A combination of strong talent, excellent soccer skills, athleticism and leadership are just the right ingredients to combine for a fifth season of superb women's soccer by BYU's soccer team.
The 1999 season looks to be another 20-plus winning season for the Cougars with a nucleus of eight returning starters from last year's 20-5 team. They will be looking to improve on their No. 13 finish from last year.
Toping the list is All-America, and conference MVP Maren Hendershot, whom BYU expects to lead the team in scoring. Hendershot, a senior from Colorado Springs, Colorado will take over for graduated All-America Shauna Rohbock.
"Maren had an outstanding season last year. I know she's anxious to finish out her senior year in top form," said fifth year head coach Jennifer Rockwood.
"She is a great leader for us on and off the field. There isn't a more exciting player to watch compete than Maren."
Also back is junior midfielder Sara Reading who finished just behind Shauna and Maren in scoring last year.
"Sara is the heart of our offense. We will rely on her to get things going. It is vital for us to have her on the field, she not only is a top scoring threat, but an important link to our forwards," added Rockwood.
Senior forward Karen Robbins will also step up the BYU scoring threat. Robbins, a senior from Bountiful, Utah finished the 1998 season with one goal and eight assists for 10 points and the team's fourth leading scorer.
"Karen may see more time up front this year to help compliment Maren," the coach said.
Other top returners for the Cougars include Kim Lowe, Natalyn Lewis and Jeannie Christiansen. All of whom gained a lot of experience and saw significant playing time last year said head coach Rockwood.
"Our freshmen last year were outstanding for us. They received a tremendous amount of experience and helped us become a deeper threat off the bench."
The BYU defense, always tough, will remain solid in 1999 with all-conference players and upperclassmen Staci Reynolds and Athelia Graham.
"Staci and Athelia are the core to our defense. They have started every game the last two years and know what it takes to win," added Rockwood. "We will rely on their leadership and example on the field. Aurelin Weidner, who started as our sweeper last year, will continue to add balance and composure as the last line of defense."
Sophomore Jennifer Waldron will take the leadership role as BYU's goalkeeper. With Waldron behind the net, the Cougars were 4-2 last year.
"Jennifer is a solid keeper who earned the starting job towards the end of our 1998 season. She continues to get stronger and more confident in goal," comments the coach. Also back to finish their BYU careers are seniors Michelle Jensen, Leanne Johnson and Shannon Kimball. The trio just returned from serving LDS missions to Portugal and Chile.
"We're excited to have these players back with the team. They should, hopefully, be able to pick up right where they left off prior to their missions," added coach Rockwood. "We'll just have to wait and see. Michelle will be a key on our offense, especially with her speed. Both Shannon and Leanne will help us in our defensive efforts."
Five Utah high school standouts along with two out of state top stars make the 1999 recruiting class one of the best for the Cougars. Joining the BYU program are four very offensive players.
"Jeni Williardson is a scoring threat who will be expected to add to the teams total goals. Rachelle Dixon, a midfielder from Bountiful, Utah joins Kelly Hunsaker, from Provo, Utah. Both are talented midfielders," adds Rockwood.
Farrah Hofheins and goalkeepers Jenny Campbell and Kylee Dickson will add strength to the Cougars' defense.
"Farrah brings strength, speed and experience to the back line, said coach Rockwood."
"We are so excited about the potential of these new freshmen. They are all so experienced and talented. We feel this is the best group of freshmen BYU has ever seen, and we are expecting great contributions from them."
BYU continues to strengthen its schedule each year. In 1999, the Cougars are competing against six tournament team from 1998. The Cougars are in action at home 12 times, beginning Sept. 9 with a first-time meeting with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Then on Sept.11 the Cougars host Cal Poly-SLO and Arizona on the 13th.
Washington is one of three PAC-10 schools BYU will play in '99. The Washington Cougars come to Provo on Sept. 24, with Pacific on the 25th and Weber State on Sept. 29.
Mountain West Conference opponents visiting South Field this year include New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Air Force.
BYU's '99 road schedule is another tough battle with contests against Arizona State, Northwestern and Montana in early September. USC and Cal-State Fullerton are road games in the middle of September for the Cougar team, followed by first-time meetings at Boston University and Harvard in October.
The Cougars' final road games are against conference rivals UNLV and San Diego State.
This year's first-ever Mountain West Conference Championships will be held in San Diego and hosted by the Aztecs, November 3-6. The Cougars will be one of the top contenders for the first MWC title.
BYU will then head to the NCAA Championships, expecting a third straight appearance.
A combination of great speed, ball control, talent and athleticism will provide Cougar soccer fans at home and on the road another fun-filled, action-packed season in 1999.