Sept. 6, 2007
Experience will be the key for the 2007 Lady Tiger soccer team. The squad returns nine of 11 starters from the 2006 team that advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for the fourth time in the program’s 13-year history. With the level of talent returning, Clemson earned a top-20 ranking in the preseason national poll.
In the 2006 NCAA Tournament, the Lady Tigers tied Vanderbilt (1-1), Oklahoma State (0-0) and Stanford (0-0) in regulation and advanced by winning penalty kicks before falling to Florida State (2-1) in the quarterfinals. Head Coach Todd Bramble’s 2007 team will look to build on the successes they enjoyed during their 2006 NCAA Tournament run, in which they achieved an NCAA soccer first by advancing in three consecutive NCAA matches by winning penalty kicks.
One returning starter who will be a key to Clemson’s success in 2007 is senior goalkeeper Ashley Phillips. Phillips’ play in goal was a major factor in the Lady Tigers’ tournament run in 2006. She earned third-team NSCAA and Soccer Buzz All-America honors and was a second-team All-ACC selection and a first-team NSCAA and Soccer Buzz All-Southeast Region nominee. Phillips, who hails from West Peabody, MA, was named to the Women’s 2007 Hermann Trophy Watch List and is one of 45 Division I women’s soccer players named a candidate for the Missouri Athletic Club’s most prestigious individual award in college soccer.
In addition to Phillips, Clemson returns two other second-team All-ACC members in Julie Bolt and Elizabeth Jobe along with All-ACC Freshman Team member Katie Vogel. In all, the Lady Tigers return a well-balanced 17 letterwinners in terms of class distribution. There are five seniors, five juniors and seven sophomores on the returning letterman list.
Also returning for Clemson is red-shirt senior midfielder Courtney Foster, who sat out the 2006 season after suffering a season-ending injury in the second game of the year. Foster was a Soccer America Freshman All-American in 2003 and a second-team All-ACC selection in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and could become just the third Lady Tiger in history to be a four-time All-ACC selection. The native of Conyers, GA is the leading active Lady Tiger goal scorer with 25 goals for her career and is ninth is school history for career goals.
The Lady Tigers have added a class of six freshmen to the roster for the 2007 season. Three freshmen, Judea Davis, Abby Lambert and Erin Moskos, have the advantage of having played with Clemson during the 2007 spring season, as all three graduated high school a semester early and arrived on campus in January of 2007. Three more freshmen, Samantha Fortier, Paula Pritzen and Stefanie Schroeder, joined the Lady Tigers in August.
Goalkeepers Phillips will be in goal for the Lady Tigers in 2007 in her third season as the team’s starting goalkeeper. In addition to leading Clemson in its 2006 NCAA Tournament run, she also had an incredible statistical season in 2006. She moved into first place in Lady Tiger history for single-season saves with 119 and ranks second in single-season save percentage (0.832) and fourth in solo shutouts in a single season (9). She needs 67 saves to surpass two-time All-American Katie Carson on the Clemson career list.
“Ashley has been everything that we hoped she would be when we recruited her,” said Bramble. “She really stabilizes things for us; everything starts with her in the back. She allows our defense to play in a comfort zone, being that they are not under immense pressure, knowing that if they are to make a mistake, it’s not automatically going to result in a goal when there is someone as talented as Ashley in goal.”
Pritzen, a freshman from Houston, TX, is the second goalkeeper on the Lady Tiger roster. She will play a backup role to Phillips in 2007, creating competition and learning and growing in order to be able to compete for the starting position upon Phillips’ graduation.
Defenders If one problem area existed, defense would be the area where the Lady Tigers lack experience heading into 2007. The two starters lost from 2006 were senior defenders Britten Meyer and Kelly Schneider. Both were two-year starters on Clemson’s back line and are key losses that the team looks to replace.
“We have a lot of good choices to try and replace two big losses from last year,” said Bramble. “We had a very productive spring and were able to get a lot of people playing time back there. There are still a lot of decisions to be made in the preseason.”
The Lady Tigers do return two of four starters from the 2006 defense in Molly Johnson and Amber Funk. Johnson, a junior from Stuart, FL, and Funk, a senior from Greer, SC, both started all 24 of Clemson’s matches in 2006 and Bramble looks for them to provide leadership in the back.
Freshman and Basking Ridge, NJ native Abby Lambert will vie for one of the starting defensive positions from the get-go. “A great advantage for us is the fact that Abby was able to graduate high school early and therefore was able to be in Clemson all spring, training and playing in the spring game,” said Bramble. “She will have a head start during the preseason in August because she isn’t going to feel like a freshman.”
Senior Stefanie Schroeder (Carrollton, TX) round out the roster on defense.
