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August 15, 2011

New coach, new roster, same expectations - The Tech women's soccer program is thinking NCAAs once again

By: Marc Mullen

This year’s Virginia Tech women’s soccer seniors have a chance to leave their mark on the program as arguably the greatest class by posting one last season with at least 10 wins and one that culminates with another berth into the NCAA Championships.

A winning tradition is now the norm, with last year marking the fourth straight season with an overall record of .500 or better, including the past three seasons with at least 10 wins. In short, a national presence has been established, with the Hokies advancing into the postseason three straight years as well.

And the new leader is not about to let that end on his watch.

Kelly Conheeney

“That’s one of the things that I am going to talk about with the seniors,” said first-year head coach Charles Adair, who took over for Kelly Cagle following Cagle’s resignation last spring. “They have an opportunity to be the first group that’s gone through this program having made the tournament all four years.

“The kids that have left – Jen Harvey, Emily Jukich, Julian Johnson, Robin Chidester – they helped establish the tradition during their time here. They experienced a lot here as a player. They came in here when Virginia Tech hadn’t made the tournament. They had a couple near misses, when we thought we should have been among the 64 that made the tournament. They had those experiences and they kind of felt that, so they were able to build on that and grow.

“The program then grew along with that. So, these seniors haven’t had that feeling, and it’s important for us to recognize what we’ve done well and why we were in the tournament and continue to build on that and try to instill that into our younger kids. That is definitely an expectation for us now. We want to make the NCAA tournament and go from there.”

But for those seniors – Rachel Beaumont, Katie Cramp, Katie Kooiman, Brittany Michels and Brittany Popko – to etch their names as the winningest class, they will need to rely on a number of underclassmen to repeat their efforts from a year ago or step into roles lost by departures.

“This season is going to be a test for us. There is no question,” Adair said. “We’ve lost some impact players, and we need to fill those spots. We have a number of quality players coming in as freshmen and then we have some sophomores that can step into those roles and fill those voids.”

Sophomore Dayle Colpitts is one who does not need to step into a role, but one who will be looked upon to improve on her rookie success. Named to the 2010 ACC All-Freshmen team as a goalkeeper, Colpitts started all 21 games in net for the Hokies last year and posted a 1.74 goals allowed average, with four shutouts.

“Dayle is going to be a key component for our team, as she was last year,” Adair said. “I think gaining a year of college experience as a freshman will help her in leading from the back. She’s been training hard this offseason, so she’ll be fit and ready to go, and she’ll continue to build and help us in the transition of having to fill a void at center back after losing Kelly Lynch.”

Lynch was a huge part of the Hokies’ success over the prior four seasons and ended her career with the most career starts (84) and tied for the most games played (86) of any player ever at Tech. She also helped the team to 28 shutouts in her time on the field.

However, the Hokies do return three experienced defenders from last year’s squad in Michels (21 starts in 2010 and 52 career starts), and juniors Kelsey Mitchell (21 and 44) and Julia Goldsworthy (20 and 27) and each will have a shot at replacing Lynch. Or their experience will be valued if the role is taken over by a newcomer.

“Those are three of our back four, so we have some experience and some versatility,” Adair said. “I know that Kelsey Mitchell has the ability to step inside and become a center back. She doesn’t have as much experience there, but she could help fill that role.

“But we do have some freshmen coming in who are quality players at the position. Jodie Zelenky is one that we will look at, and Helen Butler has played there as well. We just have to find the right combination that’s going to compliment our whole back four.”

Finding the combination that works in the back line with some seasoned vets is one thing, but replacing three seniors – Harvey, Kelsey Billups and Marika Gray – who combined for 17 goals and 13 assists in 2010 is another. The cupboard, though, isn’t bare.

Junior midfielder Kelly Conheeney returns as the top point scorer, as she added a school-record tying 12 assists to five goals for 22 points. Sophomore Jazmine Reeves, who was also named to the 2010 ACC All-Freshmen team, tallied five goals and added one assist.

Adair believes, though, that there are a number of other underclassmen – sophomores Ashley Manning, Katie DeTuro and Shannon Mayrose to name a few – who could emerge as go-to scorers.

(For a complete look at the Tech women’s soccer roster, please check

“We will definitely miss Marika. She was a four-year starter and a dynamic left-winger who struck fear in opponents,” Adair said. “So we have to see who might be the danger person this year. Jazmine Reeves stands out right away, as does Kelly Conheeney.

“Other players that can step in and do the job are definitely Ashley Manning, who scored three of the biggest goals for us probably all year last year, Maryland and BC game-winners, and against JMU, she tied the game for us and those were three huge wins for us. Getting her more consistent time and more time on the field will be important and hopefully she can take advantage of that.

“Katie DeTuro is one who scored a couple of big goals for us as a freshman, so hopefully we get some more consistent minutes out of her and kind of get her into the flow as well.

“There’s also a kid that hasn’t had played a minute yet, Shannon Mayrose. She’s had to sit out the past two seasons because of knee injuries. She is one that we recruited a couple of years ago to be an impact in the center forward for us, so hopefully she’s able to get through some of her health issues and play.”

There will be a different look when the Hokies take the field this fall, with not only nine new freshmen joining the squad, but also with Adair and two new assistants on the sidelines leading Tech.

“I think change is going to be important for us and how the kids handle that. I think they’ve handled it well so far through the spring,” Adair said. “Adding Pete Pososki and Erin Lycan – the two new assistants here – has been important, and I think the kids have responded well to them.

“And I think just getting our freshmen into the mix as well … I think some of the kids that are coming in have an opportunity to play and shine and impact us. How we integrate that and blend our team is going to create our success, and I am looking forward to it.”