August 28, 2006

New Coach, Nine Rookies Give W. Soccer Fresh Look

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With a shuffle to the coaching staff and nine new players joining the roster, the 2006 season promises to bring change to the women’s soccer team. However, interim head coach Gretchen Zigante has adopted the attitude that change is a good thing, and that the new additions to the squad could help the Red achieve greater success than every this season.

“It’s pretty exciting … We’ve got nine recruits and they all look very, very promising,” Zigante said. “After just six practices, everyone is feeling excited.”

The nine members of the Class of 2010 join a program on the cusp of redefining itself. After the resignation of Berhane Andeberhan earlier this year, Zigante took over at the reins of the program and recently named Emily Wyffels ’05 her assistant. Despite opening the 2005 season with a six-game win streak — just one win short of tying the school record — the Red stumbled to a 7-6-1 (1-4-1 Ivy) finish.

“I think it’s the beginning of the new phase in the program,” Zigante said. “[The freshmen] all are very strong players. We knew when we recruited them that they could contribute right away to our success. Already, they’ve shown a great deal of maturity.”

The rookies joining the Red this year include Kathleen Burbrick, Eva Dixon, Rebecca Flewelling, Emily Kuhn, Lauren Lynn, Brenna McGuire, Kala Neilson, Elizabeth Scully, and Carlyn Swensen.

Two of the freshmen have already encountered an extra obstacle in challenging for playing time, as McGuire and Scully are suffering from nagging injuries, according to Zigante. However, Zigante describes Scully as an “absolutely excellent defender” who could crack the starting lineup if she can get healthy. McGuire will join the Red’s corps of midfielders upon recovery.

Of the other rookies, Zigante singled out Kuhn, Lynn, Swensen, and Dixon as definite contenders for starting spots.

A goalkeeper, Swensen will give the Red four netminders on the roster. Despite the depth at this position, Zigante predicts the rookie will provide a stiff challenge for the veterans for playing time.

Kuhn and Dixon are listed as pure forwards, while Lynn could see time at a forward position as well as in the midfield.

“All four of them came in very prepared and very ready,” Zigante said. “That question [of who will start] is going to have to be answered in the first four games.”

Those four games include contests against Lafayette, St. Bonaventure, and Canisius, all squads that Cornell beat a year ago. Zigante emphasized that developing team chemistry in these early games is just as important as producing a winning record.

“[We’re] putting games together, getting people playing and making stronger decisions,” she said. “Right now we have a lot of people challenging for time.”

Three more players round out the Class of 2010 — Burbick, a forward, Flewelling, who could play at forward or midfield, and Neilson, a defender. All nine of the newcomers will join a squad under the leadership of junior Leslie Campbell and senior Mira MacLennan. The co-captains have anchored the squad’s defensive line in recent seasons. Campbell has started every one of 32 games the Red has played since she joined the squad, earning All-Ivy honorable mention honors in her freshman season and second-team accolades in 2005.

“From moment one they have been a unifying force in terms of what the team goals are and what individual goals are,” Zigante said. “The are respected for their playing abilites and their leadership abilites.”

The two upperclassmen have led the way in perpetuating a “sisterly” atmosphere surrounding the team that Zigante says has helped the freshmen adjust to soccer and academics in a collge setting.

“What’s unique about our women’s soccer team environment is that the upperclassmen and older players really help make [the freshmen’s] experience a welcome one in academics and soccer,” Zigante said.