2009 UCF Women's Soccer Season Preview

Aug. 12, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Almost as soon as UCF closed its 2008 season in the NCAA Tournament, the Knights started getting excited about what was in store for 2009. The Black and Gold easily has one of the most entertaining schedules in the country, return the majority of its starters and welcome another solid recruiting class into the mix.

With a lot to look forward to, head coach Amanda Cromwell opens her 11th year with the Knights and provides some insight on the 2009 campaign before her team welcomes Rollins to town Thursday at 7 p.m. in their only exhibition match. UCF will kick off the regular season Aug. 21 at home vs. Florida Gulf Coast, then travels to face No. 1 North Carolina Aug. 28 and No. 16 Duke Aug. 30 in the Carolina Nike Classic.

Amanda Cromwell Q&A
What is the first thing you think of when you start talking about the upcoming season?
The first thing I think of is our extremely hard schedule. Non-conference we have the defending national champion North Carolina, Duke, FSU, South Florida, LSU, South Carolina, FGCU and FIU. There are a lot of quality teams there and the strength of Conference USA from top to bottom is growing tremendously. It will be even more cutthroat this season because there will be only six teams going to the conference tournament (instead of eight). There is a lot at stake each game, especially since the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the standings get a bye going into the tournament. Everyone is going to be fighting to get into the postseason along with trying to finish in the top two.

Since the schedule never seems to let up, will it be difficult for your players to stay at their highest level from August all of the way to the postseason?
We definitely don't want to peak too early in the season but we need to be playing well in August. Early on every team goes through some growing pains and figures out where their rookies fit in. Most teams aren't playing their best yet in August and September, so we want to capitalize on that. Sometimes you can catch teams early that aren't quite settled yet. Our focus in our preseason is to get things settled, like our formation, expectations, what the players' roles are going to be, so going forward we can play at a high level early on. Last year we started at Florida State and Florida, we lost vs. FSU and turned around and beat Florida five days later. We showed that we had the will to win, and it was fun to rebound like that. For non-conference, we can't have peaks and valleys. We have to be on the rise constantly.

There are a lot of newcomers, and with most starters returning, the only glaring vacancy from the 2008 forwards was the departure of Danielle Dos Santos. Who could break through the lineup right away to fill that gap?
We have a lot of players coming in that could contribute to the attack, especially our two internationals. Tiia Tikkanen is a pure forward from Finland, and Bianca Joswiak from Germany is a little more versatile, she can be in the attack but played everywhere for the German U-20s. Other incomers who will compete to be in the attacking lineup are Tishia Jewell, Amy Carhart, Nicolette Radovcic and Chloe Stokes. From the returning players, Kacie Horner and Amanda Martorana have been getting fit and healthy so they could see some more time up front. We have a core group of very talented attackers who bring different strengths and will fill that role by scoring goals and getting assists.

Only one starter is lost from the midfield (Hanna Wilde) and back (Sarah de Leon) as well, but so much returns. Who might be some of the players that we will see more of this season?
Emily Maynard, Amaka Ofuani, Christina Petrucco, Lauren Halbert and Nikki Moore are the returners who will be seeing a lot of minutes in the back but we have tough and talented rookies Kim Newsome and Stacy Kadell joining us and they will fight for a spot as well. Andrea Rodrigues played with the U-20 Brazilian Team at left back so that will be a position she fights for, Carhart could be a dangerous attacking outside back and center back options are Justine Quick and Kristen Poulton.

Halbert will also play in the defensive-mid along with ball-winner Stacie Hubbard. Our mainstays in midfield are Becca Thomas, our workhorse, Katie Jackson and Brianna Schooley. Martorana is a speedy outside-midfield option and rookie Marleigh Howard is a skillful player who can send in a great cross. Other newcomers who will compete for time in the attacking midfield are skillful playmakers Alex Brandt and Stokes.

Goalkeeper Aline Reis is coming off an All-America season. It's hard to achieve that two years in a row, so how do you think she will respond as a sophomore?
Considering Aline was in Brazil's full national team camp this summer, we have no doubt that she will be ready to repeat her All-American performance. Her consistency in college is going to help her get a spot on the Brazilian team and I think she knows that. Lynzee Lee, though, was in goal all spring and played extremely well and she is one of our fittest players who has been working hard to get ready for 2009. We are very lucky to have two high level goalkeepers and they both know they have to be ready when called upon.