Golden Grizzlies to Defend Regular Season Mid-Con Title
The Oakland University womens soccer team completed its first full season in the Mid-Continent Conference last year and won the regular season championship. The Golden Grizzlies went 5-0 in the regular season and lost to Valparaiso in the semifinals of the Mid-Con tournament, 4-2 on penalty kicks.
The Golden Grizzlies have added 14 recruits to the roster and head coach Nick OShea is confident that OU has a good chance of repeating as champions.
"It will all depend on if the new players can adapt to our system and the collegiate level of competition," said OShea. "The good thing about the conference is we start later on in the season and that will give these freshman time to adapt to our system, and in return give us a real legitimate chance of repeating as regular season champions."
In 1999, the Golden Grizzlies finished 14-4-1 overall and were 5-1 at home. Oakland had a tough schedule last season with Virginia, Michigan, Dayton and Eastern Michigan all making it to regionals. The Golden Grizzlies defeated Dayton 2-1 in double overtime and downed Eastern Michigan 2-1 in double overtime too. OU knows that it is going to take a tough schedule again to get consideration for regionals.
"We have set up a schedule that will give us a chance at receiving an at-large bid to regionals," OShea said. "The Mid-Continent Conference will not have an automatic bid until the 2001 season, so we must win against the upper tier teams to give us a real shot."
In the two years of Division I competition, OU has shown that it can compete successfully against any opponent and now looks to break into the upper level of Division I.
"I think we are in the middle of the pack right now," OShea said. "We need to beat Michigan, George Mason and other teams of this caliber to move into the next tier and I think we have taken the proper steps in recruiting to do so."
In the past two years the Golden Grizzlies have been shorthanded on the bench, but with 14 new recruits in 2000 Oakland will have the depth that has been lacking.
"This is by far the deepest bench I have had since being at Oakland," OShea said. "We have more speed and the capability of getting fresh legs out there without losing much ability from starters to reserves. We should be able to keep the game at a faster pace than most teams like to play and this will give us a better chance of winning."
OU enters this season with depth and balance. The Golden Grizzlies have brought in some state champions and experienced defenders which differs from last years squad.
"Last year we moved a bunch of players from midfield to defense," OShea said. "This year strength is that the new personnel have played defense their entire careers and have the game experience we need in the back."
The goal of repeating as conference champions is the number one priority for the Golden Grizzlies, but they have set some other goals.
"Our first goal is to win the conference,"OShea said. "Our second goal is to beat all the teams in Michigan so we have the bragging rights of being the best team in state. Our final goal is to get a bid to the NCAA Regional and that is a tough one because we are relying on a committee in which we have no control over."
Oakland returns 11 letterwinners off last years squad, including nine starters. The key loss for Oakland is the career saves and shutouts leader Holly Runstadler in goal and senior captain defender Anna Muccino. Both were named first team all-Mid-Continent Conference.
OU has added three goalkeepers and five defenders to replace these losses.
Freshmen Sarah Buckland (Burlington, Ontario/Lester B. Pearson HS), Laura Cowham (Caledonia/East Kentwood HS) and Michelle Lowe (Royal Oak/Kimball HS) will all compete for the goalkeeping position.
Cowham was her teams most valuable player in 1999 and received all-area, district and conference honors in her senior season. Lowe led her team to a 30-14-4 record in her three years in goal. She accumulated a goals against average of 2.31 and led her club team, Michigan Hawks, to a state championship in 1999.
Sophomore Kim Moore (Georgetown, Ontario/Georgetown District HS) and senior Kaja Lund (Skjetten, Norway) will return on defense for the Golden Grizzlies. Moore started in all 16 games played in last year and was selected to the all-conference first team and the all-region team in 1999. Lund started in 15 games and had one assist for the Golden Grizzlies.
Other returners on defense is senior Tracy Lute (Canton/Grand Valley State) and junior Rachel Rozek (Troy/Troy HS). Lute saw action in eight matches in 1999 and started in two of them. Rozek played in nine games for OU accumulating one point.
Top newcomers for the OU defense are freshmen Therese Bjorke (Lovenstad, Norway/Ralingen HS), Haley Henry (Swartz Creek/Swartz Creek HS), Sarah McMasters (Troy/Athens HS), Amanda Hutchinson (Rochester Hills/Adams HS) and senior Hallie Crumpton (Rochester Hills/OCC).
Bjorke played on her regional team in Norway from 1995-98 and was a substitute for the U-17 team. McMasters led Athens HS to a state championship in 2000 and Hutchinson captained her club team, the Rochester Thunder, for the last three years. Crumpton was an all-state performer in 1995 for James Bennett HS in Maryland.
Heading up the midfield position for OU is senior captain Anita Rapp (Lillehammer, Norway). Joining her in the middle are junior Gail Wilson (Burlington, Ontario/Notre Dame Prep) and freshman Erica Demers (Welland, Ontario/Centennial HS).
Rapp started in 17 games for the Golden Grizzlies and was selected Mid-Con Co-Player of the Year, all-region and GTE Academic all-American for District IV. She finished seventh in the nation with an 0.71 assists per game average. Rapp scored seven goals and had 12 assists for 26 points.
Wilson started in all 19 games for Oakland and had three game winning goals. She was selected all-conference first team and had 13 points. Demers led her club team to a National Provincial Championship in
1999 and has placed in the top three in the last three years.
The wide midfield position returns sophomores Debbie Cartmel (Mereyside, England/De La Salle HS), Christine Selesky (Warren/Warren Mott HS) and freshman Jenn Tlachac (Grand Haven/Grand Haven HS).
Cartmel started 18 games for the Golden Grizzlies and scored five goals and had two assists. Selesky played in 14 games, starting eight of them and scored one goal and had two assists. She showed her versatility last year and can play back or midfield for Oakland.
Senior Kristen Luoma (Troy/Athens HS), junior Ashley McGhee (Burlington, Ontario) and sophomore Kelly Beacom (Auburn Hills/Avondale HS) will see action at the forward position.
Luoma started in all 19 games for Oakland and led the team in goals with 17 and in points with a total of 45. She finished 12th in the nation with her 2.37 points per game average and was selected first team all-Mid-Con and all-region.
McGhee missed the first two games of the season with an injury but came back strong scoring 12 goals and recording six assists in 17 games. She finished second on the team with 30 points. Beacom played in all 19 matches for the Grizzlies and started 18 of them. She tallied one assist and had nine shots.
Newcomers at the forward position include sophomore transfer Jill Gibson (Novi/Madonna), freshmen Cindy Piccarillo (Niagara Falls, Ontario/A.N. Myer Secondary HS), Beth Howsen (Grosse Pointe/Grosse Pointe South HS), Natalie Rodi (Shelby Twp./Eisenhower HS) and Cindy Papadopolous (Unionville, Ontario/Brother Andre HS).
Gibson led Madonna in points with 37 and led the team in scoring with 14 goals. Piccirillo helped her club team win the National, Ontario and League cup championships in 1999. Rodi captained Eisenhower High School while leading them in scoring. She was elected most valuable player and named all-state honorable mention in 1998-99. Papadopolous showed her athletic ability in high school as she was the most valuable player for her field hockey team along with her soccer team in 1999.
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