2007 UCF Women's Soccer Season Preview with Head Coach Amanda Cromwell

Aug. 21, 2007

ORLANDO (ucfathletics.com) - It has not taken long for the UCF women's soccer team to evolve into a Conference USA power. In just two seasons, the Knights have a combined 15-2-1 league mark and shared the regular-season title in 2005. But there is always a hunger for more.

UCF completed 2006 on a wild journey. Its last three matches all went into double overtime, highlighted by a 2-1 triumph over No.15 SMU on CSTV. But UAB stole a 2-1 decision in the Knights' first game in the C-USA Championship, leaving the Black and Gold with an 11-6-2 record.

Now that 2007 has finally arrived, UCF's first task will be against a pair of Big Ten squads in Minnesota and Penn State at the Tennessee Lady Vol Classic Aug. 31-Sept. 2. In all, six NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago appear on the schedule, including a home match-up on Sept. 22 with Florida State, who advanced to the NCAA College Cup.

With a difficult schedule in place, UCF is fortunate to have an extremely talented group of players at each position. Head coach Amanda Cromwell takes a look at this year's team with a Q&A session:

What are your first thoughts of your five seniors?
The combination of the seniors makes a tremendous class. They are great people who are competitors and have a desire to take this team to the conference championship. They have the leadership abilities, they communicate well and individually they will have an impact on the field.

Goalkeeper Jennifer Manis is returning after a great year. Last season she was selected second-team all-conference but I know she was not satisfied. Jenny and the whole defensive unit want to get more shutouts this season. It's a nice feeling to know we have no worries with her back there.

Arielle Orr has played all over the midfield her whole career. In the spring she had some great games while playing outside back. So we found a niche for her and it has stuck. Arielle is very skillful on the ball, she's a smart defender, she's very fit and can get up and down the field.

Kate Begley has just been a warrior. She's dealt with a lot of injuries in her career. It would have been easier for her to give up, but she has persisted and persisted and that is just the type of person she is. Begley has a huge heart and loves to compete. We look for her to play defensive center mid or at center back.

Jessica Newport has also battled injuries. She didn't play a minute last year and two years ago she played the first few games and then couldn't play again until the conference tournament. This year we are looking for her to come in and be a spark in the attack. Newport is very deceptive and can score goals in bunches.

Kelsey Kravec is one of those defenders you don't want to play against. She is tenacious and very fast. Even though she is one of our smaller players she is very hard to beat one-on-one because she is so tough and determined. I know she is ready to have a breakout year in this league.

What are your thoughts on being voted second in the C-USA Preseason Poll for the third-straight year?
We go into every season thinking we have the chance to win both a regular season and tournament championship. We actually look at the last two years as underachieving a bit. Last year we were just a goal away from being co-champions again because we had a tie in our last game and a win would have given us a share of the title. We then lost in double overtime in the conference tournament. We've had some disappointments, but we've only lost two regular season conference games the last two years. We expect a lot from each other and we go into every season hoping to be undefeated in conference play and to be the team to beat in the conference tournament.

Roberta Pelarigo wrapped up her senior year last season. How do you replace your top scorer?

Becca Thomas was second on the team last year with 12 points.

I think this year, even more than the last two years, we will be scoring by committee. We won't be looking to just one player, but we hope somebody will step up and score in double-digits this season. It's always nice to have a 15-20 goal scorer, but the great thing about this year, though, is we return five of the top six point scorers from last year. We expect those players to increase their numbers.

Hanna Wilde, for example, is very crafty on the ball and creates a lot of opportunities for other players and herself. Becca Thomas can score from anywhere. If she's 30 yards out, the keeper has to be ready because Becca has scored many times from long distance. Courtney Whidden and Brianna Schooley were rookies last year who took some time at first transitioning to the college game, but then started to find their way midseason and they ended up having a significant impact in late-season games. I know C-USA teams will notice them early this season as they will be generating points in the attack. Sarah de Leon is a defender who had two goals and two assists last year, and our outside backs will definitely contribute to the attack. We will look to Yvonne George to produce assists and score some goals as a flank midfielder. Yvonne has had a productful preseason and she is another player C-USA teams don't know much about.

How are the newcomers shaping up?
When we recruit players, we always want athletic and versatile players. So some of these girls, such as Amanda Martorana, might have been forwards in high school or with their club team but then they will play in the back or in midfield for us. Amaka Ofuani played forward for Armstrong Atlantic State University and scored a bunch of goals. She is a physical threat up front but we think her best position for us could be in the defense or in the midfield since she is a good ball-winner. Danielle Dos Santos has been one of the best finishers in the first week of training. She has the ability to score from all angles while using all surfaces of her foot. Kacie Horner is another striker who will find the back of the net for us. She has the uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time.

What about your four goalkeepers?
Jennifer Manis is the returning all-conference starter. The other keepers are competing to make sure they are ready, but they know this is Manis' position this year. They all have great attitudes and are willing to push

Senior keeper Jennifer Manis started all 19 matches last season, recording four shutouts.

each other to the limit. Jessie Gardner has improved as much as any keeper who I have seen at UCF. Assistant coach Donna Fishter has done a great job with her and Jaclyn Meade. Jaclyn transferred to UCF in the spring season and we expect her to blossom into a quality keeper as well. Aline Reis makes up for her size with her tremendous athleticism and she brings an international sophistication to the game that we haven't seen in this position before.

How important are associate head coach Colby Hale and assistant coach Donna Fishter to this team?
"Donna does a great job training our keepers, getting them mentally ready for the game and instilling a lot of confidence in them. She has taken the reigns in getting the defense and keepers organized so they form a more cohesive unit. She, as much as anyone, wants those shutouts. Donna also leads off the field activities such as leadership development and team bonding. Colby does a great job working with our attacking unit to ensure that we have goal production. He is so competitive that he takes it personally if we don't score a goal in a game. The girls really enjoy the energy and knowledge he brings to the team. Having them on my staff is a blessing for me and for the players. We have a lot of fun together and we as a staff really enjoy our time with this team."

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