Unfettered Pioneers aiming high Soccer team reloads after '91 probation

September 01, 1992|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer Staff writer Steven Kivinski contributed to this article.

Like any coach, Jim Shuck hopes his teams will achieve a winning record. But considering the circumstances of last season, he settled for mediocrity.

He won't this year.

Shuck's Anne Arundel Community College women's soccer team no longer is on probation. Eight players have returned for their sophomore seasons. And Tracy Tobin, a former Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year, transferred to the school last fall and has joined the team.

Another 8-8-1 record won't be accepted with the same tolerance.

"There's no question in my mind that we can get to the nationals," said Shuck, whose first year with the team was marred by a one-year probation imposed for violations that took place under a different coaching staff. "We've got to win Region XX first, but I feel comfortable with that.

"We held our own last year in the region, and we're stronger this year."

But they're not deeper. The same limited number of bodies has put extra emphasis on conditioning and instilled extra fear about any injuries.

"We had a little scrimmage against Navy [Sunday] and they had us outnumbered and ran us to death," said Shuck, who has 13 players available and another out with a muscle pull. "They recognize how they have to be in shape and they're working harder at that. As long as we stay healthy, we'll have a nice year."

Last season wasn't without its high points, like the two victories over Catonsville Community College -- a team that won the region to advance to the nationals.

"We knew we were good enough to go to the nationals, because we beat Catonsville," said sophomore forward Kathy Green, a St. Mary's graduate and one of the fastest players on the team. "We were a good team last year, but I think we're even better this year. We have a lot of returners and we feel like we have something to prove."

The probation stemmed from the school's use of two ineligible players during the 1989 and 1990 seasons.

Without no sanctions, players are eligible for All-Region and All-American honors. But their focus clearly is on making the national tournament in New Jersey, rather than any personal gains.

"Last year, we would ask ourselves, 'What are we playing for?' But we just went out and played for ourselves," Green said. "This year, we're ready to go all the way."

Shuck said, "I think they're anxious now. The probation affected them more than I thought. It didn't affect me; I got a team and was happy to get it, probation or no probation. The girls accepted it very well, but they were a little more down on it than I picked up on."

Sweeper Nikki Beall and midfielder Barbara King are the only players not back from last season. Beall's loss leaves a sizable void that sophomore Christie Dunbar, a South River grad, will try to fill.

"Beall will be the hardest to replace because she pretty much controlled the defense," said assistant coach Michele Rodriguez-Smith.

Besides Dunbar and Green, other returning players are forward Michelle Cope (Severna Park), striker-halfback Vicky Ardis (Old Mill), midfielder Devon Reardon (St. Mary's), goalie Lisa Purkins and forward Rachel Pearce (South River). Pearce will back up Purkins, though her goalkeeper experience is limited.

The newcomers include halfback Vicky Prince (Southern), stopper Lisa Cope (Severna Park), midfielder-forward Tobin (St. Mary's), midfielder Kristen Godfrey (North County) and fullbacks Faith Bigalow (Broadneck) and Jennifer Rice (Queen Anne's). Godfrey might miss the season because of a muscle injury. Bigalow has a pulled hamstring, but she appeared in Sunday's scrimmage.

Tobin is one of the more intriguing stories, having transferred to Anne Arundel last year and being named the school's Most Valuable Player in women's lacrosse. She was the county's top soccer player in 1989 -- recording 13 goals and 11 assists -- before attending Randolph Macon Women's College.

"It's great to add her to the mix," Shuck said. "We have a really nice-rounded team, just like last year."

Shuck and Rodriguez-Smith hope to find more players, but they don't mind going into Saturday's opener against New Jersey's Mercer College with the present group.

And without the restrictions.

"The team last year only had two girls from the previous team, so the new girls had to pay for something they weren't involved in," said Rodriguez-Smith.

"They're looking forward to this season."

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