Division II Teams To Watch
Aug. 26, 2009
By Douglas Kroll
Taking a look at a list of Division I Women’s Soccer champions will yield a lot of North Carolina – 19 to be exact. But the Division II champions list is a little more spread out, including four different national champions in the last four years.
Seattle Pacific nabbed its first national title in 2008, and will start the 2009 season as the nation’s No. 1 team, looking to become the first repeat champion since UC San Diego in 2001.
Other teams that fell just short in last year’s NCAA Tournament will look to take the next step this season, including the likes of West Florida and Grand Valley State, which saw their seasons fall just short of where they would have liked.
The 2008 season saw Columbus State break Peach Belt Conference records with its fourth straight regular season championship, and third straight tournament title. The Lady Cougars made it all the way to the NCAA Quarterfinals, before falling and finishing with a 21-4-1 record. Gina Goforth and Stephanie Parrish return for CSU, after combining to score 33 goals and nine assists.
Grand Valley State
The Lakers were a perfect 22-0-0 entering their third-round battle with Wisconsin-Parkside. A 1-0 loss left the No. 1 team in the nation out of the NCAA Tournament, falling to what many considered to be the Cinderella of the tournament. GVSU allowed a nation-best five goals in 2008, thanks in large part to goalie Kristina Nasturzio and her .912 save percentage. But one of the nation’s best goalkeepers has graduated and in steps Sam DeNio, who played all of 105 minutes last season, without having to make a save. Head coach David DiIanni will also have to replace top scorers Katy Tafler and Ashley Elsass, who combined for 37 goals. Senior Irie Dennis is the team’s leading returning scorer, after posting 11 goals and 11 assists in 2008.
A year after winning the PSAC title in its first season as a full-time member of the conference, Mercyhurst looks to repeat such success. The 2008 season also saw the Lakers make it to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the first time since 1995, before bowing out to Saint Rose. Head coach Keith Cammidge will need to replace Sarah Powell’s 24 goals, but he gets Taylor Hilinski’s 15 tallies back to lead the group of returners.
Winning national championships in 2004 and 2006, and making it back to the semifinals in 2008 as the Roadrunners thinking big once again in 2009. Especially when head coach Adrianne Almaraz has seven of his top nine top scorers returning from the 2008 team. Becca Mays and Jen Thomas combined for 36 goals and 89 points, one of the best duos in the nation. The other good news for Almaraz is goalkeeper Becca Maloney led all NCAA Division II goalkeepers in with a .927 save percentage and was fifth with a 0.38 goals against average.
The 2008 season was a record-breaking one for the Tars, with the team’s first loss coming in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament to West Florida. Not bad considering it was Rollins’ first-ever trip. Back in net in 2009 for the Tars is Michelle Dillingham, who led them to a 15-1-4 in her freshman season. Dillingham’s .865 save percentage was good for 21st in Division II. Leading scorer Chelsea Brady is back for her junior season, looking to build upon a nine goal, six assist season in 2008.
Saint Rose making it to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament a season ago for the first time in school history was considered a spectacular run. The Golden Knights established a school record for wins (20), tied a single-season mark for consecutive victories (11) and became only the fourth team since 1985 to capture back-to-back Northeast-10 Conference titles. For head coach Laurie Darling Gutheil, it will be tough to duplicate after losing a senior class which saw 69 victories during a four year span. Nineteen different players scored a goal for Saint Rose last season, with Christina Cuffari leading the group with eight. Cuffari returns for her sophomore season while impressive goalkeeper Shannon Murphy is back for her senior season after winning 18 games in 2008.
The Falcons won the school’s first Women’s Soccer national championship in 2008, and they’ll start the 2009 season as the No. 1 team in the nation. SPU’s lone loss a year ago came to archrival Western Washington, but revenge was served in the NCAA Tournament with a 1-0 overtime victory over the Vikings. Six starters return from last year’s squad, including three All-West Region honorees. Junior Amanda Johnson is the leading returning scorer with 11 goals, two of them coming in the NCAA semifinal win. Senior Jocelyn Charette topped the team with 15 assists in 2008 and also scored nine goals. Junior goalkeeper Maddie Dickinson had a 0.34 goals against average and was credited with 10 of the team’s 17 shutouts.
The Bulldogs finished second in the MIAA to Central Missouri in 2008, but got the last laugh with a run all the way to the quarterfinals in the NCAA Tournament. They’ll return seven starters – including six all-MIAA players – and its postseason goalkeeper for the 2009 season. A pair of seniors will lead the scoring attack, with Jessica Wiegert and Riley Mahn scoring 10 goals apiece in 2008. Jayne Grisham will start between the pipes, after going 4-1-0 as a freshman including five saves in a quarterfinals loss in the NCAA Tournament. Grisham finished with a 0.40 goals against average in 450 minutes.
To say West Florida is loaded heading into the 2009 season would be an understatement. The Lady Argos fell just short of the team’s first national championship, having to settle for national runner-up after a 1-0 loss to Seattle Pacific in the national championship match – their only loss of the season. But 10 of 11 starters are back in Pensacola on a team that led the nation with 92 goals in 2008. Ron Lenz National Player of the Year Shaneka Gordon returns, a year after scoring 23 goals to lead the Argos. They’ll also have one of the best goalkeepers in the nation back, with Courtney Jones’ .885 save percentage and only 17 credited shutouts from a year ago.
A run to the NCAA Tournament’s quarterfinals lat season saw Wisconsin-Parkside have its best record in school history, but the Rangers fell short of securing the school’s first NCAA championship in any sport. They’ll begin the 2009 season with high expectations, as the No. 5 team in the nation and predicted favorites in the now-expanded GLVC. Cassie Glodowski returns in net, after distinguishing herself as one of the best goalkeepers in the nation in only her freshman season. The Waupaca, Wis. native was second in the country with a .243 goals against average. Leading scorer Meredith Novak is also back, along with her 16 goals – six of which were game winners. Novak and the Rangers will try and keep an impressive home unbeaten streak alive, having not lost in Parkside since the 2006 season.