Women's soccer opens exhibition season Friday night at home with Miami (Ohio)
Start time set for 7 p.m.
August 16, 2007
BLACKSBURG, Va. - The Virginia Tech women's soccer team opens its two-game preseason schedule Friday night at 7 p.m. in Virginia Tech Soccer Stadium with the Miami Redhawks. Live stats will be available on www.hokiesports.com/wsoccer. Scouting Report: Miami Miami visits Blacksburg for the first time since the Mid-American Conference member lost to Virginia Tech 2-0 at home in Oxford, Ohio, in a 2003 regular-season match. The Redhawks finished the 2006 season with an 8-10-2 (4-5-2 MAC) record and return seven starters. They will be looking this year to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since losing to Michigan in the second round in 2002. In the Preseason Polls The Hokies were picked to finish eighth out of 11 schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference by the league's head coaches in the annual preseason poll. Last season, the ACC sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament and two schools to the NCAA College Cup. Soccer Buzz ranks Virginia Tech ninth out of 47 schools in its annual top-15 Mid-Atlantic Region preseason poll, which was released earlier this week. The women will be facing a demanding schedule this year as seven opponents are ranked in the top-30 national preseason poll with four squads in the top-15. Four other opponents are ranked along with Tech in the Mid-Atlantic region poll. However, despite the challenges that lay ahead, the Hokies will have the advantage of hosting six of those teams at Virginia Tech Stadium, including non-conference opponent No. 24 Tennessee and ACC rivals No. 1 North Carolina, No. 8 Florida State and No. 13 Boston College. Tech returns this season with 10 starters and will be bolstered with an incoming class of highly talented freshmen. The group ranked No. 34 on Soccer Buzz's 2007 Top 100 Recruiting Classes and No. 5 in the Mid-Atlantic poll. Tech Records Watch As the season progresses, several Hokies have the opportunity to move up the Tech career-record holder charts. Senior Erin Moore has totaled 14 assists with the Hokies to currently hold the lead, but she is closely followed by sophomore Julian Johnson, who finished third last season after setting an individual single-season assist record with 12. Johnson is currently tied with Jessica Myers (2000-03) and one behind Emily Barnhart (2000-03) at second. Junior Laurie Beth Puglisi currently sits at eighth on the same list with eight assists, but she also has an opportunity to move up in other charts after leading the team last year in points with 21 off seven goals and seven assists. She currently holds the ninth position in career points with 32 and needs only 16 to move past Victoria Sarfo-Kantanka (1998-2001) for second. Barnhart holds the most with 61 points total. Puglisi also can move up in the goals category. Currently 10th with 12 goals, she will only need 13 goals within two years to surpass Barnhart, who leads with 24. 2006 Postseason Awards Several Hokies were honored at the end of the 2006 season for their accomplishments on and off the field. Puglisi became just the fourth Hokie ever to earn All-Mid-Atlantic Region honors (third team). She was also named to the ACC All-Academic Team along with seniors Heather Hallberg and Ashley Kinser. Johnson made her mark last year, leading the ACC in assists per game (0.67) and finishing tied for third overall in the same category in the NCAA. She earned ACC All-Freshman and Mid-Atlantic Region All-Freshman honors for her success. Roster Breakdown Fifth-year head coach Kelly Cagle along with second-year assistant coaches Charles "Chugger" Adair and Michael Lovett will be leading a squad this year that returns with 10 starters and 16 letterwinners, the most during Cagle's tenure at Virginia Tech. They will be joined by 10 talented newcomers that will hope to continue Cagle's streak of having a player named to the All-ACC freshman team since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004. Goalkeepers Redshirt-junior and team captain Ashley Owens takes over the position after the departure of Mallory Soldner, who left Virginia Tech as the career leader in wins (28) and shutouts (20). Owens remained patient the last two years, improving each time she took to the field and then earning more playing time last year as she helped record two shutouts against Radford and Maryland. She had her first career start against North Carolina, holding the eventual national champions to only one goal with a career high seven saves, and finished the season with a 1.08 goals against average and .812 saves percentage in nine appearances, including three starts. Sophomore Stephanie Balanoff and sophomore-transfer Mallory Kimsey from High Point University will be competing for playing time this season. The two Florida natives did not see any action last season but will be ready at any point to provide depth. Defenders The Hokie defense features the most experienced group of players as seniors Erin Moore and Mary Elizabeth Newton with junior Kim Hickey started in 17 of 18 games together. The crew had its ups and downs early in the year but gelled together as they only gave up 11 goals in the last nine games, including three shutouts. Four-year starter Moore is the backbone of the defense as she has an excellent knack of getting the ball out of the back and moving it forward. Last season, she even scored two goals against East Tennessee St. and assisted on the game-winning goal against High Point. Hickey will anchor from the center while team-captain Newton will provide support at left back. Senior Lindsay Alexander has started in 41 of 48 games she's appeared in during her career and with sophomores Kristi Sieber and Megan Strawther, will provide significant depth to the Hokies' line of defense. Midfielders The central position will be led by senior team captain Heather Hallberg, who is hoping to finish her career with her first injury-free season since 2004 when she had four game-winning goals in 19 starts and the Hokies' only goal in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, she helped direct traffic in 10 starts. Senior Gina Om will also contribute but like Hallberg has dealt with past injuries. Last year, she started 11 games and had game-winning goals against Radford and UNC Greensboro. Mauri Liberati has started all 37 games the past two years and is developing into a quicker decision maker. She scored one goal last season against Florida State. The wingers on the outside will be a mixture of experience and youth in what Cagle believes will play a pivotal role if the team is to have success this year. Senior Ashley Kinser and sophomore Robin Chidester, the best one-on-one dribbler on the team, are two of the fittest athletes on the squad and their relentlessness will be needed to put pressure on the competition. Both women scored goals against a nationally ranked Boston College before the match ended in a tie. Junior Mallory Jones and sophomore Ashley Seldon will compete for playing time at the left and right wing. Forwards The offensive side of the squad returns with a talented and young group of players that will only continue to grow and develop as an offensive force. Junior Laurie Beth Puglisi has already proven to be one of the top offensive-minded players to put on a Hokie uniform and will only get stronger in her remaining two years. Last season, she finished seventh in the ACC in points per game (1.17) and showed her tenacity going after headers. She has also grown as a leader and will be relied on to dominate the front part of the field. Sophomores Julian Johnson and Emily Jukich made strong contributions last season starting and coming off the bench. Johnson had an important year, as it was her first healthy season without interruption in four years. She showcased her strength with throw-ins that traveled up to 40 yards and led the squad with 12 assists, breaking the team's single-season assist record and finishing tied for third in the country with most assists per game (0.67). Jukich tied Puglisi with a team high seven goals in only 16 games and had the team's only hat trick of the season against Radford. As both continue to gain more experience, they will become high-powered point machines in the Hokie arsenal. Newcomers The coaching staff will welcome nine freshmen to this year's team. One of Cagle's objectives this past offseason was to find more speed, and she believes this crop more than delivers. Meghan Flesch and Stephanie Hylton were both ranked in the Top 150 of 2007 Recruits by Soccer Buzz and will immediately compete for playing time at the midfield position. Kelly Lynch provides Cagle versatility with the ability to contribute at any position. Marika Gray always has her eye on the goal and will develop into a strong goal scorer. Kelsey Billups, Jessica Varela and Roanoke product Jennifer Harvey will also provide quality depth to the forward and midfielder positions in what Cagle believes is her deepest team since she arrived in Blacksburg.