2008 UCF Women's Soccer Season Preview with Amanda Cromwell

Aug. 19, 2008

There is always a lot of anticipation for the UCF women's soccer team to get a new season underway. That certainly is the case for 2008. Coming off their 12th NCAA Tournament appearance and a 15-4-4 record, the Knights have a lot to look forward to this year.

To examine the 2008 squad, head coach Amanda Cromwell lends her thoughts in an in-depth Q&A session.

Yvonne George and Courtney Whidden surprised a lot of teams last year. Now that opponents know what they are capable of, will it be tougher for that duo to duplicate their performances this season?
I am sure opponents will key on them because of some of the success they had last year, but we really pride ourselves on our ability to attack as a team. Yvonne has a lot of athletic ability and certainly has the ability to stretch defenses which helps. Courtney is a true goal scorer and led the team in goals scored. They combine well together and we are glad to have them back for the next couple of years. They understand that this is a new year and for us to have success it is going to have to be a total team effort.

How comfortable are you knowing that the majority of the attack is back?
Having the top nine point scorers back is a positive but we never want to rely on past results. We are going to have to work harder to be creative and more efficient in the attacking third. We have Hanna Wilde on the left flank who is very dangerous with the ball at her feet. Brianna Schooley can be a top-class playmaker out of the attacking midfield. And Nikki Moore gets up and down the flank from her right back position. We are excited about the possibilities for sure. It's very exciting to have the tools and personnel to be able to score more goals than last year. That will be our goal.

Becca Thomas was another sparkplug in 2007, so what do you expect from her now that she's a junior?
Becca led us in assists and strikes a very good ball from distance. Last year her quality service was a huge factor in our success in attacking set pieces. She's probably our fittest player. She is the engine in the midfield and is a key factor in both the attack and defense.

Who might have a breakout season in 2008?
Danielle Dos Santos comes to mind. She has gained confidence and really had a great spring. She is fit, deceptive and loves to play the game. Emily Maynard transferred in from Maryland and she could play a big role this year. She is versatile enough to play anywhere on the field and her work rate is tremendous. She serves a great ball, loves to take players on and may be one of the most competitive players on the team. Amanda Martorana and Amaka Ofuani could fill some key spots in the defense. We have some rookies coming in that will be involved in the attack and defense as well.

Out of the newcomers, who do you expect to have a shot at entering the starting lineup, and do you prefer having freshmen start immediately or come off the bench?
We are very excited about our incoming players. We can see Katie Jackson, Stacie Hubbard, Kaci Kratch and Sheri Hince all making a strong case to start. We would love to see them step up and compete to start right away but there are some upperclassmen that might have something to say about that. Our rookies, if they are good enough, will certainly be given the opportunity to play as freshmen. I believe they will add something to the foundation of returning players that will help us reach our goals.

Becca Thomas and the Knights will be kicking off the season Friday at No. 4 FSU.

Are you concerned about the loss of goalkeeper Jennifer Manis and defenders Kelsey Kravec, Kate Begley and Arielle Orr?
Replacing a goalkeeper like Manis is never easy. We have four keepers who we have full confidence in, and we look forward to seeing which one steps up and wins the position. Kelsey was such a solid center back for us. She had a great year with her speed, athleticism and ability to recover well. It was the same thing with Arielle at left back. She was so composed with the ball, defended well and had a lot of speed. Begley really did a good job of winning balls in the midfield to allow the attacking players the freedom to attack. Obviously losing three key defenders and your goalkeeper at the same time is not ideal, but hopefully we recruited well enough to fill those spots.

We have experienced players in Martorana and Ofuani who played defense for us last year and Maynard could be back there as well. Two players that received a lot of starts were Christina Petrucco and Sarah de Leon. Petrucco played really well but didn't start late because of an injury. Sarah came back from her injury, earned the starting spot back and played very well in the back. Nikki Moore attacked out of the right back position and is a handful for other teams to deal with. She's one of our best defenders and fastest players.

With four keepers on the roster, do you hope to have a platoon or will you be looking for a solid No. 1 for the whole year? Also, is it tough having so many goalkeepers on the roster?

I think ideally we'd like to have one player step up and secure the (GK) position but if it ends up being a situation where we are splitting time there may be some advantages to that as well. Amanda Cromwell

I think ideally we'd like to have one player step up and secure the position but if it ends up being a situation where we are splitting time there may be some advantages to that as well. Stephanie Gagnon will redshirt, and I think there will be three others that will be battling for two spots. We only travel two and I think for the first time in a long time we have a true goalkeeper competition which will be great for keeping them sharp in training. We just have to wait and see how they perform. Having four keepers is great. It creates a nice competitive training environment and allows us to have multiple small-sided games going on at once.

Are you looking forward to facing strong competition early, or would you rather have a schedule that eases you in for the long haul?
We love it. Our girls are competitive and love to test themselves against the nation's best. The scrimmage against USF will be a good opportunity to work out some kinks early and hopefully prepare us for FSU and UF which will obviously be great early matches for us. Right away we will know what we need to work on. We drew with them both last year, and losing in PK's in the second round was rough, so I know the team will be ready to play. I know both those teams will be ready for us. The rivalries are great and our players really thrive in those big-game situations.