Aug. 12, 2006
Never has the phrase. "Last season doesn't matter" meant more than it does for the Lipscomb University Lady Bisons soccer team as it prepares for the 2006 season.
Fifth -year coach Jenger Parrish has stressed that her team put away the memories of endless injuries and frustrations that filled the 2005 season. Not even being picked last in the Atlantic Sun Conference in a preseason coaches' poll has dampened the new attitude of the team.
"We are going to focus on it being a new year," said Parrish. "Everything has changed. It is nothing like last year. And we don't want it to be like last year on the field."
One of the ways Parrish is putting a new feel and look to the team is the infusion of 12 recruits to join the 11 returning players.
"We have a lot of newcomers," said Parrish. "Physically, and mentally, last season was very difficult with so many injuries. These new players bring some enthusiasm and excitement. . It's a new season. With so many new players there is a fresh attitude.
"What I don't expect to change is the unity of the players. They were close last season. They got along off the field. They worked hard on the field. They were competitive. We had a great time working together."
The centerpiece of the team is expected to be senior forward Melissa Chambers, the team leader in most offensive categories with five goals, two assists, 12 points, 41 shots and 19 shots on goal.
"Melissa is an amazing player," said Parrish. "She is so composed in her skills. She kind of lulls you into buying whatever she is selling. You don't look at her and think she is going to run by you, but she does. She runs faster than you think she can run. She is a smart player. She has a great touch. If she is healthy, she will be big for us on top."
Some other veteran players expected to be key components of the team are sophomore midfielder-forward Sasha Sack, senior midfielder Laurie Babcock, junior defender/forward Leisli Lopez, sophomore midfielder Sara Green, sophomore defender/midfielder Sarah Foster and senior forward Jessica Jordan.
"The ones that went through last year are mostly juniors and seniors," said Parrish. "They see how fast their college careers go. They are motivated to make their last year or last two years the best they can be."
While last year was a disastrous one in terms of injuries there was a great deal of experience on the team. With so many new players expected to make big contributions Parrish expects to see more mistakes.
"We have to recognize we are going to make mistakes that we would not have made last year because of the inexperienced players we have," said Parrish. "Most of the experience we are losing was on defense. I expect us to score more goals this season so we have to balance that out with what they bring in terms of talent."
Some of the newcomers being counted on to make quick contributions are midfielder/forward Brandi Bresheres, defender Cally Warren, and defender Sarah Brummert.
Despite a series of disappointments last season the Lady Bisons remained competitive against most teams, losing three games, two of then against Atlantic Sun teams, by one goal. They also tied Jackson State 1-1 and Jacksonville, an A-Sun foe, 0-0.
"We were hanging with team," Parrish said. "We would be up 1-0 at halftime, but the more we would play players that were injured the more they would be dragging late in the game.
"We would have a lapse and the other team would make us pay for it. And it would be an uphill battle from there. The most difficult part is knowing we could play with those teams if we had been healthy. We were able to be competitive. We were in a position to win several games, but because of the injuries we couldn't close the deal."
Goaltending is always an important factor for a soccer team and Parrish has two choices. Katie Shelton is returning after sitting out last season as a medical red-shirt. She will be challenging Bethany Copeland who played in all 18 games last season.
"Katie has more height than Bethany and has a lot more experience in the goal," said Parrish. "She is a very good field player. She reads the game and knows how to be in the right position.
"I know Bethany will do a good job. Bethany has very little fear. She is very good in one-on-one situations because she is not afraid to come out and take shots from point blank range."
The Atlantic Sun Conference is expected to be a tight race for the tournament berths this season. Parrish doesn't see one or two teams dominating the league.
"This will be the first year without Florida Atlantic," said Parrish. "I think it is anybody's conference to win. It is probably the most competitive that the conference has been since we have been playing. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is given. As a whole the competition in the conference has increased, but there are not one or two schools that are going to run away with it."