Grizzlies Look To Experience To Continue
Oakland is coming off its best season at the Division I level with a regular season championship and a tournament title in 2000. The Golden Grizzlies return eight of 11 starters, including Olympic Gold Medalist Anita Rapp (Lillehammer, Norway/Lillehammer), for the 2001 season and have a seasoned attack coming back.
"This definitely is the most experienced team I have had at the Division I level, if not ever," said head coach Nick OShea. "Not only do we return a majority of the starters, but we have sophomores and incoming freshman that have the ability to make an immediate impact."
The Golden Grizzlies will be tested early and often to see where they are at and where they need to go. The schedule includes three teams in the top 25 including #25 Michigan, #24 Marquette and #21 Southern California. Oakland knows these games will get them ready to retain both championships from a year ago.
"This is the toughest schedule I have ever had," said OShea. "We put these teams on the schedule to see where we rank among the elite and to prepare us for conference play."
Along with the ranked teams, OU also takes on Big Ten foes Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State. These games are important in recruiting wars across the Midwest.
"Playing these teams not only gets us ready for the Mid-Con, but helps us in terms of recruiting," said OShea. "Student-athletes love to play quality competition and this year's schedule definitely provides that."
In addition to the experience, Oakland has a lot of depth this season which differs from past seasons. The Golden Grizzlies have five returners that saw action last season off the bench and scored goals for OU.
"We have a balanced attack with a solid bench," said OShea. "In years past we have had to leave players out on the field for entire games, but this season we have athletes that can step right in off the bench and we wont lose a step."
With the experience, depth and schedule Oakland knows that it has a good chance at winning its third straight regular-season title and second straight tournament championship. The Mid-Con tournament champion will receive an automatic bid in 2001 and that provides a little bit more incentive for all the conference participants.
"This year the winner of the Mid-Con tournament will be playing in the NCAA playoffs," said OShea. "Every team shoots for this at the end of the year and we want to be the first Oakland University sports team to make the NCAA playoffs."
Every team loses some key players from year-to-year and Oakland is no different. The Golden Grizzlies lost the Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year Kristen Luoma and two-time all-conference player Kaja Lund.
"Those are two big losses for our program," OShea said. "Luoma and Lund contributed every year and Luoma left as Oaklands top goal scorer in the history of womens soccer."
To combat these losses Oakland will turn to 1999 Mid-Con Player of the Year Rapp and senior captains Ashley McGhee (Burlington, Ontario/Lester B. Pearson HS) and Gail Wilson (Burlington, Ontario/Notre Dame Prep).
Rapp redshirted in 2000 to participate in the Olympics with her native Norway. The Norwegian squad won the gold medal in women's soccer. Rapp earned co-player of the year in her junior season (1999) and ranked seventh in the nation in assists per game with 0.71. She finished third on the team with 26 points, seven goals and 12 assists in 17 games.
McGhee led the Golden Grizzly attack with 13 goals last year. She ranked second on the team with 30 points and 50 shots in 2000. The Burlington, Ontario native finished first in the conference in goals per match (0.72), conference goals (7), conference goals per match (1.40), second in goals, points, points per match (1.60) and points in conference games (15).
Wilson will start at the midfield position where she started all 18 games for the Golden Grizzlies last year. She led the team in assists with 11 and finished third on the OU squad with 15 points. The senior captain led the conference with 0.56 assists per game and finished 21st in the nation with 0.61 assists per game.
"Anytime you return an Olympic Gold medalist it is exciting," said OShea. "Everybody knows what Anita can do on the field and Gail and Ashley have proven their abilities for three straight years."
Also returning for Oakland are all-conference performers Debbie Cartmel (Merseyside, England/De La Salle), Kim Moore (Georgetown, Ontario/Georgetown District), Erica Demers (Welland, Ontario/Centennial) and Sarah Buckland (Burlington, Ontario/Lester B. Pearson).
Cartmel is coming off her best season in a Golden Grizzly uniform. The 5-5 midfielder started in 17 of the 18 games played in for Oakland and ranked third on the squad with six assists and fourth with 12 points. Cartmel recorded the game-winning goal in the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Championship game versus Oral Roberts as OU went on to a 2-1 victory. She was selected to the All-Tournament Team after the performance.
