Aug. 17, 2000
Building on the success of last year's regular season, the Ohio State women's soccer team will continue its quest for its first Big Ten Championship. Winning the championship would mean receiving an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament, a first in the history of the program. Head coach Lori Walker is hoping to lead the Buckeyes across that threshold this season.
"Our goal for this program is to get into the NCAA tournament and consistently stay there from year to year," Walker said. "We are hoping this season will be a stepping stone for that to happen."
While winning the Big Ten title is the Buckeyes' ultimate goal, a Top 3 finish in the conference would also help the squad's chances of advancing to the postseason.
"If we finish as one of the Top 3 teams in the Big Ten and have success against our non-conference opponents, I think it is very unlikely that we'll be left out of the tournament selections," Walker said.
The Buckeyes are primed to be competitive and are entering the 2000 season with a large contingent of last year's roster returning, including nine sophomores and juniors who saw time as starters last season. Add to that a strong recruiting class designed to fit specific needs lost to graduation and a competitive schedule and all of the elements are in place for a successful season.
Special Senior Class
The seniors this year are different from any in the past - they all belong to coach Walker. The 2000 senior class, consisting of goalkeeper Amber Barnes (Fairfield, Ohio), defender Amanda Orr (Brecksville, Ohio), and forward Mia Katzel (Ukia, Calif.), is unique to Walker because it marks the first class she recruited during her career at OSU.
"This senior class is very special to me," Walker said. "It is the first class that I recruited and I am looking forward to watching them lead our young squad." Barnes returns as a three-year starter in goal for the Buckeyes. She has posted impressive numbers in each of her three seasons, including a stellar 1998 season in which she broke numerous school records. She has proven herself to be one of the best goalkeepers in OSU history, ranking first in career goals against average (1.33) and shutouts (20.5).
"Amber's size and strength in the air really commands the box," Walker said. "She instills confidence in our entire defense."
Orr returns to the Buckeye lineup as a three-year starter on the Buckeye defense. She is a consistent outside defender who keeps the game very simple.
"Amanda is probably one of our most consistent players," Walker said. "She can match up against any attacker in our conference. Her leadership and vision are going to be critical in our defense."
Katzel, a forward, rounds out the senior class. Katzel returns to the Buckeye offense with an important role as a reserve forward. She is expected to have a critical role in being a first attacker.
"Mia has the most accurate and consistent shot on our team," Walker said. "She is extremely crafty in tight spaces and will play a crucial role for us at the forward position."
The 2000 starting lineup will be dominated by underclassmen. The squad consists of nine sophomores and juniors who saw significant starting time last season. Leading the regime is junior midfielder Emily Thorpe (Sycamore, Ohio), 1999 team MVP, and sophomore forward Lindsey Eckles (Hilliard, Ohio).
Thorpe, who Walker calls the fastest player on the team, started all 20 games in the Buckeye midfield last season and finished the year second on the team in scoring (6 G, 4 A).
"Emily is the total package as a soccer player," Walker said. "She understands the tactical parts of the game and has been extremely consistent in her performance over the last two seasons."
Eckles returns as the team's leading scorer. She started 12 games last season at the forward position and finished with nine goals and two assists for 20 points. She took 71 shots on goal, far more than any other player on the team. (Thorpe came in second with 49 shots).
"Lindsey is a big, strong soccer player who has the ability to score goals," Walker said.
Sophomores Jen Miller (Centerville, Ohio) and Lizzy Moore (Centerville, Ohio) will look to dominate the Buckeye defense. Miller will be the go-to person to run the defense in front of the goalkeeper while Moore has the ability to physically intimidate opponents.
Junior Elisa Hamilton (Westerville, Ohio), who was a major contributor to the defense last season, is not expected to play this year because of a knee injury in the offseason.
The defense also returns sophomore Sarah Lanham (Middletown, Ohio) and junior Janel Hayes (Anchorage, Alaska), who will compete for starting spots.
Sophomore Kiley Enmark (Sterling Heights, Mich.), who started 12 games in the midfield last season, is expected to be the cornerstone of the midfield this season, assisted by juniors Jamie Minteer (Springfield, Ohio), Becky Broering (Westerville, Ohio), who transferred to Ohio State from Purdue after the 1999 season, and Brooke Thomas (Westerville, Ohio). Thomas, who transferred from the University of Cincinnati after the 1998 season, will start at midfield.
Leading an impressive pack of Buckeye forwards is junior Courtney Nein (Middletown, Ohio), who played in all 20 games last season and tallied 22 shots on goal. With great depth at the forward position this year, sophomores Shelley Besson (Kettering, Ohio) and Kara Brant (Brunswick, Ohio) and juniors Melanie Vierling (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Brynn Catino (Westerville, Ohio), will each be competing for a starting spot. All four have been key contributors off the bench and saw a reasonable amount of playing time last season.
The 2000 freshman class, consisting of Kristina D'Antonio (Brick, N.J.), Stacia Daum (Dublin, Ohio), Jennica Kidd (Westerville, Ohio), Jennifer Ulrey (Cincinnati, Ohio), and Liz White (Atlanta, Ga.), was designed to fill specific voids left by graduation.
"Having only graduated four players, we were really looking for specific fits," Walker said. "I feel that we have found players who can complement our current core and take us to the next level."
D'Antonio, who Walker said could be a leading candidate for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, brings international experience to the Buckeyes, having represented the United States as a former member of the Under 16 National Team.
"Tina brings a level of experience that this program has not previously known," Walker said. "She is quick and fast and has a keen ability to score goals."
Daum, a defender, is known for her hard-nosed tackles and smothering man-marking. Daum played club ball with Ohio Premier Soccer Club, the same team as current Buckeye Lindsay Eckles.
Kidd comes to Ohio State after playing club ball with the Ambassador Soccer Club under former Buckeye All-American Jodie Stranges. She possesses skillful long ball service and ball-winning tenacity in the midfield.
Ulrey joins the Buckeyes as a goalkeeper. She will add depth to the position and will be competing for a starting spot with Barnes and returning redshirt freshman keeper Anna Mitchell (Canton, Ohio).
White is a midfielder who has great mobility and vision and is a natural leader.
"Each of these players bring both talent and personality to the program," Walker said.
Strength of Schedule
The Buckeyes' 2000 schedule has all of the components needed to have a successful season.
"Our schedule is extremely competitive this year," Walker said. "It has all of the elements to be successful - in-region, out of region, and in-state competition. If we're successful with this schedule, our program will be in a solid position for postseason play. "
The Buckeyes start the season with Oakland and Syracuse, then travel west to participate in the Missouri Nike Classic. There, the Buckeyes will face top Atlantic Coast Conference teams Wake For-est and Florida State. From there, the squad will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to compete in the Michigan Nike Classic where they will face two teams for the firsttime, Missouri and Washington. The Buckeyes then return home to face in-state rival Dayton before beginning the conference portion of their schedule.
"The Big Ten is extremely exciting," Walker said. "Minnesota and Iowa have new head coaches so we will be facing a new style and philosophy. Penn State and Michigan continue to be dominant teams.
"Every year there is such a battle within our conference, it is hard to predict where teams will fall."