Aug. 6, 2003
WACO, Texas -
With age comes experience, and the 2003 Baylor women's soccer squad is no exception. Although no one remains from the team that won the Big 12 title in 1998, the current Bears look forward to having the opportunity to experience that glory.
One luxury on Baylor's side this season is a large senior class. After having only two seniors each of the last two seasons, there are now seven veteran leaders on the roster. They have been on the verge of success each of their previous seasons, and they are hungry to taste even more.
Leading the team this season is first-year head coach George Van Linder. He brings with him five conference championships (one at Butler and four at SMU) and three NCAA Tournament appearances, including leading the SMU Mustangs to a Sweet 16 appearance in 1999.
"Our goal for this year is to make a difference in the Big 12 standings," Van Linder said. "We plan to do that with our tremendous senior leadership. This team is determined to make a difference, and the general attitude is that success is overdue."
The Bears once again face a tough non-conference schedule which includes contests against in-state foes North Texas, Houston, SMU, TCU and Rice. Baylor then faces the always-competitve Big 12 schedule.
"It is a good schedule for where we are as a team," Van Linder added. "Our non-conference games should help us prepare for our conference foes."
The forward position has a plethora of experienced impact players. Ginny Rosario-Tull and Kristin Ruef have proven their talents the past two years. With the support of Kate Hensman and Emily Fukuchi, the Bears will start strong, experienced leaders up front. Ruef was the Bears' leading goal-scorer a year agao, and Rosario-Tull led the team in both goals and points as a freshman.
"I have high expectaions for this group," Van Linder said. "They know what they have to do to make an impact."
Backing up the veterans will be talented newcomers Brittany Kuykendall, Rachelle Radosevich, Christy Johns and Missy McConnell.
"This is probably our strongest area," Van Linder said of his athletes in the middle. "The senior leadership is incredible, and the position is deep."
The seniors leading the charge for the Bears are Candice Reilly and Ryan Lee. Although they are young, sophomore Tiffany Boshers and junior April Robertson have proven their value on the field. All four were among the top-8 scorers for the Green and Gold a year ago. Boshers tied for the team lead, accumulating 15 points (6G, 3A) last season.
Several athletes will compete for playing time at the deep midfield position. Also competing for action in the middle are Katie Chicoine, Megan Weaver, Elizabeth Suggs, Sarah Langston, Julia Donelson and Elizabeth Chandler.
Senior leadership also has the potential to make a presence known in the backfield. Seniors Melissa Humke and Casey Cleveland have experience in the trenches. Sophomores Bethany Vick, Kandyce Farr and transfer Brittani Zonker also will make strong efforts to shut down the opposition's attack.
Van Linder has confidence in his defenders, simply stating: "They're impact players."
Backfielders looking to work their way into the lineup include sophomores Morgan Pinter and Joy Winand as well as newcomers Lauren Koob, Meagan Gaulding and Laura Fox.
"It looks to be a dogfight," Van Linder said of the three athletes competing for the starting goalkeeper position.
Monica Housden appears to be the early favorite; however, she and Tanya Sena shared time last season, each defending the goal for 850-plus minutes. Newcomer Katie Whilelaw also has the potential to make her presence known early.
Overall, the Bears are looking up in 2003. They hope to use experience and attitude to push their way to the top of the Big 12 Conference.