The 2008 edition of the Hiram College women’s soccer team will look to continue their positive momentum toward a successful tradition by blending youth with a great deal of experience.
The Terriers are coming off of a season that saw them begin the year, 5-1, including a span of five straight victories, and posted an 8-3 record at the midway point. But the Terriers finished 0-8 in North Coast Athletic Conference play to end the season and finish 8-11 overall. However, Hiram’s eight victories were the most in school history in a single season. The team also set three other records including consecutive victories (five), shutout victories (five) and goals scored in a season (37).
“Last year was a tale of two seasons,” said fifth-year Head Coach Bob Dean. “We started out very well and had a lot of confidence going into our conference schedule. And no, we didn’t get the results we wanted in the conference, but our play was incredibly competitive and put the NCAC on notice.”
Hiram will return just about all of its players from a year ago this fall including 18 letter winners and 10 players who were consistent starters. The Terriers will also have only one senior on the squad in midfielder Katie Kraft (Green). In 2007, Kraft played in all but one game and scored one goal, plus two assists, for four points.
“Katie has been the face of our program since I arrived,” said Dean. “She has been a contributor on both sides of the ball and we will look for her to have another strong season as a senior and for her to finish at the peak of her career.”
On the attack this season, Hiram will be led by sophomore forward Claire Conner (Aurora) who set individual school single-season records for goals scored (13) and points (29) as a freshman. Conner also placed second and third in the conference in the same categories. She also led the team in three other categories last season including shots (70), shots on goal (44) and game-winning goals (four). Following the season, Conner earned second-team All-NCAC honors becoming the first Hiram women’s soccer player to do so.
Joining Conner up front will be sophomores Sasha Davidson (East Hampton, Conn./East Hampton), Tara Robison (Rootstown), Natalie Green (Madison), and junior Ashley Ellsworth (Strongsville). In support through the midfield will be Mollie Patterson (Aliquippa, Pa./Hopewell), Grace Heffernan (Kent/Roosevelt) and sophomores Kendra Dean (Chesterland/West Geauga) and Kelly O’Brien (North Olmsted/Elyria Catholic).
Ellsworth earned All-NCAC honors last season as a honorable mention pick. She scored a pair of goals, including a game-winner, to finish the season with four points. Davidson had a strong “rookie” season finishing third in goals scored (four) and second in assists (four) for 12 points which ranked third most on the team. Both Robison and Dean ended the year with a pair of goals and an assist each. Dean also tallied a game-winning goal and was a perfect one-for-one in penalty kicks. Green also contributed two goals to the cause in 2007. Patterson and Heffernan both saw their share of playing time in 17 and 19 games respectively. The pair saw more of a defensive and holding role last fall and should play a vital role again this season.
“We were extremely dangerous up front in the non-conference part of the schedule last year,” said Dean. “But injuries devastated us and we were unable to make the connections in the NCAC that we did earlier in the year. Our challenge this season is to be much more balanced and versatile in the attack and to build to a point in which we are peaking in our ability to be dangerous when we get into conference play.”
The Hiram defense will be anchored by sophomore goalkeeper Emily Bristol (Worcester, N.Y./Worcester Central). As a freshman, Bristol had an 8-11 record, including two shutout victories, and a 1.93 goals against average. She tallied a team and league-leading 110 saves (.759 save percentage) in 1,635 minutes. Sophomore backup goalkeeper Hannah Mirzakhani will be taking a leave of absence from the team this fall to attend to a serious family illness and will be greatly missed. She ended the year with a 0-0 record playing in six games and having a 3.97 goals against average. She also made three saves in over 90 minutes of action.
In addition to Bristol, look for two-year letter-winning juniors Amanda Miller (Medina/Cloverleaf) and Whitney Dropsey (Ashland/Hillsdale) along with sophomores Joclene Inman (Berea), Tricia Kline (Akron/Archbishop Hoban), Madison Sepp (Aliquippa, Pa./Hopewell), Melissa Sharpe (Eastlake/Willoughby South) and Katie Lehman (Elyria/Catholic) to see the majority of the playing time.
Sepp was the third Hiram player to earn All-NCAC accolades last season as a part of a defense that averaged 2.03 goals against per game and tallied five shutout victories. Sharpe also saw some offensive production from her defender position scoring a goal and an assist for three points.
“Our defense did a great deal of learning last fall and we hope to build on that,” said Dean. “We basically had a back line that had only one letter worth of college experience amongst it. We grew, but simply gave up too much. Our commitment to an increased level of team defending was evident in the off season and I am really confident that our main goal of minimizing our opponent’s scoring opportunities will be achieved.”
In addition to a host of returning players, Hiram will also have 11 newcomers join the program.
“We will have a great deal of youth on the team this season, but we will also have an incredible level of experience,” said Dean. “In reality, we are probably returning the highest number of collective minutes in the conference. And with that, we will need all our returning players to step up and “drive the effort’ if we want to take the program to the next level. We expect some great contributions from the first-years, but the reality is that our experience needs to show from day one for us.”
Hiram will begin the 2008 season at the Case Classic on Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 30-31. The Terriers will play against St. Vincent (Pa.) College on Saturday in the season opener at noon. Hiram will then play St. Mary’s (Ind.) College on Sunday at 10 a.m.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, please contact Hiram College Sports Information Director Jeff Hoedt by phone at (330) 569-5495, by FAX at (330) 569-5392 or by email email@example.com