Moore is coming off her second straight All-Conference First Team selection in the Mid-Con. The junior defender will head the Oakland defense for the third straight year. She started in all 18 games played in a year ago and was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Demers started in all 18 games for Oakland and finished third on the team with five goals and 12 points. She ranked eighth in the conference with 0.40 assists per game as she was elected to the All-Conference second team.
Buckland took over the goalkeeping position for the Grizzlies and started in all 18 games. She led Oakland to a regular season and tournament title with a 1.19 goals against and 79 saves.
Also returning for the Golden Grizzlies will be senior Rachel Rozek (Troy/Troy), junior Christine Selesky (Warren/Warren Mott), sophomores Therese Bjorke (Lovenstad, Norway/Ralingen), Shelly Piccirillo (Niagra Falls, Ontario/North Myer) and Beth Howson (Grosse Pointe/Grosse Pointe South) and redshirt freshmen Amanda Hutchinson (Rochester Hills/Adams) and Laura Cowham (Caledonia/East Kentwood).
Rozek will help Oakland out on the defense, where she played in nine games for the Golden Grizzlies in 2000. Selesky started in all 18 games for Oakland last season on defense and will be in the back again this season for the Golden Grizzlies. Bjorke will also help out the Golden Grizzlies defense. She started 15 of 17 games played in for Oakland last season and tallied two assists, including an assist on the game-winning goal versus Oral Roberts in the Mid-Con Championship game.
Piccirillo will play forward for Oakland in 2001. She took 19 shots tallying four goals and one assist for nine points a year ago. She had two game-winning goals against Detroit-Mercy (9/21) and Valparaiso (10/22). Piccirillo had three multiple point games including a two-goal performance versus Valparaiso (10/22). Howson will compete for a starting role at the outside midfield position and/or the forward position. She Played in 10 games for the Golden Grizzlies last year and finished tied for seventh in conference games with two assists and 0.50 assists per game. Howson tallied two goals and two assists in Oaklands 12-2 victory over Youngstown State (10/27). Hutchinson and Cowham both redshirted in 2000. Hutchinson is battling back problems and if she gets healthy she will compete for a defender position. With the return of Cowham in 2001, the Golden Grizzlies now have two quality goalkeepers.
Nine incoming freshman will help Oakland in its title defense and should provide a lot of depth for the Golden Grizzlies. Katie Arnott (St. Johns, Newfoundland/Bishops College), Morgan Murrell (Mississauga, Ontario/Cawthra Park) and Sarah Voss (Clinton Twp./Chippewa Valley) will help out the OU defense.
Arnott is a 2001 graduate of St. John's High School in St. John's, Newfoundland. She led team to Provincial/Zone/Regional championships in 1999 and 2000. Arnott took the Barons to a Provincial championship in 1998 and earned the 2000 Athlete of the Year award. Arnott is currently playing for the Canadian U18 National Team. Murrell attended Meadowvale High School for three years and Cawtha Park for two years. She was elected as the Athlete of the year from 1996-1998 and led the Burlington Sting to a National Championship in 2000.
Competing at midfield will be Elizabeth Turner (Troy/Detroit Country Day), Natalie Simas (Kitchner, Ontario/Resurrection C.S.S.) and Kelly Rieck (Shelby Twp./Eisenhower/Michigan State).
Rieck is a 2000 graduate of Eisenhower High School in Shelby Twp., Michigan. She earned first team all-conference and district in senior season while scoring four goals and eight assists. Rieck is a transfer from Michigan State where she redshirted in 2000.
Fighting for the forward spots will be Jenny Young (Davison/Flint Kearsley) and Lindsey Mathus (Monroe/Jefferson). Young, a 2001 graduate of Kearsley High School in Flint, Michigan, earned all-league and district honors in sophomore and junior years. Young accumulated 71 total points in her four-year career for the Hornets. Mathus attended Jefferson High School in Monroe, Michigan and earned all-league honors in junior season, while earning honorable mention honors in senior season. Mathus was selected to the all-county team in 2000, scoring 72 points in her high school career.
Oakland knows with all its experience and depth it has a great chance at repeating as Mid-Con champions and heading to the NCAA playoffs. The Golden Grizzlies have put together a schedule that will help them do so and hope that with the increased depth within the team this year they can vie for national recognition.
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