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-----Amy Law will lead NKU in 2006

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - As he enters his 10th season as head coach of the women’s soccer program at Northern Kentucky University, Bob Sheehan ranks fifth all-time in winning percentage (.809) amongst NCAA Division II head coaches.

He has taken teams to the Final Four, guided his Norse to the national championship game in 2000, won six Great Lakes Valley Conference titles and built NKU into one of the country’s elite programs.

Sheehan, however, doesn’t know what to expect from his 2006 team. The GLVC coaches tabbed NKU the overwhelming favorite in the preseason poll, but Sheehan isn’t buying it.

“Our entire starting defense has graduated from last year. We also graduated an All-American striker (Kristen Votapek) from last year,” Sheehan said. “One concern is our youth. We have two seniors, four juniors - two of whom are transfers - four sophomores and 12 freshmen.

“Will our younger players be able to acclimate themselves to the rigors of travel? Will they understand that they have to be prepared to play every game at a high level? Can they adjust to the time demands of intercollegiate competition, and balance these time demands with academics? Can they bring a high work ethic to practice and games on a daily basis?”

Those are some of the questions Sheehan hopes to find answers to early in the season. But if Sheehan's history - which includes a 159-33-12 record in nine years on the NKU sideline - is an indicator, the Norse will be challenging for another trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament by the time November rolls around.

NKU posted a 19-3 record last season and earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Regional. The Norse also captured the GLVC regular-season title and claimed the conference tournament championship.

NKU welcomes back several standout offensive players, including All-GLVC performer Amy Law. A year ago, Law scored 12 goals and added seven assists en route to earning All-Region honors. Sheehan expects even more from his senior leader in 2006.

“I look for Amy Law to have a very productive senior season. She is definitely in the mold of someone like Kendra Zinser, who played her role exceptionally well for three years, and continued to grow and develop as a player, and then absolutely blossomed into a great leader and a goal scorer as a senior,” Sheehan said, comparing Law to NKU’s standout scorer from three years ago.

“I do not want to put any pressure on Amy, but she has the ability to have a very special senior year.”

Shirley Ernst also returns for her senior season, and Sheehan had high praise for the four-year letterwinner.

“Shirley is a special young lady,” he said. “Her work ethic and leadership skills are tremendous.”

-----Jayme Light (left) provides experience

Also returning to the NKU lineup is junior forward Jayme Light, who netted seven goals last season. Light is a great finisher and one of the team’s hardest workers. Junior midfielder Jeanna Goettelman is back after scoring five goals and finishing with eight assists last season. Goettelman earned second team All-GLVC accolades in 2005.

Sophomores Carla Schierloh, Lauren Franzen, Emily Haubner and Alex Armstrong also return. Sheehan said all will benefit from their year of experience and should be improved, though Armstrong – last year’s GLVC Freshman of the Year after scoring 11 goals and adding seven assists – has been battling an injury during the preseason.

Ashley Warndorf returns after suffering a season-ending injury in the third game last fall. A week earlier, Warndorf tied a school record by scoring four goals in a 7-1 win over Concord (W. Va.).

Cara Alldred, a transfer from the University of Cincinnati, will make an impact in the defense and in starting the attack. Freshman Hope Zinser should impact the defense, Sheehan said. Katie Guinn is a technical player in the defense and will contribute.

Sheehan said freshman Jenna Kramer will be the starting goalie. Freshman Brandi Doss is expected to provide minutes at the midfield and forward positions. Ashlee Jett has a strong work ethic and is a versatile player. Jessica Gadd, a transfer from Rhode Island, is a technical player who also can play any position.

Freshman Amy Martini has good strength and will help in the defense and the midfield. Other newcomers who will be provided an opportunity in the midfield and the defense are Dana Fahlbusch, Meghan Moore and Lacey Luttjohann.

“One key to the team will be how much leadership our returning players can provide, and how quickly our newcomers can gain an understanding of what it takes to consistently practice and compete at a high level,” Sheehan said.

NKU is ranked No. 11 nationally in the preseason NCAA Division II poll. The Norse open the season against Concord (W. Va.) on Friday.