New Coach, New Look To Women's Soccer In 2000
Aug. 15, 2000
LAS VEGAS - The new year has brought a lot of change to the UNLV women's soccer program. Most notably, former assistant coach Dan Abdalla has taken over the helm of the young program after the sudden resignation of Staci Hendershott. Abdalla has been busy since taking over in February, building the roster with an impressive recruiting class. And with the program now in its third year, the Rebels will have the added luxury of a crew of veterans. When women's soccer was added at UNLV in 1998, the foundation was laid with a solid nucleus of young, developing players who now return with two years of Division I experience. The influx of new talent combined with the experience and leadership of the players who have matured with the program since its birth has created an optimistic outlook for the upcoming season.
"We should finally shed our youth and step into our own this season," said Abdalla. "We are looking to be an established program this year, not just a new one. We expect to have a winning record and compete for the conference title."
With nine starters and 15 letterwinners returning from last year's 7-11-1 season in the competitive Mountain West Conference, the Rebels look to climb over that .500 hump in 2000.
"Continuity in our new program is very important," UNLV Director of Athletics Charles Cavagnaro said. "Coach Abdalla brings a thorough knowledge of the game and, just as important, brings an understanding of the university and the city. We look forward to the continued improvement of our women's soccer program."
An accomplished goalie for the UNLV men's soccer team from 1994-97, Abdalla was a four-year starter and still holds the school records for saves in both a season (101) and a career (321). Following his collegiate career, he spent two seasons with the Orange County Zodiac of the `A' League, an affiliate of the MLS Los Angeles Galaxy.
Abdalla will not be the only former collegiate standout to roam the Rebels' sideline this year. Joining the program as an assistant coach is Maren Hendershot, a former BYU star and last year's Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. A two-time All-American, she finished second in the league in both goals and total scoring last season while leading the Cougars to the inaugural conference title.
The big thing Maren brings for us is her great experience with women's soccer at the Division I level," Abdalla said. "At BYU, she was one of the top strikers in the nation, and we are looking forward to the help she will provide our attackers."
"Janae is explosive on offense, with great speed that lets her get in behind the defensive players," Abdalla said. "We worked with her this spring on teaching her more one-on-one on goal. She has a lot of confidence and can be a huge offensive threat for us this year."
Returning on the opposite side of the field is sophomore Cosette Joffs, who scored twice with two assists and a game-winning goal last season. Her six points were fourth best on the squad and tops among last year's newcomers.
Junior Suzanne Jensen has been a regular starter in the system as both a forward and a midfielder and will most likely be used in a similar role this season. She has outstanding speed and skills and will be a key to the play of the offense.
Rachael Buscovich, an incoming freshman from Ursuline High School in Santa Rosa, Calif., should also find plenty of minutes at the forward spot. At 6-1, she is a big target up front and could make an immediate impact upon the Rebels' offense.
Junior Anita Pedford, the Rebels' all-time leading scorer, will lead that group. Pedford paced the squad as a freshman in '98 with five goals and six assists. She added 12 points on four goals and four assists during her sophomore campaign despite missing two games with injury.
"Expect from Anita this season a commitment on the offensive side with her as an attacking midfielder," Abdalla said. "She has great speed that will let her take players one-on-one, but will also concentrating on setting up a lot of shots. She should put up numbers again like she did as a freshman."
Juniors Jessica Chavez and Lora Crammer also return for their third year in the Rebel system. Chavez was a regular starter last year and will supply quality technical skills, experience and leadership to the midfield line. Crammer saw time in 11 matches last year and will use that knowledge to increase her minutes this season.
Coming from national high school powerhouse Carondelet (CA) High School, sophomore Cristyn Enea found a spot in the starting lineup in her first year. An talented and athletic player with a good feel for the game, Enea dished out a pair of assists as a rookie and should once again see a lot of minutes in the center of the field. Juniors Robyn Krivacic and Marni Polakow both add a solid defensive presence to the midfield crew, but also add a real threat as the team presses forward on the attack. Krivacic may be the most overlooked talent on the team without a lot to show in the statistical column. However, there is no doubt that she is an aggressive attacker and defender and a leader on the field.
Polakow is another strong, speedy and experienced weapon. She is usually found patrolling the right sideline and does a great job of turning a defensive play into a scoring opportunity.
"Our midfield will have more possession this year," Abdalla said. "And along with that, more purpose. They will fight for every ball and together create opportunities from that. They will do a lot more running on the outsides in an effort to try to get seven and eight players into the attack."
Sophomore Kellie Krueger and two new freshmen - Tania Lee and Erin Egertson - round out the midfield mix. Krueger will also try to parlay her hard work over the past year into added minutes. Lee, a 5-10 lefty from Thornton, Colo., has the potential to be one of the Rebels' top recruits this year. Egertson comes to UNLV from Mission Viejo, Calif., the same hometown as Abdalla.
"On defense this year we will see a new attitude with a lot of intensity, conviction and discipline. There will be a bite on every ball like it's the last ball they will ever see," Abdalla said.
Junior Shannon Fredrickson all played in every game last year and every game since UNLV added women's soccer and has the most experience of the defensive returners. She is an all-around athlete and a smart player who complements the defense. She spent the spring recovering from a knee injury and should be back to 100 percent by August.
Sophomores Jennifer Fahrney and Jaime Barto both saw a bit of playing time on defense last year and will use that experience to challenge for more time this year. Fahrney played in 17 games a year ago, Barto in seven.
Newcomers Christy Alatorre, Jaime Hadley, Sherese Nelson and Kelly Oshay to provide depth on the back line will join them. Lee could also get minutes on the defense, depending on the Rebels' needs.
"Shannon is a very intense player, who has great maturity and composure," Abdalla said. "She also knows that there will be competition for this job, which I think will help bring out the best in her. In our system, the best player plays and it's important for the players to know that.
"Additionally, our offense will be improved, so we won't have to rely on goalkeeping to keep us in games."
Providing that competition will be junior Kristin Puhl, who returns for her third season, and freshman Heidi Hart, a 6-1 defensive specialist from Westminster, Colo., whom Abdalla believes will be the program's keeper of the future.
"It is a difficult schedule because of the number of road games that we play." Abdalla said. "At the same time it is a realistic schedule with the types of games we need to win to become one of the top teams in this conference. We have competition against some of the best conferences, with a Pac-10 team and a Big Ten team in there. And our conference schedule is always tough from top to bottom."
UNLV wraps up the regular season by hosting the UNLV/FILA Tournament, featuring a first-round matchup against Western Michigan and a later date with either Denver or Texas-El Paso. And following that tourney, Johann Field will serve as the site for the second ever Mountain West Conference Championships.