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2001 Season Outlook

Not many teams could lose their all-time leading scorer as well as the nationís top goalkeeper and not miss a step, but the University of Southern Indiana womenís soccer team will be trying to do just that in 2001.

USI Head Coach Bill Wilkins enters 2001 needing to replace six players who combined for two All-American awards, six All-Region honors, and eight All-Conference awards.

On the offensive half of the field, Wilkins will lean heavily on senior forward Kristen Light (Florissant, Missouri) and sophomore forward Aisha Earle-Smith (Spring, Texas).

Light became one of the teamís top offensive threats as a junior, producing 17 points on eight goals and one assist. The senior also had five multi-point games for the Eagles in 2000.

Earle-Smith, one of the fastest Eagles on the team, had an outstanding freshman season, ranking second on the team in scoring with 19 points on seven goals, including three game-winners and five assists. She also posted five multi-point games.

Adding to the Eagle attack is the combination of junior Jenny Wessel (St. Louis, Missouri) and sophomore Darlene Dippel (Evansville, Indiana). Both figure to add versatility by playing the forward and midfield positions.

As the season progresses, the Eagles will hope to have freshman Nichole Cox (Plymouth, Indiana) recover from knee surgery and add to the depth of the frontline. Cox played for Plymouth High School (Plymouth, Indiana) last year.

The strongest position on the field for the Eagles may be the midfield. USI returns two out of three starters from last seasonís squad.

Both senior Kayla Scheller (Evansville, Indiana) and junior Megan Fitzler (Maryland Heights, Missouri) will lead the midfield into the 2001 season.

Scheller was an offensive threat for the Eagles from the outside-midfield position last fall, putting six points on the board for USI on three goals. She will be looked upon to provide a greater offensive role in the upcoming season.

Fitzler will be counted on to be the playmaker behind the front line.

Wilkins also brings in freshmen Jennifer Johnson (Carmel, Indiana) to give the squad flexibility in the middle.

On defense, the Eagles need to replace two starters to remain in the top 10 of the nation on team defense.

The Eagles finished last season ranked eighth nationally in defense, while goalkeeper Heather Heseman was tied for first in Division II with a 0.44 goals against average.

To pick up where the team left off last season, the Eagles will depend upon junior goalkeeper Aude de La Salle (Gajoubert, France) to lead the way. De La Salle played in 11 matches for the Eagles in 2000, completing her first season with a 1.01 GAA in 716 minutes between the posts.

Freshman goalkeepers Sarah Jones (Seymour, Indiana) and Libby McKinney (Boonville, Indiana) will back-up de La Salle.

In front of the goal, the Eagles will return juniors Pleasant Lant (Chandler, Indiana) and Jill Hejlek (St. Louis, Missouri), both of whom helped the Eagles become one of the toughest defenses in the nation.

Lant, a two-year starter in the back, will be asked to shut down the opposing teamís leading threat in each match. Hejlek played in every game a season ago, and will continue her role as a central defender.

USI is looking to junior Aimee Muller (Hilton, New York), a transfer from Paul Smithís College in New York, to fill the sweeper position. Sophomore Robin Petty (Montgomery, Indiana) is a strong candidate to complete the defensive starting four.

Muller was a two-time All-Region, All-Conference, and team MVP at PSC.

Freshmen Jamie Houston (Seymour, Indiana) and Joanna Gurley (Terre Haute, Indiana) will provide depth to the defense.

Highlighting the 2001 home schedule are GLVC matches against NCAA Division II runner-up Northern Kentucky University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, and a non-conference match against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. USI will start its regular season with three consecutive home matches and will make use of Strassweg Field nine times in 2001.

The Eagles will have a tough road schedule, traveling to nationally-ranked Minnesota State University, the University of Indianapolis, SIUE, and NAIA Tournament participant McKendree College. Indianapolis knocked the Eagles out of the conference
tournament and ended any chance of a national tournament appearance.

Among the new teams that USI has added to the schedule are Brescia University, Northern Michigan University, Oakland City University.

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