Women's Soccer Preview: Unfinished Business

Aug. 14, 2003

The Dolphins had another remarkable season in 2002, riding a 15-match unbeaten streak to the top of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The ride was bittersweet, however, as the Dolphins came up short in their bid for a second Atlantic Sun Conference championship in three seasons after losing to Florida Atlantic in the final match of the regular season, 1-0.

JU caught fire in the A-Sun Championship, downing Samford in the first round and avenging the loss to FAU with a 3-2 overtime win in the semifinals, but a 3-2 loss to UCF in the championship game has fueled the Dolphins' fire this year.

Sixth-year head coach Mike Johnson, who has has led the Dolphins to a 43-16-3 mark the last three seasons, has high expectations with seven starters and 14 letterwinners returning from last year's 15-4-2 squad. Depth will be a strength for the Dolphins with the addition of a solid recruiting class and should help offset the toughest schedule JU has ever faced.

The Dolphins have firepower returning up front with sophomore Ranveig Aas-Hanssen and junior Michaelene Cadiz. Aas-Hanssen earned A-Sun All-Freshman honors after scoring 10 goals and handing out seven assists last season, while Cadiz, despite battling injuries, showed flashes of brilliance, including the game-winning goal in the 90th minute in the 3-2 regular-season victory at UCF. Freshman Stephanie Elgie is a lightning-quick striker, who Johnson believes can instantly help the Dolphins remain one of the best attacking teams in the conference.

The Dolphins have a good blend of experience, skill and speed in the center and on the outsides. Senior Inge Heiremans earned Second Team All-Atlantic Sun honors last season after leading the Dolphins with 14 goals. She'll move from up front to the central midfield to help fill the void left by A-Sun Player of the Year, Vanessa Illanes, who led the Dolphins in 2002 with 37 points (12 goals,13 assists). Junior Erika Chapman returns after missing last season due to illness, while sophomores Amber Otto and Courtney Hardy will need to increase their roles in their second season.

On the outside, JU returns seniors Erin Bitterli and Dianne Herlihy, while freshmen Hilary Bricken and Jenny Borschel could make a significant impact in their first season. Sophomore Regan Rone also had a great spring by leading the Dolphins in scoring, and could move up front to add depth.

The strength of the team will once again be the back line thanks to three returning starters. Juniors Hanni Wenzel and Lauren Starmer, as well as sophomore Meagan Farrell each started all 21 matches last season. Wenzel will anchor the group after earning First Team All-Atlantic Sun and NSCAA Regional All-America honors last year. Sophomore Suzanne Fossum, who earned a starting role in the last six matches of the 2002 season, including the three matches in the A-Sun Championship, will also provide experience in the back.

Talented freshmen Morgan Marinell, Meagan Surrency, Ashley Reilly and Cassi Gurzi will add quality depth for an already solid JU defense.

The Dolphins' biggest question mark is in goal with no returning starters. Senior Sarah Scalese is the only Dolphin with collegiate experience after appearing in three matches off the bench last season. She'll battle sophomore Jennifer O'Malley and freshman Stephanie Lounsberry for the starting role.

The 2003 schedule is the most challenging yet for the Dolphins, including matches against all eight Division I schools in Florida. The roughest stretch will be in September when JU hosts 10th-ranked Florida State and hits the road to face 19th-ranked Florida before taking on major-conference foes Ole Miss and Miami in Tallahassee.

October will be critical for the Dolphins with five A-Sun road matches and three at home, including the two teams that tied for first in the league in 2002: UCF and FAU. JU ends the season with three road matches in A-Sun play at Campbell, Gardner-Webb and Stetson. The A-Sun Championship returns to Boca Raton, Fla., where the Dolphins clinched their outright conference championship in 2000.