Written by Chris Pendleton
BUENA VISTA, Va.—The Southern Virginia University women's soccer team opens its 2011 season tomorrow evening when it travels to Radford, Va. to take on NCAA Division I opponent Radford University at 7 p.m.
Women's soccer is coming off a highly successful 2010 campaign going 11-6-1 en route to a third-place finish at the USCAA national tournament.
Matt Grawrock, who is entering his fifth year as head women's soccer coach at Southern Virginia, hopes to build upon last year's accomplishments in 2011.
"Our team made some great strides last season and we want to build upon that success this fall," said Grawrock, who with a career record of 33-31-3 is only 17 wins away from becoming the all-time winningest coach in Southern Virginia women's soccer history.
Women's soccer touts a balanced roster in 2011 made up of 13 returners and 14 newcomers. Among the Knights returners from last year's squad are three USCAA All-Americans—senior midfielder Melanee Guymon (Chico, Calif), sophomore forward Bryndel Kindred (Tremonton, Utah) and senior defender Tamara Nagle (Norco, Calif.).
"We are deeper than we were last year and we have a lot of flexibility on our roster," Grawrock said. "We have players who can push forward or drop back to defend so we hope to play at a faster pace than we have in the past, while still continuing to put an emphasis on tight defense."
Stifling defense was the calling card of last year's women's soccer team that allowed only seven total goals over the course of the season to their 15 non-division I opponents.
Southern Virginia's defense will be anchored again this season by seniors Nagle and Michelle Riddle (Midvale, Utah). Nagle and Riddle will work with the Knights' only other senior, Guymon, to guide a young team—this year's roster has five juniors, eights sophomores and nine freshmen—back to the national tournament.
"It's my last year at Southern Virginia and I don't want to leave with any regrets" said Nagle, who earned VaSID All-State Second Team honors last year in addition to her USCAA All-American selection.
Last season, the Knights marched through the first two rounds of the eight-team USCAA national tournament without allowing a single goal, but opted not to play in the national championship game, which was held on a Sunday. This season, Southern Virginia hopes for another shot at the national title.
In order to prepare for a deep postseason run, Grawrock has built an extremely tough 2011 schedule, featuring two NCAA Division I opponents (Radford, VMI), four NCAA Division II opponents (Shepherd, Washington Adventist, Concord, WV Wesleyan) and eight NCAA Division III opponents (W&L, Randolph, Eastern Mennonite, Averett, Marymount, Lynchburg, Ferrum, Shenandoah).
Since its first season in 1998, women's soccer has been one of Southern Virginia's most successful athletic teams placing at nationals during twelve out of its thirteen years as a program, including five national championships.
Grawrock, who led the women's soccer to its fifth national championship in his second season as head coach (2008), believes that this year's challenging schedule will pay dividends in the long run—both in terms of preparation for the national tournament and the university's transition to NCAA Division III status.
"It's going to be a challenging schedule, but we are interested in our long term progress," said Grawrock. "We're not concerned with what we look like in August, but rather where we are in November."