell started five games, played in 14, and also recorded a single goal. Raine played 14 games, starting six while recording a goal and an assist.
Adding to the experience in the backfield are junior Courtnee Melton, sophomore Beth Keating, and junior Robyn Smart, who moves to the backfield from forward. Melton was an ironhorse last year, playing in all 18 games while starting 16, while Keating saw action in 16 contests, starting 11. Smart played in all 18 games, starting 14 and scoring a single goal.
Also figuring into the defensive backfield and providing some youthful depth will be Elaine Sedgewick, who can also play in the midfield. She played for the Under-17 National Team in England.
"Our defenders have played together for a long time and are very aware of how each other plays," Monaghan observed. "Our backline should be solid and that should help give our keepers confidence." Goalkeepers
If the defense is the most experienced part of the team, then that experience will be necessary in the development of the goalkeepers, as the goalie position is the most inexperienced part of the team. A pair of freshmen, one true and one redshirt, will compete for the starting goalkeeper position. Neither one has seen a single minute of collegiate action.
Redshirt freshman Isabel Briones was expected to challenge for the starting position a year ago but injured her knee last summer, forcing the redshirt. She made 204 saves in her prep career at Gadsden High School in Gadsden, Ala.
Also contending for playing time will be true freshman Natalie Haerens, who comes to Memphis from Lake Mary, Fla. She recorded a career mark of 41-9-5 and held a 0.71 goals against average at Lake Mary High School.
"The goalkeeper position should be very tightly contested," said Monaghan. "That compeition should help keep them sharp and at their best." Schedule
The Tigers will play a non-conference schedule loaded with regional and in-state opponents in addition to the always challenging Conference USA slate.
After a preseason game against Southeast Missouri State, the Tigers will travel to Alabama A&M to open the season on Sunday, August 29. They will then travel to Oxford, Miss. to take on the Ole Miss Rebels two days later. The Rebels topped the Tigers last season and are one of the two teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year that the Tigers will play this year.
The home opener comes on Sunday, September 5 against the first of three in-state foes, Middle Tennessee State. The Tigers then travel to Tennessee-Martin and host Tennessee Tech later in the week, wrapping up their in-state slate within a week.
The Tigers then travel to Mississippi State on September 14 before returning home for four straight home games, beginning with Missouri Valley Conference opponent Drury on September 17. They then host Samford and begin conference play with defending tournament champion DePaul on September 24. They wrap up non-conference play against another MVC team, Evansville on the 26th.
October will see the Tigers play nine conference games, four at home and five on the road. Memphis will not play Louisville, Southern Miss, or Tulane this year as part of the rotating schedule.
The Conference USA Tournament will feature the top eight teams in the standings at the end of the regular season and be hosted by Saint Louis at Hermann Stadium on the campus of SLU.
For the first time since its opening, the Mike Rose Soccer Complex will be the site of all Memphis Tiger home games, after hosting only conference games since its opening.