1998 Season Preview

The key to any successful sports program centers on the foundation from which it is built. With the correct elements in place and careful molding, the makings of a winner are sure to follow.

Third-year head coach Gregg Murphy has taken those first steps along the path of establishing a winner, and has carefully formulated a program with a rock-solid foundation. More importantly, his team enters the 1998 season on the heels of an 11-8-0 finish in 1997, LMU's first winning season in school history. With 14 players returning and 11 new roster additions, Loyola Marymount should figure to add even more strength to its program as the new millennium approaches.

I began this job at LMU with a simple thought in mind, building a house, a soccer-house of sorts, says Murphy. My goal for the first year was to create a positive, challenging environment for the players I inherited, as well as to develop a foundation and a philosophy from which we would build. Our goal in the second year was simple - to win...and we did. Our 11-8-0 finish and top-10 regional ranking made it the first-ever winning season, and the best year ever in the history of the program.

All indications point toward success. Murphy's first recruiting class, the frame of the soccer-house, had a tremendous impact on the direction of the program. In his two seasons at LMU, Murphy has brought in what has been regarded as some of the best talent in the western region. Last year's success was achieved mainly on the heels of a much improved and cohesive defense, and an attack-minded freshman class. Murphy's attention this year centers on finishing with the best conference record in school history. LMU will hope to play well enough to make a run at the West Coast Conference title and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Here's a look at how the Lions enter the 1998 campaign:

Loyola Marymount should be a solid and focused squad that prides itself on ball pressure. LMU hopes to use that pressure to force turnovers and create offensive opportunities. Key returners who will play significant roles defensively are Bree McCann, Karie Huchting, Mia Karamatsu and Heather Nelson. Each player saw a significant amount of playing time last year. McCann, Huchting and Karamatsu each started in at least 15 games in 1997 and gained a tremendous amount of experience and confidence. Newcomer Shaina Nishimoto should see ample playing time as an incoming freshman at central defense due largely to her impressive speed. Tracy Sharp should get the call to start in goal for the Lions this season. Sharp, a great shot-blocker and the single season leader in goals against average last year with 1.36, has the potential to become one of the best goalies in the western region. This past summer Sharp helped guide the Mission Viejo Shamrocks to the U-19 Snickers National Youth Soccer Championship. Elizabeth Skhal, an incoming freshman from Moorpark, Calif., should push Sharp and could see some playing time throughout the season.

Last spring the Lions focused much of their attention on the midfield and forward positions. Murphy saw major improvements in the spring which should help to provide additional scoring in 1998. Key returners to the midfield include Stacy Roberts, Jamie Van Note, Kim Buccola and Kristi Giordano. Roberts, who heads the list of returners, had a tremendous freshman year ranking second on the team in scoring with 11 points (five goals, one assist). She also finished the season as a first-team Soccer Buzz All-Freshman West selection and earned a second-team spot on the All-WCC team. Roberts, who might fill more of a defensive role in 1998, was a teammate of Sharp on the Snickers National Youth champion Shamrocks. Van Note returns this season as one of four players who ranked third in scoring last season with eight points (three goals, two assists). Van Note, who has tremendous speed on the flank, has the ability to play on either the right or the left side. A starter in 18 of 19 games last season, she is ready to play after spending the summer with the Cal South Women's State team in Salt Lake City, UT. Rounding out the midfield will be Buccola whose tremendous speed will result in stretching opponent's defenses, and Giordano, whose ability to get forward will create scoring opportunities. Amanda Shellenberger, who scored eight points last year (three goals, two assists) will redshirt this season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL. The Lions will look forward to her return in the spring.

Up front, Loyola Marymount will be tough behind returning senior Jessica Lyon. Lyon started and played in all 19 games last year while leading the team with 41 shots on goal and eight assists. She led the team in scoring with 16 points and drilled two game-winning goals for LMU. Lyon, a 1997 honorable mention All-WCC pick, tied the school record with eight assists in a season and needs just one more to become the all-time leader on the LMU career assist charts. She will be expected to lead the scoring for the Lions in 1998, and will utilize teammates Angela Ichinose, Michelle Woiemberghe and Tammy Alderman to attack the net. Ichinose, who led the team with three game-winning goals last season (four goals off the bench) has the strongest shot on the team and will challenge for a starting spot as a sophomore. Woiemberghe will also vie for a starting role after scoring eight points of her own a year ago. She is best known for her composure on the ball and ability in the box. Alderman rounds out the forward spot and will provide leadership on the field this season. She is a versatile player who will also play in an attacking midfield role.

Loyola Marymount has a solid crew of newcomers that should cement an already talented team. Trisha Steiner, a graduate of Mater Dei High School, will play at LMU this year after transferring from Arizona State. Steiner will compete for a spot in the midfield and is best known for her play-making abilities. Catherine Corona, a transfer from the University of San Diego, is a great ball handler who also has solid shooting ability. The coaching staff hopes she will add a new dimension to the team's offense in 1998. Erin Fahey is a newcomer from Kingston, Wash. and is well noted for her goal scoring background. She will look to compete for time in the central midfield or up front. Julie Prunk, a product of Heritage High School in Littleton, Colo., is an athletic player who will play primarily in the midfield this year. Kerri Tanksley, a Corona, Calif. native, has solid speed and a knack for finding the net. She is a crafty player in one-on-one situations and should see ample time up front this season. Amber Buffington, of Chapel Hill, NC, is very comfortable on the ball, has good vision, and has great striking ability. These attributes will allow her to compete for playing time as a freshman in the central midfield.

The Schedule
LMU will look to make a run at the West Coast Conference title in 1998. The WCC is traditionally one of the toughest conferences in the nation and boasts Santa Clara as a final four participant from last year's NCAA Tournament. The Lions hope to play well enough to earn a bid to post-season play this year, a feat that has never been achieved since women's soccer became an NCAA sport at LMU in 1993. According to Murphy, the goal is definitely achievable.

We play in one of the top two conference's in the country, says Murphy. Every game is a battle and we're looking forward to the challenges the season has to offer. We trained very hard in the spring knowing that we would face a very demanding schedule. We have a great bunch of kids returning along with an exciting recruiting class. I'm very excited to once again have the best year ever in the history of LMU soccer.

LMU hosts seven of its 12 non-conference games at home this year. The Lions open with Long Beach State who will compete at the NCAA level for the first time in school history. LMU then plays five of its next seven games at home, including a Sept. 27 match-up with USC. The Lions begin the month of October with four straight road games including a stop in Santa Clara (Oct. 9) for their WCC opener. LMU hosts just three of its seven conference games, and completes its conference slate with a two-game road swing at Gonzaga and Portland. LMU will finish the regular season at Cal State Fullerton, followed by a home meeting with the University of Denver. ng his transfer to the Los Angeles Air Force Base in 1997, Mennell volunteered as an assistant coach for the men's soccer teams at LA City College and La Salle Prepatory High School.


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