Women's Soccer Season Preview

Aug. 24, 2005

ORLANDO, Fla. - After dominating the Atlantic Sun conference for the last 12 seasons, UCF will make the move into Conference USA in 2005. Head coach Amanda Cromwell welcomes the added pressure of a tougher conference.

"Conference USA is a step up from the Atlantic Sun," Cromwell said. "Every weekend we are going to be tested with both games. We are looking forward to the challenge and know that we can be successful in C-USA."

The Golden Knights return 14 letterwinners and eight starters from the 2004 squad. With JoAnna Black, Allie Blagiff and Becca Eshelman graduating, UCF will have to fill the void that was left by the three. Black, Blagriff and Eshelman had a significant impact throughout their career with their offensive and defensive ability and leadership.

Senior goalkeeper Julie Snaman returns for her final season after posting a 15-3-2 record last year with nine saves and a No. 16 ranking in the country in goals-against average (0.62). She is joined by junior Beth Harless along with transfer Jennifer Manis and freshmen Jessie Gardner and Mandi Mawyer.

Harless played in five matches during the 2004 season with three starts. She logged 360 minutes in the net for a 2-1 record with two shutouts, 10 saves and a 0.50 GAA.

"Julie is in a favorable position to be the starter but every year, whether you are a starter or not, you still have to earn your spot in the preseason," Cromwell said. "My expectation is that Julie will come in and be the front runner, but every year we have had talented keepers pushing her like Beth. With talented keepers like Jennifer transferring in and Mandi coming out of high school, we will probably redshirt one of them."

The Golden Knights return a dynamic offensive duo in senior Jennifer Montgomery and sophomore Kendra Flock. The pair combined for 20 goals, eight game-winning goals, nine assists, 49 points and 119 shots.

Joining Montgomery and Flock will be senior Courtney Baines, who played mostly defense last season. Baines recorded five goals, one game-winning goal, 10 assists and was a perfect 4-for-4 for penalty kicks.

"Courtney has a great ability to score goals from all over the field," Cromwell said. "She is one of our best playmakers as far as crossing the ball. Jennifer is a clinical finisher. She has the power from outside and technical ability from up close. Kendra is a very deceptive player. She has been working to improve her shot from the long range."

Adding depth to the forward position will be junior Kristin Bilby and newcomers Michelle DeCespedes, Jessica Newport and Roberta Pelarigo.

Juniors Shannon Wing and Kate McCain and sophomores Kate Begley and Arielle Orr will handle the center mid position. Kristin Bilby will split time between midfield and forward. In addition to the upper classmen, newcomers Erin Hopkins, Lydia Jones and Hanna Wilde will get playing time at midfield.

"Kate McCain is someone who has the ability to score and be a playmaker," Cromwell said. "After being injured last season, I am looking for Kate Begley to get back into the mix of things at center mid. Arielle is another skillful center midfielder, much like McCain. Lydia is someone who could play up front as well as a wing midfielder. A very creative combination will be Hanna and Kristin as attacking center midfielders."

Senior Summer Savage and sophomore Jessica Hallgren will lead the defense in 2005. Savage and Hallgren helped the Golden Knights post 12 shutouts in 2004.

Joining Savage and Hallgren in the backfield will be senior Shania Ross, junior Jessalyn Withers, sophomores Stacey George and Kelsey Kravec and newcomer Jessica Jackson.

"If everyone comes in fit and healthy, it will give us more flexibility in the backfield," Cromwell said. "Summer and Shania will be the senior leaders with Jessica Hallgren adding strength. If there are any injuries, Courtney Baines will probably be in the back."

UCF will be playing some of the top ranked teams in the country during the 2005 season including Florida, Florida State, UAB, Rice, Pepperdine and Loyola College, all of which participated in the NCAA Tournament in 2004.

"We have a lot of home games, which is good, and a lot of tough games," Cromwell said. "We are looking forward to Conference USA and know that we can be successful in the conference."

The Golden Knights open the season at Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara at the end of August.

The squad will then return home for an eight-game homestand in September. UCF will host the UCF Tournament during Labor Day weekend and will take on Ole Miss and Buffalo.

After the tournament, the Golden Knights welcome in-state rivals Florida State, Florida and Florida International in addition to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Loyola.

UCF will make its C-USA debut at home when the team welcomes Southern Miss to Orlando on Sept. 30.

The Golden Knights open October with three road matches, beginning in Boca Raton against former Atlantic Sun Conference rival Florida Atlantic. The squad will then travel to Tulane and UTEP in C-USA action.

During the middle of October, UCF will host C-USA members East Carolina and Marshall. The team plays Miami at home on Oct. 18.

In their last road trip of the season, the Golden Knights travel to Memphis and UAB before finishing out the season at home against Rice and Houston.

The 2005 C-USA Tournament will be hosted by Rice in Houston, Texas from Nov. 2-6. The top eight teams in the regular season standings qualify for the single elimination tournament.