Women's Soccer Benefits from Variety on Spring Schedule

April 27, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. (www.UCFAthletics.com) - After enjoying a successful fall season, the UCF women's soccer team wasn't going to rest on its laurels during the spring rather it gave the Knights the opportunity to grow both as individuals and as a group.

"The spring allows for more individual development," said UCF head coach Amanda Cromwell. "Because there are fewer players on our roster, we can try them in different positions, different formations. It also gives injured players time to work their way back into the lineup because there isn't the pressure of preparing for games every weekend."

Although all of the Knights benefited from the spring training program, several did standout. One of those players was sophomore Arielle Orr (Palm Harbor, Fla./Palm Harbor University HS). Consistent in UCF's midfield over the past two years, Orr moved to right back during the spring and flourished. Junior forward Jessica Newport (Forked River, N.J./Lackey Township HS), who missed the fall due to injury, added more depth up front and proved to be a threat on the attack.

Forward Courtney Whidden (Palm Harbor, Fla./Palm Harbor University HS) was one of the rookies who made a significant improvement from fall to spring as she became more accustomed to the college game. Sophomore midfielder Hanna Wilde (Westlake, Ohio/Westlake HS) and junior goalkeeper Jennifer Manis (Pensacola, Fla./Washington HS) - both all-conference honorees - continued to meet the coaches' high expectations.

The spring provided a number of different situations and teams for the players to develop and the challenges began the first day back from winter break when the Knights took on the U.S. Under-17 National Team.

"We played well in the first 20 minutes before our lack of fitness began to show and we fell behind," said Cromwell. "We learned some great lessons throughout the spring season and in that match we learned how important it is follow through with our game plan and remain tactical around the ball."

After a month's worth of training, UCF returned to game competition in February, taking on the alumni before playing in a 7v7 tournament at Stetson, where one of the Knights' two squads lost in the final against Miami.

"The seven a side tournament was good for us," said Cromwell. "With fewer players on the field, it really opened up the game and allowed each athlete to get more touches and more chances to finish."

UCF concluded the spring season in March with three dates of competition that each allowed the players to hone different skills. The Knights opened the month as host of their own 11v11 tournament, which brought USF and Tampa to Orlando, then took on an English club. They capped off the season against Miami.

"The English team we faced was tough and tactical, while we were more athletic and skilled on the ball," said Cromwell. "They were able to get to us because they played a more physical game. We need to learn to be that way."

Cromwell and her staff are looking forward to reaping the benefits from a successful spring when preseason training begins in August. Despite losing the offensive power of two-time first-team all-conference honoree Roberta Pelarigo, the Knights return four of their top five goal-scorers. With the addition of some promising freshmen and transfers, UCF is aiming to be at the top of the Conference USA standings for the third consecutive season.

"We really have a diverse group of players who can contribute all over the field," said Cromwell. "The preseason is going to key to figuring out how each one fits into the puzzle to help our team excel."