Written by Sean Dahlin
BUENA VISTA, Va—The Southern Virginia University women's soccer team ended its 2012 campaign on a strong note, finishing with an 8-8-1 record in preparation for next year's entrance into the Capital Athletic Conference.
"Our team came together when it counted and had a great year," said sixth-year Head Coach Matt Grawrock. "We finished the season well down the stretch, giving us momentum for next season."
The Knights enjoyed a banner 2012, highlighted by the most goals scored (53) and assists (26) by a women's soccer team throughout Grawrock's six-year tenure as head coach. Southern Virginia also improved its win total from five wins in 2011 to eight this season.
In fact, the Knights ended the year going 5-1-1 in their final seven contests, including a five-game winning streak from Oct. 5-20—the program's longest winning streak since the 2003 squad also won five consecutive matches.
"The strength-of-schedule has improved each of my six seasons at Southern Virginia [University]," said Grawrock. "I feel that although we lost some close games, our team played up to the level of competition and earned key wins to conclude a successful campaign."
Despite dropping three one-goal contests,—losses to NCAA Division II Concord University (2-1 on Oct. 1) and NCAA DIII clubs Marymount University (1-0 on Sept. 19) and Ferrum College (3-2 on Sept. 26) on the road—Southern Virginia earned key wins during its five consecutive victories over opponents West Virginia Tech (4-0 on Oct. 13) and NAIA-affiliate Milligan College (2-1 on Oct. 17).
On three separate occasions, the Knights won games by an 8-0 margin shutting out William Peace University, Patrick Henry College and Trinity Washington University.
Grawrock—the program's second winningest coach with 46 victories—had a recipe set up for a solid year with 16 returners and a talented group of newcomers.
Sophomore Lora Palmer (Alpine, Utah) headlined the Southern Virginia squad as the speedy forward was named the Knights' first VaSID Rookie of the Year while also earning USCAA First Team All-American and VaSID Second Team All-State honors.
During her rookie campaign with the Knights, Palmer led the team in goals (15), assists (4), total points (34) and shot-on-goal percentage (77.6%). Palmer's 15 single-season goals ranks fifth all-time in program history.
"Lora worked hard all season and was a key factor in our team's success," said Grawrock. "Her speed and commitment to the team always put her in great positions to score and she never let us down."
USCAA All-American Second Team selection and second-year Knight sophomore forward Jade Sorensen (Spring, Texas) served as another offensive threat netting 9 goals and dishing out 3 assists for 21 total points—second-most behind only Palmer.
"Jade had an outstanding second season," said Grawrock. "She played so many roles for us and has such a wonderful attitude. She had great goals this season that always seemed timely."
In addition to nominations for its play on-the-field, women's soccer also produced ten USCAA All-Academic selections—Jackie Barlow (Fruit Heights, Utah), Meghan Blackham (Las Vegas, Nev.), Randi Jones (Tremonton, Utah), Britney Jones-Porter (Spanish Fork, Utah), Amber Key-Winsor (Flower Mound, Texas), Bryndel Kindred-Lytle (Tremonton, Utah), Makenzie Lundquist (Alpine, Utah), Palmer, Laura Schow (Plymouth, Utah) and Sorensen.
Women's soccer's ten All-Academic selections are the most of any single team in Southern Virginia history.
"To have a third of our team with a 3.5 GPA or higher is an amazing thing," said Grawrock. "I really believe that a huge part of our success this season is due to the fact that our players prioritize their time and efforts so effectively."
Lone senior Key-Winsor ended her four-year career with her most productive season as a Knight, tying Palmer for a team-high four assists and ranking third on the squad with four goals and 12 points.
Rounding the offensive attack, junior Kindred-Lytle and sophomore Emily Lakin (Stansbury Park, Utah) registered nine points each while scoring four and three goals respectively.
"When Amber is connecting on her passes and is healthy, we're a tough team to beat," said Grawrock. "Bryndel [Kindred-Lytle] was a warrior for us this year, and Emily gave us a different look offensively."
After allowing 3.50 goals-per-game in 2011, Southern Virginia's defense tightened its screws and allowed 2.32 goals-per-game through its 17 matches this season.
Sophomore goal keeper Lundquist went a solid 6-5-1 at the net, averaging 2.27 goals allowed per-contest and registering 52 total saves.
"It was fun to watch Makenzie [Lundquist] grow in confidence throughout the season," said Grawrock. "She is one of the main reasons our defense had six shutouts on the year."
Grawrock also counted on returning juniors M. Blackham and Schow along with junior transfer R. Jones and incoming freshmen Mindy Sallstrom (West Bountiful, Utah) and Victoria Slade (Nicholasville, Ky.) to anchor the solid Knights defense.
"Not enough can be said about each scholar-athlete's dedication to our team," said Grawrock. "Their ability to come together as a team made it fun for me to watch from the sideline throughout the year."
As a provisional NCAA Division III member, Southern Virginia has accepted an invitation to join the Capital Athletic Conference effective July 1, 2013.
"We'll definitely face the toughest schedule in school history next fall," Grawrock said. "Our program is heading into a new era, and I feel this season was a good preparation for us entering the CAC next year."