Aug. 20, 2009
Game Notes for Gardner-Webb match
Cullowhee, N.C. - As the Catamounts prepare for the season opener with the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs on Friday, Catamountsports.com takes an in-depth look at this year's team.
The expectations are high for the 2009 season after a dramatic Southern Conference championship run in 2008 that resulted in two penalty kick decisions and a shutout victory on way to the Catamount's second NCAA Championship Cup appearance. The Catamounts close the door on a memorable 2008 run that resulted in a team-high nine conference victories. Coach Tammy DeCesare welcomes back nine returning starters from the title squad, along with nine seniors, who will try to lead WCU to their fourth conference title.
"This senior class has been able to come together as a group of nine and present a united direction for this team," said DeCesare.
The Catamounts were picked to finish second in the SoCon preseason coaches' poll behind UNC Greensboro receiving three out of 12 first place votes.
The Catamount's 2009 schedule features 10 home dates, two in-season tournaments and an 11-game Southern Conference slate. Western Carolina will open the season against in-state foe Gardner-Webb and Atlantic Sun member East Tennessee State. The team then makes a trek to south Florida with a battle with perennial contenders Miami and Dayton in the Miami University Tournament. WCU then faces another stringent opponent as they travel to Knoxville to play 2008 SEC Champion, Tennessee. The squad will wrap up non-conference play with the Catamount Classic, which features Jacksonville State and UNC Asheville.
"Playing some of the best teams in the country will expose any weaknesses we have and make us a sharper team in every facet of the game," said DeCesare. "Our goal is to enter into the SoCon as prepared as possible in order to contend with the teams at the top of the league."
The Southern Conference Tournament format changes this season, as only the top four teams will advance to conference tournament play which will heighten the importance of every regular season match. The regular season champion will host the other remaining three teams in a two day tournament on Nov. 6 and 8.
The Catamounts welcome back the stalwart in WCU's defense in junior goalkeeper Caitlin Williams. In just two seasons, Williams ranks third on the WCU list for saves (152) and shutouts (14). Williams, who is from Liberty, S.C., picked up preseason All-SoCon honors after her excellent tournament run helping the Catamounts to two penalty kick victories and recording a shutout against Samford. Williams became the second WCU goalkeeper to earn SoCon Tournament MVP honors, joining Catamount great, Alesha Row.
"Williams is an excellent athlete that allows her to extend her range," said DeCesare. "Our expectations are that she builds on her personal development and becomes a leader in the backfield with a better presence behind the backline through strong communication."
Sophomore Katie Jacobs and redshirt-junior Caitlin Gill will battle for playing time as well, as both combined to play in three games last season.
The defense for Western Carolina is led by senior Jenny Matteson, who was voted preseason All-conference, and earned All-Academic and All-tournament team honors a year ago. The Cinnaminson, N.J., native provides the backfield with a veteran presence as she enters the 2009 campaign ranked 11th in games started (63) and is 15th behind with former Catamount teammate Arlan Whittle with 64 games played.
Senior Hilary Holder will continue to play her stringent style of defense as she started in all 23 games in 2008. Holder was part of the five-consecutive shutout streak during the team's memorable 2008 season. Sophomore Samantha Hodge will embrace more of a pivotal role in the backline after playing in the forward position last year. Underclassmen Liz Eichler, Renee Anderson and Taylor Lee will add depth to the defense, as freshmen Katie Salmons and Lidsay Carter will make their collegiate debut.
The midfield has five returning players that should provide a vast amount of experience in the midfield. Three of the five returners are seniors, including All-SoCon selection Shanna Schmoker, Katie Kole and Nikki Lombardo.
Schmoker, a native of Lake Jackson, Texas, has been a mainstay in the midfield position for the last three seasons. She has compiled 88 games played and is 26 games away from becoming the all time WCU leader. In 2008, she scored a career-high five goals and has totaled 98 shots, which is eighth all-time in the record books.
Lombardo added four points last season, including the critical game-winning assist against Samford to advance to the Southern Conference Tournament Final. Sophomore Kayla Beauduy looks to repeat a stellar freshman campaign after earning honors on the All-freshman and All-tournament team in 2008. Beauduy scored five goals and dished out three assists and was second on the team with two game-winning goals.
"Beauduy has returned incredibly fit and on top of her game. She is still learning, which is extremely exciting for us," said DeCesare.
Junior Kellie Oberholzter will look to contribute after recording a pair of assists and scoring her first collegiate goal in a 3-2 win over rival Appalachian State. Kole will add her seniority to the midfield, which should strengthen the team's unity.
Four out of the nine Catamount forwards are seniors this season. There is no doubt the amount of this experience will be make WCU's frontline one of the toughest attacks in the Southern Conference.
Senior Rachael Shomper leads the attack after scoring three goals dishing out three assists for nine points in 2008. Shomper finished with 16 shots, seven of which were on goal. Classmate Shannon Fowkes is no stranger to game winners. The senior has four career game winners, including an overtime winner against Butler last season. She is tied for eighth in WCU all-time game winners. Nikki Collins' forte has been in the assists column. Last season, the Gainesville, Fla., native tied for a team high with three assists. Senior Bri Cunningham tied for the team-high in points last season with 13. Cunningham has 12 goals in her career and is one shy of placing 10th all-time in goals scored. Junior forward Erin Hamilton will add an offensive spark to the team's front attack as she scored two goals, including the game winner against in the 1-0 victory over Furman on October 5.
Sophomores Emily Lynn and Courtney Mallon will provide depth to the strong Catamount offense. Freshmen Elizabeth Kozlowski and Laura Greb will also contribute in the attacking frontline.
As the team prepares for Friday's season opener, the lines for success have been drawn.
"We have a system in place that doesn't allow for complacency, according to what our current and former players have told us," said DeCesare. "I just believe that working hard pays off and that's what we will continue to do this season."
The Catamounts are 5-0 all-time against Gardner-Webb. The two teams last met on Sept, 21, 2007 when the WCU shutout the Bulldogs, 2-0. Tomorrow's match kicks off at 7:00 p.m. at the Catamount Athletic Complex. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Friday night's opener has been billed "Retro Night," with giveaways of retro WCU logoed apparel and gifts.