May 13, 2003
PULLMAN, Wash. --- On the heels of its second NCAA Tournament appearance in three seasons, the Washington State soccer program kept the momentum going this spring in preparation for a 2003 schedule that will be among the most challenging in the country.
The Cougars tallied a 6-0-1 record in regulation matches, including wins over the Canadian Under-19 National Team and Oregon State. WSU's two entries in the Fifth Annual Seven-A-Side Classic also met in the finals of that event, with the "Gray" squad coming away with the title.
Head Coach Dan Tobias was pleased with his team's showing this spring and believes they are ready to tackle a fall slate that includes national powerhouses North Carolina, Maryland, Wake Forest, Duke, Texas, and Texas A&M.
"Overall, I thought the team made great progress during the spring," said Tobias, the 2002 Pac-10 Coach of the Year. "Having a team that is as experienced as this team is allows you to be sharper and we really saw that with this group.
"Consistency and having that carry over went very well. We feel strongly that it will carry over into preseason and the fall season. I think that is a testament to the team's commitment and dedication."
WSU will rely heavily on a strong senior class in 2003. Goalkeeper Sara Leibowitz, defenders Mariette Boyce and Shay Hobby, midfielders Kim Morgan, Nicole Wilcox, and Jenna Wirtz, and forwards Shelby Brownfield and Rachel Rodrick have combined to play in 321 matches, including 289 starts, and score 132 points in their Cougar careers. Leibowitz has a mark of 14-4-1 as the starting netminder during her tenure on the Palouse.
"I thought the quality of our games was quite high, at times. I think when we weren't playing up to our capabilities, we were still playing within the framework of the team and that allowed us to push through and get a good result."
The Cougars begin the 2003 campaign Aug. 29 at the Arena Sports Pac-10/ACC Challenge in Seattle against 17-time national champion North Carolina.
COACH TOBIAS' POSITION-BY-POSITION BREAKDOWN
"The goalkeepers are a very solid group. Sara Leibowitz is the most experienced. I think she
has made improvements in every phase. She still has a chance to get better and that is
"This is a very solid group. They are deep and experienced and that is important, not just for
them, but for our field players. Their confidence is spread throughout the team."
"Katie Hultin is developing into a very poised and confident goalkeeper. She has improved her
footwork and that has, in turn, improved her positioning. That has made a tremendously
big difference in how she is able to cover. The sky is the limit for her."
"Meghan Miller continues to make strides and the competitions at the end gave her great game
experience. She is continuing to work hard and become consistent in all aspects."
"Again, experience pops up when you talk about Mariette Boyce and Shay Hobby, and then you add
in Megan Cecchini."
"Our backs have a better and clearer cohesiveness regardless of who is playing. Everyone
understands her role better and that allows us to be that much more organized and that will
make it that much more difficult for other teams to create chances."
"Mariette and Shay compliment each other so well. They do and excellent job of steering the
defense and making sure we are properly-shaped. Going into their senior season, they
give our defense a very strong foundation and their leadership has been tremendous, as well."
"Megan had her best spring since she has been here by far. She is playing more to her
abilities and that is great to see for the coaches and her teammates alike. She is doing what
we knew she was capable of and that will allow her to more consistently impact our program."
"Kara Jordan made tremendous strides. She brings a high level of toughness and grit and good
teams need that."
"Jennie Kunc was not able to compete this spring because of an injury, but she had a very good
freshman season. She is a very bright player and is a well-positioned defender that
can play any of the back four spots. We are confident that the injury is mending
properly and we are looking for great things in the future from Jennie."
"Ashley Smith has developed quite steadily. The biggest part of her adjustment was playing
with a zonal back four. She finished the spring feeling quite comfortable in any of the back
four spots and made a great deal of progress."
"We have the luxury of having a very strong group of central midfielders. Again, we have a lot
of experience with Kim Morgan, Christie Spear, Jenna Wirtz, and Cailan McCutchan."
"Christie Spear is the prototype attacking midfielder and she is so skillful. She has the
great ability to pinpoint passes and spring people for goals."
"Kim Morgan does such an excellent job of winning balls in the middle of the field, whether
they are on the ground or in the air. Kim reads the game so well and anticipates.
That allows us to regain possession and quickly start our attack."
"Jenna Wirtz does a lot of everything. She can play a holding position and win the ball or
play the playmaking position and hit balls through that get us in behind the defense."
"Cailan McCutchan made great progress this spring. She has exceptional ability defensively and
offensively in terms of reading the ball."
"On the outside we have Nicole Wilcox, Carmen Anderson, Tiffany Taylor, and Keegan Hughes.
They all provide a great deal of speed and one-on-one attacking and defending abilities."
"Nicole Wilcox was outstanding this spring, especially the last four weeks of spring. She has
become very versatile and is a dangerous attacking player out wide."
"This is a new position for Carmen (Anderson). She has become an excellent defensive player.
Attacking-wise, she has demonstrated that she is on the verge of becoming a very
good attacking flank midfielder."
"Keegan Hughes had her most consistent spring since she has been here and had more moments
where she was able to use her speed and one-on-one attacking ability to break down defenses.
She looks very solid."
"Tiffany Taylor is a very athletic and tough-nosed player who continues to develop into a
solid flank midfielder."
"Our midfielders give us quite a bit in terms of experience, depth, skill, vision, speed, and
athleticism. We are pleased with the progress they have made going into the fall
"Again, the e-word comes up; experience. Rachel Rodrick and Shelby Brownfield are an exciting
combination. We also have the flexibility to use players like Alix Rustrum, who
had a very good freshman season, and Sara Silver-Hill, who showed solid progress
during the spring."
"Rachel Rodrick works so hard to continue to become and excellent striker. She is very bright
and is able to retain and apply training concepts and put them into games."
"Shelby Brownfield will be healthy for an entire season for probably the first time in her
career. She will be a very effective and dangerous striker."
"Alix Rustrum has the potential to be one of the top strikers in the Pac-10. She continued to
improve her overall efficiency and that will allow her to become a more consistent and
thus explosive, attacking player."
"Sara Silver-Hill is a traditional, back-to-goal striker who has very good soccer sense and
combines well with the other attacking players."
"Haley Miller had a solid freshman season in the fall. Unfortunately, injury prevented her
from being able to compete this spring, but she has done a great job in rehab and made great
progress. Haley has very good soccer sense and combines very well. She will be an
important part of our future."
"Our strikers provide us with experience, goal-scoring ability, skill, athleticism, speed, and
depth, and those are all important factors for next year's team and future teams."
"Spring is a time where individual players develop and as they develop, that inevitably helps
your team make bigger improvements. We feel strongly that our team, at every
position, has developed, grown, and progressed, and that has made us stronger. Can we, and
will we improve even more? Yes, because we have a determined, driven, and goal-oriented group
and that gives us great excitement and enthusiasm for this fall."