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Tech looking forward to new season
Hokies set to open season Friday
August 26, 2004

BLACKSBURG, Va. - If the Virginia Tech women's soccer team was looking for a theme or word to forecast its upcoming 2004 soccer season, that word would be new. The Hokies will begin play in their new conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, with many new faces on the team. The new look Hokies open their season against neighboring Radford University at the Virginia Tech Soccer Stadium on Friday night at 7 p.m.

Under the guidance of first-year head coach Kelly Cagle, the Hokies finished their final season in the BIG EAST Conference with a 9-9-0 record, tying the program record for most wins in a season. However, many of the key contributors on that team graduated, including the program's all-time leading scorer, Emily Barnhart.

A total of 16 players departed off of last season's team, opening up space for the next generation of Hokies to step in and make a name for themselves. For Tech's inaugural season in the ACC, the 10 returning players will have the help of the 24th-ranked recruiting class in the nation according to SoccerBuzz.com.

"Those returning have re-dedicated themselves, and the newcomers are anxious to get out there and prove themselves," Cagle said. "The BIG EAST was a great conference to prepare for this jump, but what competitive person wouldn't want to be in the top conference in the country? We're salivating at the chance to match-up with the teams in the ACC."

Goalkeepers

Mallory Soldner came in as somewhat of an unknown as a freshman last season and blew everyone away with her ability. Soldner saw action in all 18 of Tech's games, collecting 93 saves and five unassisted shutouts. She was a big reason the team finished at the .500 mark.

Soldner figures to feel some competition from freshman Ashley Owens. The 5-foot-10 freshman from Western Guilford High School in Greensboro, N.C., led her team to the state championship in 2002 and the semifinals in 2003.

"There will be great competition in every position this year, and the goalkeeping position is no different," Cagle said. "Mallory logged very valuable minutes for us last season, and comes in as our starting goalkeeper. That being said, with Ashley's experience both at the club and ODP levels, she has the ability to impact the goalkeeping position immediately. We are very lucky to have two extraordinary athletes and people vying for the starting goalkeeping role."

Defenders

The back line will be a cast of young players vying for time. Junior Kjersti Trout saw some time in the back last season and impressed the coaches with her athleticism and man-marking abilities. She is versatile enough to play almost any spot on the field and may be called on for defense given her experience there.

Junior Ashley Stoutland also saw some time as a defender last year. Stoutland has good athleticism, making her capable of contributing at various positions on the field.

Freshmen Mary Elizabeth Newton, Meghan Devine, Lindsay Alexander, Ashley Kinser and Jordan Parsels will also challenge for spots, and have the ability to impact this team immediately. Senior Sarah Kammerer, who was Tech's best defender in the spring, will also see time as a defender.

"As in any other position on the field, there will be an intense battle for playing time going into the first scrimmage and will continue throughout the season."

Midfielders

Junior Molly McCall returns to Tech's midfield after a sophomore campaign in which she was Tech's most consistent midfielder. McCall has a tremendous work ethic and is what the coaching staff calls a "busy bee."

Next to McCall could be freshman Kristen Verbit. The coaches feel Verbit would be a good compliment to McCall.

Kristel Jacobsen, as well as freshmen Heather Hallberg, Lauren Pope, Elizabeth Guise, Meredyth Gehrig and Gina Om, will vie to contribute in the midfield as well.

Shannon Poach is a solid player on the left side of the midfield. A true left-sided player, Poach possesses a dangerous shot from that side. The junior saw action in 17 games last season, tallying one goal and two assists.

"She is great in one-on-one situations and a great server," Cagle said. "Hopefully, she's prepared this summer to contribute the way the coaching staff expects her to, because she could be an ACC-caliber player."

"Erin Moore comes to Tech as a seasoned right-midfielder from one of the best club teams (Bethesda Excel) in the country, and will impact our midfield immediately," stated Cagle. Others that will vie for time at the outside-midfield position are Nina Figueroa, Stoutland and Gehrig.

Forwards

Senior Ryan Johnson is one of Tech's best returning forwards. She is fast and can punish defenders by getting behind them. The coaching staff was really impressed with her development last season both on and off the field.

Cagle is also excited about freshman Ashley Stinson out of North Cobb High in Acworth, Ga. At 5-6, Stinson is good in the air and boasts a tremendous work ethic. She is a creative goal scorer who finds a way to put the ball in the back of the net.

Trout, Poach, Kammerer and junior Andrea Angelos could all be factors up top as Cagle looks to get her best scoring threats on the field.

Freshman Rachel Young from Wootton High in Gaithersburg, Md., figured in the mix here until she tore her ACL. If and when she returns, Young is capable of playing anywhere on the field.

Schedule

This season, the Hokies move from the BIG EAST Conference, which placed six teams in the NCAA Tournament last season, to the ACC, which placed seven teams in the tournament. The ACC is widely regarded as the best soccer conference in the country and is home to the University of North Carolina, last season's undefeated national champion. Consequently, the Hokies will be facing off against many new opponents this season.

The women's soccer program will have the privilege of being the first Tech team to compete in an ACC contest when the Hokies travel to Maryland on Sept. 3. The Terrapins will be just the first in a grueling set of tests that the Hokies must face. In addition to ACC foes UNC, Duke, Florida State, Virginia, Wake Forest and Clemson, all of whom made the field of 64 in 2003, Tech will take on conference rivals N.C. State and Miami.

"I truly believe it's the best soccer conference in the country for women," Cagle said. "They've been beating each other up for 15 years and they play tough schedules in and out of conference. We will grow quickly in this conference playing against the best teams in the country."

Out of conference, things don't get much easier. The Hokies travel to Ohio State for a tournament in early September where they will take on the Buckeyes and the Dayton Flyers, two other NCAA Tournament participants. Tech will also serve as the host for its own tournament in mid-September, welcoming Howard, the College of Charleston and Liberty.

Overall, nine of the 18 teams the Hokies face this fall participated in the NCAA Championship last year.

A new conference, many new teams and many new faces. One thing however, will not be new, and that is Cagle's expectation for her team.

"We have lofty goals as we enter into the ACC," Cagle said. "There is no better time for Virginia Tech women's soccer than right now. This is the team that will put its footprint on this program as we compete to become one of the best teams in the country."

So with all of the things that will be new and exciting about Virginia Tech women's soccer this season, Cagle hopes to add a new and exciting tradition of winning to that list.
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