With five returning starters and an experienced roster of letterwinners, the 2001 season for BYU's women's soccer team should produce another successful winning season coupled with a top national ranking and post season play. The defending MWC season and championship winners are also poised to repeat as conference winners and clinch an unprecedented third straight MWC crown.
All-American sophomore midfielder Aleisha Cramer, who just returned from a summer full of training and competing with the USA Women's National Team, tops the talented 2001 roster. She and senior midfielders Sarah Higham Yee and Jennie Christianson will assume key roles along with returning starters Jeni Willardson Viernes, Aurelin Weidner, Jennifer Waldron and Farrah Hofheins.
"Although we graduated several key individuals off of last years team, our staff feels very strongly about the talent and potential of our returning players," said head coach Jennifer Rockwood. "We had a tremendous spring season posting a 7-1 mark, in which all our returning players gained confidence and game experience. Our returning players are very capable of stepping up and accepting new leadership roles and on the field responsibilities."
BYU's high powered offense should stay intact, but will look to some new faces to finish off scoring opportunities. Midfielder Jeni Willardson-Viernes who finished the year strong with an All-Tournament Team selection will be a strong offensive presence. The Cougars will also look to Sarah Higham-Yee and Aleisha Cramer in the midfield to be scoring threats. BYU has always been known for having dangerous and explosive forwards and this year will be no different with the likes of Kelly Hunsberger, Lydia Ojuka and Kim Devine up top. If the Cougars can get Megan Dickerson back mid season after recovering from back to back ACL injuries, they will be that much more effective.
"We will definitely be looking to some new people to take on the load of scoring," commented Rockwood. "Although we will have some younger players on the field to start the season, we will have more speed and overall athletic ability than any team our program has assembled. It should make for some exciting attacking soccer."
Senior Aurelin Weidner and junior Farrah Hofheins will headline the BYU defense with four year starting goalkeeper Jennifer Waldron in the net. All three of these returning players were starters on last years "Sweet Sixteen" team and have tremendous amount of experience between them. The Cougars will also look forward to the return of Amber Anderson-Johnson and Rachelle Dixon, both very talented players who red-shirted last year. Amber and Rachelle should see plenty of valuable minutes on the game field. Also on defense, the team will expect strong play from sophomores Annie Hoecherl and Brittany Holman.
"The last four years we were so fortunate to have two of the best defenders in the country with All-American Staci Reynolds and Athelia Graham in the back. But with moving Farrah Hofheins back to defense and adding Annie Hoecherl, we are excited about the speed and strength our defensive line will have," adds coach Rockwood. "Jennie Christianson will also play a key role defensively as we plan to move Aleisha one spot forward in our midfield."
The 2001 incoming freshman class is one of BYU's most experienced, accomplished, and fastest to date. Headlining the roster is forward Kim Devine who just recently returned from Holland and Germany as a new member of the U-19 National Team. Kim comes form the Southern Cal Blues Soccer Club who won the U-16 National Championship last year and finished runner-up this year. Krissa Campbell, Tiffany Krainik and Erin Stock also have similar credentials and have all participated with the ODP programs at the state, regional and national levels. Kimmi Davis who play in the midfield and/or forward positions, join the Cougar program from northern California where they were both All-Region and All-League honorees. Campbell was also part of last year's Region Team European Tour.
Two-Time 4A State MVP Erin Stock is the lone Utahn on the incoming roster. The midfilder from Bountiful along with Tiffany Krainik from Colorado come to the BYU program after participating on the U.S. National Camp. Krainik, former club teammate to Aleisha Cramer, is a member of the soccer club Colorado Rush who won the U-18 national title last year. Amanda Gott, a goalkeeper from Aurora is the other Coloradoan on the roster. Her club team Colorado Storm won the state cup championship two straight times.
"We are so excited to add this pool of talented players to our rosters for the next four years," commented Rockwood. "This is probably the most experienced group of freshman from top to bottom that we have brought in. All of them have the potential to have a tremendous impact in our program this year and each will be vying for a starting spot in the lineup."
This season BYU's women's soccer team will face nine teams who participated in last year's NCAA tournament and seven who finished in the top 25.
Head Coach Jennifer Rockwood knows how tough the 2001 schedule will be. "We will face a very demanding schedule this year, but we feel in order for us to improve and continue to be one of the top programs in the country, we have to go out and play them." Rockwood says that her team's road games will be some of the toughest yet. "Most of our ranked opponents we will have to face on the road, but I know we are ready for the challenge. After such a tough non-conference schedule, we hope that we can be playing our best soccer come conference time, and hopefully going into post season play as well. We have high expectations this year and we have the quality schedule to set our own course."
The list of tournament teams includes no.4 Portland, no. 9 Nebraska, no. 11 Washington, no, 13 Virginia, and no. 23 Wake Forest. All these strong opponents the Cougars will face on the road. At home they will play four tournament teams in no. 21 USC, no. 24 Marquette, Boston University, who will makes its first appearance in Provo on Sat. Sept. 28 and Montana who's set to play on South Field on Sept. 14.
BYU spends the first three weeks of October on the road, returning to South Field on Oct. 19. In MWC action, the Cougars will play four of the six teams at home beginning with New Mexico on Oct. 19, finishing with instate rival Utah on Nov. 3, just a week before the MWC tournament, hosted by UNLV. From Nov. 7-10 the BYU team will be in Las Vegas defending its second straight conference title crown. The MWC champion gets an automatic bid into the 2001 NCAA Women's College Cup Championships which begin on Nov. 13.
With the skill level, and speed of the Cougar roster, the 2001 season should be another fast-paced, high scoring, winning season for the highly successful women's soccer program that begins its seventh year under Head Coach Jennifer Rockwood.