Oakland Looks to Continue Dominancy

For Oakland University, the 2003 women’s soccer team will provide a wealth of experience and an abundance of youth to the field as the team prepares for the 2003 season.  The team returns thirteen starters and letterwinners to the 23-man roster who all report to training on August 12th for the beginning of preseason. 

This year the goals are set high and the playing field tough as the Golden Grizzlies look to capture their fourth consecutive Mid-Continent Conference Championship title and third straight appearance at the NCAA Tournament.  Last year’s team finished with a 10-12-1 record and a first round loss to Michigan (1-0) in the NCAA Tournament.  However, prospects are high for this year with the incoming freshmen who were touted as the fifth best 2003 recruiting class in the Great Lakes Region by Soccer Buzz magazine. 

Heading the freshman class is Lisa-Marie Woods, a native of Oslo, Norway.  Known for her play-making abilities, Woods will be coming off a summer stint with the U-19 Norwegian National Team which finished runner-up to France at the UEFA European Women’s U-19 Championship.  Big things will be expected from Woods in the middle of midfield next to senior Erica Demers (Welland, Ont.).  Demers, last year’s Mid-Con Player of the Year, first team All-Mid-Con and third on the team in scoring with five goals and seven assists, will play alongside Woods in the middle and the twosome will be expected to generate and create the team’s offense. 

The Golden Grizzlies celebrated their third consecutive conference title in 2002.

Additionally, freshmen Kim Treharne (Oakville, Ont.) and Susann Kamrud (Trysil, Norway) will be expected to contribute in the midfield along with Ashley Pomazal (Mundelein, Ill.) and sophomore Silje Moen (Tromso, Norway).  Silje is an explosive player who got up and down the field on the wing as a freshman.  Having made the adjustment entering a new country and playing with a new team, she will be expected to be consistent and score some big goals for the Golden Grizzlies.  Last season she managed to generate eight points offensively including the game winner in the league’s semi-final match against Valparaiso at the conference tournament.  Also an option for the wing is Pomazal.  Pomazal, a natural left-sided player, will be expected to provide depth to the team as a lefty on either the wing in the middle of the pitch or at the back on the left-side. 

Also expected to play in her college career debut and help in OU’s offense is Marianne Samdal, another citizen of Norway.  Samdal will be putting time on the field up front and is a player who has good speed and creative abilities.  Samdal will be competing against veteran players Beth Howson (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) and Shelley Piccirillo (Niagara Falls, Ont.) for playing time up front as well as last year’s Newcomer of the Year and first team All-Mid-Con Kristi Swaving (Albuquerque, New Mexico). 

Swaving, the team’s top returning goal scorer with 21 points, had a good year last year despite some nagging injuries.  With off-season improvement and her health conditions back in check, she is going to be looked upon to have an even better season and provide solid scoring punch for the Golden Grizzlies.  Alongside Swaving is Howson, who provided a spark off the bench last year scoring three goals and recording two assists.  Howson will be expected to be productive up-front and score some key goals.

Also returning to the forward line-up is junior Piccirillo.  Out with an ACL tear in 2002, she is expected to have a solid return and will add to the team’s competitiveness and depth. 

Two incoming freshman, Cat Panabaker (Hamilton, Ont.) and Lisa Ogawa (Troy, Mich.), will be expected to join OU’s defense line.  Panabaker, a standout with her Canadian club team, will be starting at center back in the Golden Grizzlies lineup.  A player with speed and good defensive instincts, she is expected to do very well for the team. 

Ogawa, who took some time off playing after high school and coming to Oakland, should be ready to get back into action and help with the team’s defense.

Anchoring the team’s defensive positions are veteran players and second team All-Mid-Con honorees Threse Bjorke (Lovenstad, Norway) and Katie Arnott (St. Johns, Newfoundland), along with Kelly Rieck (Shelby Twp., Mich.) and Laura Cowham (Caledonia, Mich.).   Bjorke, a three-year starter at right back, will be relied upon to give the newer players guidance and to control the back line.  Arnott and Rieck, who will either be playing in the defensive midfield position or defense line, had solid performances for the team in 2002 and are expected to help solidify the teams defensive mid and back line positions this season.  Cowham, who made her transition from goalkeeper to a field player last year, is expected to provide solid time in the back.

Rounding out the field will be senior goalkeeper Sarah Buckland (Burlington, Ont.).  Buckland, last year’s Mid-Con Tournament MVP and first team All-Mid-Con selection, is a key figure in the goal for Oakland after averaging a 1.30 GAA and will be expected to provide a good year for the Golden Grizzlies. 

Another aspect of the 2003 season is the team’s schedule, which features three Big Ten teams, No. 7 UCLA, Marquette, Cincinnati, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Not to mention the conference schedule that has a new team, Centenary, setting the league at seven teams. Although the schedule is tough, head coach Nick O’Shea is positive about the team’s chances.

“Our schedule is very tough especially at the beginning of the year,” stated O’Shea.  “But that’s one of the things we try and do – set the schedule tough at the beginning of the season so we can prepare for our conference games that will be coming at the latter half of the season as well as the NCAA Tournament.

Senior captain Erica Demers was named Mid-Con Player of the Year and first team All-Mid-Con last season.

“Last year we were on the wrong side of several one-goal games,” continued O’Shea.  “I know we’re not the type of team that’s going to dominate the type of opponents we have on our schedule and run through it, but I think we can be on the other side of some of those one-goal games and come out as the winning team.”

Scouting the conference, O’Shea is expecting last year’s regular season champs, Oral Roberts, as well as Valparaiso to provide good competition in the quest to win the conference title.  IUPUI brings a new coach to the table and Centenary is appearing in the conference for the first time.  Playing Centenary at their home will obviously be a challenge for the Golden Grizzlies so the team is looking to be well prepared for that match.

With the new mix of players and a tough schedule to play in 2003, the season is bound to be filled with trials and tribulations.  However, the Golden Grizzlies believe they are up to the challenge and will be ready to face any team that stands in the way of their goals – win the regular season conference title, win their fourth straight conference championship, and win games at the NCAA Tournament.

“I think with this year’s seniors, the incoming freshmen who can contribute, and those players who will step it up, we will be able to accomplish our goals” stated O’Shea.

Oakland University 2003. All rights reserved.

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