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Women\'s Soccer Hoping To Benefit From Preseason Trip

(Posted September 1, 2005)

Senior captain Nikki McLellan is a three-time All-Conference player who will be a big part in Juniata\'s 2005 success.

The Juniata College women's soccer team could have spent its entire preseason as many college teams do, sweating through multiple practices, doing conditioning drills and becoming familiar with teammates. And while the Eagles did participate in many of those normal preseason activities, the team also had the fortune to participate in a preseason trip to the United Kingdom. After reaping the benefits of the once in a lifetime experience, the Eagles are hoping it will lead to a season as memorable as its preseason trip.

The trip abroad featured visits to famed Old Trafford Stadium, the home of famous English club Manchester United as well sightseeing adventures in Stirling Scotland and Chester England.

"This was a chance four our ladies to see their sport played in a place where it's a passion," explained head coach Scott McKenzie. "It gave our ladies a chance to see that not everyone does things the way we do in this country. I think it will lead to some tremendous growth for them as individuals."

The growth may also have taken place on the field as the Eagles took on the challenge of playing against high-level club opponents. Playing with a new system of play The Eagles played matches against clubs from Dundee and Edinburgh Scotland as well as the Urmstom Meadowside FC from England. The results pointed to a strong season as the team claimed a 2-0 win over Dundee, and dropped tight matches to the other two clubs.

"These were quality, professional club teams and we held our own and in some cases carried the play," McKenzie explained. "I was very impressed and pleased with the way we performed."

With those performances and valuable experience under its beltt, Juniata now turns its attention to the season, where Juniata will be relying on an exciting mix of veterans and newcomers that could keep the Eagles in contention in the Commonwealth Conference. Leading that group are senior stalwarts Nikki McLellan (Parkland/Lake Forest, Ca.) and Lauren Welsh (Westminster/Finksburg, Md.). McLellan is the only three-year All-Conference player in the history of the women's soccer program, while Welsh has been a defensive starter for three seasons. The pair are two of the seven returning athletes that held consistent starting roles in 2004, and will lead the offense and defense respectively this season.

The Eagles do face the task of replacing a group of departed seniors that helped raise the overall competitiveness of the Juniata women's soccer program. The Eagles have claimed six wins or more in each of the past four seasons, and now must see many of the returnees embrace larger roles.

"This group has viewed the task of replacing the leadership and talent of the departed players as a positive challenge rather than a negative," McKenzie said. "The maturity of our seniors will help us bridge those losses. I have great confidence that our returning players will rise to the challenge."

Looking to meet the challenge of providing offense for the team will be senior Lindsay Garvey (Willsboro Central/Essex, N.Y.) and juniors Alicia Walsh (Latrobe/Latrobe) and Kristen Yohn (Indian Valley/Reedsville). Yohn and Garvey both netted goals during the team's preseason trip, while Walsh netted five goals last season, second-best among returning players.

Defensively the Eagles will be playing a new scheme that has shown to better fit the team's personnel. Junior Kelly Howard (Bishop McCort/Johnstown) earned All-Conference recognition as a freshman and will team with Welsh to anchor the Eagles defense. A host of sophomores will join the veterans as backs and defensive midfielders, many of who saw considerable playing time as freshmen. They will be working to protect sophomore keeper Lisa Russo (Lakeland/Haskell, N.J.) who showed great promise in starting 14 games and earning three shutouts in her first season.

"We think this team has the talent to remain competitive," McKenzie stated. "We were all fortunate enough to have the memorable experience of traveling to the United Kingdom, now we just want those good feelings to carry into the new season."

Juniata's shot to make 2005 memorable will begin Thursday Sept. 1 when the Eagles host La Roche College in the first Juniata athletic event of the 2005-06 academic year.


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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.