Midfielders Bramble is confident in the core group of midfielders that is returning for 2007, led by Jobe, a senior from Roswell, GA. “Elizabeth has outstanding qualities as a player,” he says, “but equally important is the fact that she is clearly a leader on the field. When the going gets tough, we know we can count on EJ.” Jobe proved this to be true during the 2006 NCAA Tournament run when she made a penalty kick in all three of the Lady Tigers’ matches that reached the penalty kick round, including the game-winning penalty kicks against both Oklahoma State and Stanford.
Jobe, who plays in the center of the midfield, is well complemented by three returning sophomores, Molly Franklin (Frederick, MD), Lindsey Jackson (Raleigh, NC) and Vogel (Marietta, GA). Vogel was a member of the All-ACC Freshman Team last season and Franklin was the team’s leading goal and point scorer with six and 16, respectively, as a freshman in 2006.
Balancing those that play in the center of the midfield are those that play out wide, which is the strength of returning All-ACC player Julie Bolt. A junior from Charleston, SC, Bolt led the Lady Tigers in assists with six and tied Franklin for the team lead in points with 16 recorded in 2006. Meghan Smith, a junior from Centennial, CO, transferred from Iowa State in 2005 and played her first season as a Lady Tiger in 2006, tallying five goals and five assists. Bramble expects that Smith and sophomore Lily Boleyn (Ellicott City, MD) will contribute significantly in 2007.
With the strength of the returning midfielders, Bramble does not expect that lineup to change significantly from 2006; however, he is excited about two freshmen who will challenge the returners. Erin Moskos, from Cucamonga, CA, is the younger sister of former Clemson lefthander Daniel Moskos, who was recently selected as the fourth overall pick of the 2007 Major League Baseball draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. “Erin showed some very good qualities in the spring game and I feel that she will be able to contribute in some way as a freshman,” said Bramble of Moskos.
Wilbraham, MA native Samantha Fortier will also compete for playing time in the midfield according to Bramble. “Samantha plays on the left side and is a very good, fast, attacking player who I think will cause teams some trouble as her career unfolds.”
Forwards Nuria Zufia, a senior from Pamplona, Spain, was the Lady Tigers’ starting center forward in 2006 after being thrust into the role following the injury to Foster.
“Nuria did a very good job in that role and scored several big goals for us in big games,” recalled the Lady Tigers’ seventh-year head coach. Zufia scored four goals in 2006, three of which were game-winning goals for Clemson.
A three-year starter at forward and three-time All-ACC selection in 2003, 2004 and 2005, Foster’s rehab went very well during the spring and Bramble is thrilled to have her back for 2007. “Courtney has been an All-ACC caliber player her entire career. She is well-respected through the conference as being one of the better attacking players,” he said.
Also contributing at the forward position will be Judea Davis also showed promise during the 2007 spring season. “Judea is very athletic and only needs to refine some of her technique and tactical decision making in terms of playing at the highest level,” said Bramble. “If she develops like I expect that she will, she has a very bright future ahead of her here.”
Playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Lady Tigers, as usual, have a difficult schedule ahead of them in 2007. Clemson was one of seven ACC teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2006, and will face all six of the other teams during 2007, including National Champion North Carolina and Final Four team Florida State.
“Our conference schedule is as strong as it always is,” said Bramble. “The teams at the top continue to get better and the teams that finished behind us last year in the league also keep improving. We certainly don’t take for granted the fact that we get to play in the best conference in the country. Every game that we play in the ACC is an absolute war, and we relish the opportunity to play in those games.”
Bramble is also looking forward to the 2007 schedule for another reason. After having very travel-heavy schedules for the past few seasons, the team has the opportunity to play at home more in 2007 than they have in the recent past. “There is no better place to play than at Riggs Field,” noted Bramble of the team’s home stadium and fans. Clemson will play host to four home matches before traveling to Charlotte for the Carolina’s Cup. The team will then return to Riggs for four more home matches, including two to open the conference season, before heading on the road for a four-match road streak in the ACC. The conference season will conclude with the ACC Tournament, which will be held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, FL in 2007.
Two of the early season home matches will feature double-headers with the Tiger men’s soccer team, another feature of the 2007 schedule that excites Bramble. Friday, August 31 will be the home opener for both teams, as the Lady Tigers will face Liberty at 5:00 p.m. followed by the men’s team facing rival South Carolina at 7:30 p.m. “I expect that to be a special day at Riggs Field,” said Bramble. “It is the first weekend of school before the football team plays Florida State on Labor Day night. There should be a great buzz on campus.”
The second double-header will be played on Friday, September 21 and begins with the Clemson men’s team facing Wake Forest at 5:00 p.m. Following the men’s conference home opener, the Lady Tigers will play host to South Carolina in what always proves to be a thrilling rivalry game at 7:30 p.m.
With the experience of the nine returning starters and eight other returning letterwinners along with the addition of six talented freshmen, three of which played with the Lady Tigers during the spring season, Bramble is eager to see what his team can accomplish in 2007. The future certainly appears bright for Lady Tiger soccer.
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