Aug. 6, 2001
TALENTED NKU SEEKS NATIONAL TITLE
Norse return nine starters from NCAA II national runner-up team
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - It was an unmistakable sign that Northern Kentucky University had arrived as a national powerhouse in womens soccer.
NKUs 5-1 victory over previously unbeaten, then-No.1 ranked Barry (Fla.) University in last seasons NCAA Division II Final Four did more than just send the Norse into the NCAA Division II national championship match. It also extinguished any lingering doubts regarding NKUs ability to beat the nations elite teams.
NKU crushed the top-ranked Buccaneers on their home field at Miami Shores, Fla., with one of the most dominating performances in the history of the NCAA Division II Final Four. The Norse, making their second straight appearance in the Final Four, earned a berth in the national championship match with the victory.
Just four years removed from being a club sport, the NKU womens soccer program was one win away from capturing the NCAA Division II national title.
NKU dropped a heartbreaking 2-1 decision to the University of California at San Diego in the NCAA Division II national championship match two days later, but there was no question the Norse had established themselves as one of the national powers in NCAA Division II women's soccer.
With about 45 seconds left against UC San Diego, we had a shot that everyone thought would be the winning goal, but they made a nice save, NKU head coach Bob Sheehan said, reflecting back on the final seconds of the national championship match.
About 30 seconds later, UC San Diego scored and won the national championship. We went from the elation of thinking we had won, to the agony of realizing we had lost in about 30 seconds. Thats how close we were to winning it all.
NKU posted a 21-2-2 record last season and did not lose a match during the months of September, October and November. The Norse finished with a No. 2 national ranking, the best in the programs four-year history.
As the 2001 season approaches, there is little reason to believe NKUs reign is about to end. The Norse return nine starters, including seven seniors who have been in the lineup for three years. NKU also brought in a pair of top-notch recruits as it attempts to win its fourth consecutive Great Lakes Valley Conference championship and earn its third straight berth in the NCAA Division II Final Four.
Our team was very balanced last season, and our defense was outstanding, Sheehan said. Hopefully, we will feature more of the same this year.
The Norse return NCAA Division II first team All-Americans Betsy Moore and Tricia Ruark to the lineup in 2001. Moore, a senior forward and a graduate of McAuley High School in Cincinnati, enters her final season as NKUs all-time career leader in goals with 52. She also ranks No. 2 in school history with 31 assists. A year ago, Moore scored a team-leading 15 goals.
Ruark, a senior midfielder and a graduate of Seton High School in Cincinnati, earned GLVC Player of the Year honors last season after scoring 11 goals and recording 20 assists.
Tricia and Betsy are tremendous soccer players, and theyre both four-year starters, Sheehan said. Tricia had a sensational season as a junior, and Betsy overcame some injuries early to have another fine year.
NKU returns another potential All-American in senior defender Amanda Trout, a graduate of Northwest High School in Cincinnati who earned All-GLVC and All-Region honors last season. One of the most versatile players in the GLVC, Trout will be a key in the Norse backfield this year. She also scored nine goals and had eight assists last season.
Amanda is our stopper on defense, but she also has the ability to be an effective offensive player, Sheehan said.
Junior forward Bessie Black scored 12 goals and returns to the NKU lineup. Senior midfielder Jeanna Martin scored eight goals last season and is also back. Martin earned both All-GLVC and All-Region honors a year ago.
Senior Lori Kevill had four goals and seven assists last season, and junior Jill Johannigman (three goals, four assists) will also be a factor. Junior Kristen Noakes is another fine offensive player (seven goals, three assists), while sophomore Kendra Zinser and juniors Molly Eagan and Hope Bushelman will be key players in 2001. NKU also welcomes back sophomore midfielder Carey Hebbeler, who sat out as a redshirt a year ago.
We have experience and depth up front and in the midfielder positions, and its nice to have a number of talented players who have been in big games, Sheehan said.
Newcomers such as Stephanie Sandfoss, a transfer from Morehead State University, and freshman Bobbi Meister should make NKU even stronger this season. Sandfoss scored 14 goals and had seven assists for Morehead State last year. Meister is a strong, physical player who could make an immediate impact.
The NKU defense - which accounted for 13 shutouts a year ago - will feature Trout, senior Eva Broeg, sophomore Becky Schnieders and senior Jennifer Wilhelm. NKU also brought in freshman sweeper Robyn Withers, who could start this season.
NKU must replace third team All-American Lauren Piening at goalkeeper, and former Norse basketball standout Jessica Jenson figures to start in the net.
Jenson earned four letters in basketball at NKU and helped the Norse win the 2000 national championship. Though she has not played soccer in college, Sheehan said he believes Jenson has the ability to help his team this season.
Jessica is extremely athletic, she is very tall (6-foot-1), and thats a good combination for a goalie, Sheehan said. She has very good quickness, and we think she's going to do a good job.
Junior Megan Zalla will provide depth at goalie for the Norse.
The Norse will play a pair of Division I teams - at Ohio University on Aug. 17 and Xavier University on Aug. 19 at the Town & Country Sports Complex in Wilder, Ky. - in preseason exhibition matches.
NKU will begin the regular season Aug. 24 at 4 p.m. against Northwood (Mich.) University in a match that will be played at University Center, Mich.