Aug. 26, 1999
Consistency, hard work and intensity. These are the principles head coach Lori Walker and her Buckeye charges will live by this season. In a year where parity is expected in NCAA women’s soccer, 90 minutes of physical, intense play could lead to big things for Ohio State.
“There is an interesting mix within the Big Ten this year,” Walker said. “On any given day, any team can prevail over another.”
OSU enters the 1999 season with a large portion of last year’s team returning. After posting nine wins in 1997, Ohio State busted out for 13 victories in 1998, including an amazing run in the Big Ten Championships, which saw the No. 7-seeded Buckeyes reach the championship game for the first time in school history. The team also recorded a first-ever victory in the conference tournament when they downed Wisconsin 1-0, the first time a Buckeye team had defeated the Badgers.
Other milestones from the 1998 season included the second-most wins in school history (13), most matches played (22) and fewest goals allowed (24). The 1999 squad also returns four seniors that will help guide a strong incoming class to new heights.
Seniors Lead the Way
Seniors Katie Martorella and Katy Traeger are two players that should help the Buckeyes survive the graduation loss of first-team all-Big Ten pick Becky Borchers. Martorella posted two goals and three assists for seven points in 1998. Walker highlights her as a key to this year’s team.
“Katie reads the game so well and has incredible dedication,” Walker said. “She has qualities you just can’t teach. Her leadership will be critical to the team’s success.”
Traeger, a very upbeat, competitive player, will serve as the go-to player when the team needs a surge of momentum. She earned that distinction having led Ohio State to victories over Minnesota and Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament.
“Katy is a very composed, solid player,” Walker said. “She is always extremely fit and consistent in her play. Her positive attitude rubs off on others.” Maria Jimenez and Melissa Fox round out the senior class. Jimenez will anchor the defense in either the sweeper or center-back position and will make entering the Buckeye zone difficult for any opposing player.
“Maria has a knack for reading the game and being in the right place at the right time,” Walker said, “When she defends, she never shows opponents the goal. She forces them out of bounds.”
Fox is expected to provide the Buckeye attack with some added fury.
“Melissa is a quick and determined front-runner,” Walker said. “She surprises and frustrates defenders with her tough, physical presence. She truly exemplifies the clich: It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of fight in the dog.”
Major Contributors Return
The seniors are not the only players who make this Buckeye squad as promising as it, however. Last year’s freshman sensation, forward Melanie Vierling, returns and should provide a big boost to the offense. She made an immediate impact in 1998, scoring seven goals and adding an assist for 15 points, second most on the team. In addition to Vierling, sophomore forward Jaime Minteer will add punch from the forward position. She racked up four points a year ago and is expected to compete for a starting spot this year.
One Buckeye who made a name for herself down the stretch last year was sophomore forward Courtney Nein. She scored the lone goal against Wisconsin in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, propelling OSU to victory. That effort was followed up by a two-goal performance against Indiana in the semifinals. Nein’s efforts in the tournament garnered her Big Ten Player of the Week honors and placed her on the Soccer America Team of the Week. All told, she finished her freshman season with three goals and two assists for eight points.
Sophomore Emily Thorpe is another key for this year’s Buckeyes. One of the fastest players on the Buckeye roster, Thorpe is expected to team up with Martorella and Traeger to fill the hole left by the graduation of Borchers.
The threesome of junior Amanda Orr, sophomore Elisa Hamilton and Jimenez combine to make the Buckeye defense one of the best in the Big Ten. Orr, a mainstay in the Buckeye lineup for the last two years, is as strong as she is consistent. Hamilton is the most physical of the group, but she is able to combine her tenacious defense with brilliant attacking ability, evidenced by her team-leading five assists in 1998.
“Our defense is a fantastic group,” Walker said. “They’re strong both academically and athletically. Their strengths vary from player to player. They combine to make our back line very strong.”
A Wall in Net
One of the key returnees this year is junior goalkeeper Amber Barnes, who put together one of the most phenomenal seasons in Buckeye history last year. She broke numerous school records, including goals against average (1.07) and shutouts (9.0). In one remarkable five game stretch from Oct. 11 through Oct. 25, Barnes did not allow a goal, a streak that lasted nearly 495 minutes. And she proved to be tough down the stretch – her goals against average in the final 10 games of the season dropped to a paltry 0.70.
Barnes has proven herself to be one of the best goalkeepers in OSU history. Her impressive numbers rank her first in career goals against average (1.37) and second in career saves (206) and career shutouts (12.5).
“She is the centerpiece of stability,” Walker said. “Amber has the ability to remain incredibly confidence under pressure. That trait projects leadership across our entire field.”
This year’s freshmen class should prove to be one of the strongest in program history. The fresh faces are led by Lindsay Eckles, who has the adaptability to play as either a forward or midfielder. Described by Walker as a player that “has a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net,” Eckles’ style should be a good complement to the play of Nein, Vierling and Fox.
Walker also points to Kiley Enmark as someone who could step in and make an impact. A smooth, technical ballhandler, Enmark could push some upperclassmen for time in the midfield position. Other freshmen include midfielder Shelley Besson, defenders Jen Miller, Lizzy Moore and goalkeeper Anna Mitchell. Besson has the versatility to play either left or right while Mitchell, Miller and Moore will provide the defense with depth and physical play.
“This freshman class will provide us with a depth this program has never had,” Walker said. “We have a variety of different players with multiple talents. Their combined strengths can only help us in game play.”