2000 Women's Soccer Preview
Aug. 10, 2000
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - When you ask Maryland head coach Shannon Higgins-Cirovski about the 2000 Terrapins a smile from ear-to-ear comes to her face and she begins to glow with happiness. The 1999 ACC Coach of the Year is eagerly anticipating the start of a new season.
"I'm extremely excited for 2000," said Higgins-Cirovski. "I'm anxiously awaiting to see how the team comes together with the new freshmen and all of our experienced players returning from the school's fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament last fall."
Higgins-Cirovski can't wait for the 2000 season to start.
"I think the biggest thing we gained from last year was the experience," says the coach after leading Maryland to a second-place finish in the ACC regular season, Maryland's highest finish ever.
"We had a total of seven players on the field at most times that were newcomers to college soccer in 1999. That experience, and knowing they can win at this level and feeling great about their performances built their confidence."
Maryland continued to build its confidence during the spring season, when goal-scoring came with ease.
"I think you saw it in our spring season, we were able to score," says Higgins-Cirovski. "If we can get off to a great start scoring goals this fall, I think we are ready for an outstanding season.
"Last season, we had some difficulties scoring goals at the start of the year, we hadn't really figured it out until the seniors started taking over."
But now those seniors, Emily Janss, Jackie Mynarski and Lindsay Basalyga, are gone, along with their 23 combined goals. Maryland returns just 34 percent of its offensive output from a year ago. But Higgins-Cirovski has reloaded for 2000.
"This past spring, we had to deal without our seniors and we scored a ton of goals led by Kim King, Terri Greer, Courtney Beirne and Sara Gustafson. Gus proved to me she's a real gamer. She has really worked hard in practice and has built up her confidence. Kim showed us she's just a natural born finisher with a knack for sticking it in the net."
Gustafson is Maryland's leading returning scorer with four goals and two assists for 10 points. She scored three of her goals against Duke in 1999, including the thrilling game-winner as Maryland upset the then-No. 9 Blue Devils, 4-3 in overtime.
King scored three goals including two in her first two games as a collegian giving just a glimpse of what's to come in 2000.
Captain Julie Nelson will be in the mix up top as she returns from reconstructive ankle surgery during the spring. Last season, Nelson emerged as one of the Terps' leaders and finished with three goals and three assists for nine points.
"I'm looking forward to having Julie as part of our offense" says Higgins-Cirovski. "She is such a fighter and an emotional leader. Others follow her because of her intensity."
Freshman Katie Ludwig could see time as a striker as well. The freshman is one of the most versatile Terps and could be on the field as a forward, midfielder or even defender.
"Katie is a hard-nosed athlete and is very fast. She will add some of the fire that Julie Nelson does. She adds a confidence that strikers need to be goal scorers."
Beirne and Greer emerged as offensive forces and are expected continue their offensive push this fall. "In the offensive midfield, both Terri and Courtney came out of their shells and really showed how well they can do when they are focused and ready to go," says Higgins-Cirovski.
"What we found with Courtney is that she needs her space. Obviously she is the fastest player on the team and she's incredibly fit. She's now in a position that lets her focus on offense. Not too many people are going to catch Courtney on a diagonal.
"Terri is a great athlete and is more fit than she has ever been. She has a great left foot and can use her right foot equally. She really found her scoring knack in the spring."
Maryland scored a recruiting coup by gaining two of the most decorated players in the Baltimore-Washington area: Baltimore Sun Player of the Year Jen Biscoe and Washington Post Player of the Year Audra Poulin.
Biscoe will add immediate contributions to the offense. She led John Carroll High School to the Maryland state championship in 1999 and was named tournament MVP.
"Jenny can just dominate games," says Higgins-Cirovski. "She just glides by players at times and has such a great feel for where to be at all times."
Poulin joins Biscoe in giving the Terps a great 1-2 freshman punch.
"Audra is a strong athlete. When you play a ball to her she will never lose it," says the coach. "She has great instincts of knowing exactly where her teammates are and where they want passes." Fellow freshman Ludwig will also see time at midfield. She also earned numerous honors in high school including being named an NSCAA All-American in 1999.
Junior Carrie Klotz is also expected to see time in the midfield, but may drop back to defense on occasion. "She has been working very hard this summer," says the coach. "Technically she's improving. She has always been a threat to shut down opponents on defense.
Higgins-Cirovski is utilizing a "defensive midfield position" keyed by senior captain Vita McKenna.
"Vita has really come along during the spring and summer," says Higgins-Cirovski. "Her confidence is soaring. She has the ability to read the game very well and picks up new techniques very fast. She will be a leader on the field as a captain."
Dana Jarzyniecki will also see time at the defensive midfield spot as well as other positions in the midfield. According to Higgins-Cirovski, "Dana's a utility player, she can play anywhere you put her and play it well. She's technically gifted and tactically has a good feel for the game."
