Aug. 23, 2004
NKU SOCCER TO RELY ON DEFENSE IN 2004
Norse look to earn sixth straight NCAA Tournament berth
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - That name on the roster isnt a typo, though some Northern Kentucky University womens soccer fans may at first believe it to be a cut-and-paste error in the game program.
Lauren Piening, however, has indeed returned to the NKU womens soccer team. And, yes, its the same Lauren Piening who helped elevate the then-fledgling Norse program into a national power as the teams starting goalie from 1998-2000.
A three-year starter for NKU, Piening earned third team All-America honors in 2000. She was also named All-Great Lakes Valley Conference three times, led NKU to the NCAA Division II Final Four twice and established a school record with 16 shutouts in 1999.
One of the prized recruits for NKU head coach Bob Sheehan in the spring of 1998, Piening was expected to challenge for first team All-America honors in 2001. She was also supposed to help guide the Norse to a national championship that year.
Piening, however, did not return to school for her senior season, and NKUs bid for a national title fell short in the 2001 Final Four. Three seasons have now come and gone since she last guarded the net for NKU.
That will change this fall. After a three-year absence, Piening is battling to become the Norses starting goalie this season. No one is happier with Pienings decision to return to school than Sheehan.
Lauren was a member of our first recruiting class, and we are pleased to have her back to finish her four years on the playing field and ultimately depart Northern Kentucky University with a college degree, Sheehan said. Lauren has tremendous range and agility, and she is a fine goalkeeper.
We have two outstanding goalkeepers in Lauren Piening and Sam Westerling, so we have great quality and depth in goal.
Piening will join a defense that limited opponents to just 17 goals the entire 2003 season. Westerling finished with a 0.75 goals against average last year as NKU posted a 17-3-4 record.
The Norse also advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament for the fifth straight season and finished with a No. 8 national ranking. Defense carried NKU last year, and several familiar faces return to the Norse backfield in 2004.
The NKU defense will feature senior sweeper Robyn Withers, a first team All-GLVC and All-Region performer last season. Withers begins her fourth year as a starter in the NKU backfield, and she could challenge for All-America honors this fall.
Robyn has started every game in her career anchoring the defense, Sheehan said. We expect her to have a terrific senior year.
Also returning to the defense is junior back Ashley McGuffey, who has started the past two seasons. Junior midfielder Katie Hanck scored seven goals and added seven assists en route to earning All-GLVC and All-Region honors last fall. Junior midfielder Amy Martini scored seven goals and tallied 11 assists a year ago and also returns.
Ashley McGuffey is an experienced defender, and we are expecting the same consistency and reliability that she has demonstrated in her first two seasons, Sheehan said. In the midfield or defensive midfield, Katie Hanck brings a tremendous work ethic, and we definitely will count on her. Amy Martini also has a tremendous work ethic combined with power, and we expect another strong season from her.
Newcomers Laura Monterosso and Kristen Lies should also help defensively this season. Amy Tate will add depth in the backfield, and freshman goalie Anna Jones gives NKU another option in the net.
NKU must replace leading scorer Kendra Zinser, who collected 13 goals and seven assists in 2003. Sophomore forward Amy Law, the GLVCs Freshman of the Year last season, is back after scoring eight goals. Junior forward Michelle Kelly returns to the NKU lineup after scoring three goals and adding three assists last fall.
Sheehan said newcomer Kristen Votapek could be an immediate help offensively. A transfer from Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Votapek scored 58 goals in two seasons at the NAIA school.
Kristen should make an impact as a striker, Sheehan said of Votapek, who scored 32 goals at Mount Vernon Nazarene in 2003. She brings speed, quickness, a high-energy level and a high work rate to the game.
Sheehan said freshman Jeanna Goettelman has a high technical level and should make an immediate impact as a midfielder. Returning letterwinners Krista Rogers and Shirley Ernst add experience to the midfield, and both will be counted on this fall.
Freshmen Jayme Light and Michelle Heckman, a pair of talented offensive players, will see playing time at outside midfielder. Jesse Thomas will provide depth in the midfield.
NKU opens the season this Friday (Aug. 27) with a 7:30 p.m. match against Concord (W. Va.) College at the Town & Country Sports Complex in Wilder, Ky.
NKU also faces the University of Findlay on Aug. 29 to wrap up the first weekend of the season. NKU plays host to national powers Tusculum (Tenn.) College and Christian Brothers University the second weekend of the season.
It is extremely important for us to get off to a good start in our pre-conference schedule, Sheehan said. Last year, we were 4-2-1 in the first part of the season and felt that we were one loss away from being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament early in the season. Our goal is to get off to a better start this year.
The Norse open GLVC play Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. with a home match against defending champion University of Wisconsin-Parkside. The Rangers ended NKUs five-year reign as GLVC Tournament champion last season by edging the Norse in a penalty-kick shootout during the finals at Wilder, Ky.
That match with Wisconsin-Parkside is officially recorded as a 1-1 tie, however, and NKU enters the 2004 season with an unbeaten streak of 57 consecutive matches against GLVC opponents. NKU is 51-0-6 against GLVC teams during the past four years.
The Norse have not lost to a GLVC opponent since Oct. 9, 1999, when Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville posted a 3-1 win over NKU.