The Terps feature an all-sophomore backfield including a pair of Mid-Atlantic All-Freshman Team members in 1999 in Lindsay Givens and Carly Viher. Along with Sally Harrison, the trio started all 22 games together last season. Add to that Valerie Lawrence, who makes the move from midfield, and all four combined to start 87 of a possible 88 games last year.
"I think having four players in the backfield with a full season under their belts is a huge advantage," Higgins-Cirovski says. "They are coming back extremely fit, strong and confident."
Givens returns after a tremendous freshman campaign in which she was named a freshman All-American by Soccer Buzz and named to the Mid-Atlantic region third team by the NSCAA and Soccer Buzz's Mid-Atlantic region first team. Givens plays strong, tough defense and is an offensive threat with her amazing throw-ins.
"Lindsay will anchor our defense," says Higgins-Cirovski. "She's tough to beat one-on-one and is a vocal leader who will lead the backs."
Viher, who was also honored for her freshman play, is another stalwart on the left side of the defense. Higgins-Cirovski also expects her to play a more offensive role with the Terps in 2000. "Carly is strong and tough and has come along technically during the spring," says the coach. "She is good in the air and is expected to join the attack this season. In fact, she scored a few goals off corner kicks during the spring season."
Harrison will man the right side of the defense alongside Givens. Higgins-Cirovski calls Harrison "very good in the air and technically clean."
Making the move to defense is Lawrence, who has made the transition from scorer in high school, when she was named Met Player of the Year in 1998, to defensive stopper.
"By bringing Val back, we won't have to change formations as much when we encounter different opponents," explains Higgins-Cirovski. "Last year, Val was our answer to stopping top-notch strikers often last season. In 2000, she would probably be the one to mark up a person and it wouldn't really disrupt our backfield."
Klotz could move to defense on occasion along with fellow junior Debbie Lieberman. Freshman Jen Lovecchio could also vie for some time on defense. Higgins-Cirovski will also consider the idea of playing Ludwig in the backfield, as she played there for her regional team during the summer. Katie Kruse will also see some time on defense.
Senior Riki-Ann Serrins is expected to be the starter in goal for the 2000 Terrapins. Senior captain Ali Wolff will redshirt in 2000 after starting 20 of 22 games in 1999. This allows Higgins-Cirovski to have a veteran starter in goal for the next two seasons.
"We have two great keepers and we were going to lose both of them in the same year, which would put us in a desperate situation," says the coach. "With Ali redshirting, we will have a great leader around for another year and that's a coach's heaven."
Both Serrins and Wolff rank in the top five of virtually every Maryland career goalkeeping chart. The 1998 All-ACC second team keeper, Serrins has maintained a 1.36 goals against average during her three years. She has recorded eight shutouts including three last season, when she posted a 1.01 GAA.
Two-time Central Virginia player of the year Kristen Barnhill is expected to back up Serrins as a freshman in 2000.
"Kristen has good athleticism and good hands," says Higgins-Cirovski. "She's going to see some time when we are scoring goals against teams we should be scoring against." Freshman Lynn Scharf adds depth at the goalkeeping position.
Higgins-Cirovski is aiming for the Terps to return to the NCAA Tournament for a record sixth consecutive time.
"We can make the NCAA Tournament again," she says. "Our goal is to always win the national championship. To win a title and make a run, we need intangibles and we need to come together. That character needs to be evident and present."
The preseason No. 23 Terps play arguably the nation's most difficult schedule, facing 10 teams from the preseason Top 25 and three of the four national semifinalists from the 1999 Women's College Cup, including defending champion North Carolina.
The season gets underway at Rutgers on Aug. 25 before Maryland returns home to face the preseason No. 4 Penn State Nittany Lions. The same team that bounced Maryland from the 1999 NCAA tournament with a 3-2 win comes to College Park for the home opener on Aug. 29.
The Terps battle ACC rival Duke on Sept. 1 in a game that will be telecast on HTS. Other home conference tilts include games with NC State on Oct. 1, Virginia on Oct. 6 and Florida State on Oct. 20.
Maryland travels to preseason No. 12 Wake Forest on Sept. 22, No. 6 Clemson on Oct. 13 and the No. 1 Tar Heels on Oct. 29 to close out the regular season.
Other highlights for the Terps include a trip to Stanford, where they will face No. 3 Santa Clara on Sept. 23 and No. 7 Stanford on Sept. 17.
The ACC Tournament will take place at Duke from Nov. 2-5 with the NCAA Tournament beginning on Nov. 8 at campus sites.
"Take a look at our schedule. Again, we are playing a lot of the best teams in the country. I'm excited by those challenges," says Higgins-Cirovski with a smile.