by Daniel Whitehead
BUENA VISTA, Va.—Entering his seventh season as head coach of the Southern Virginia University women's soccer team, Matt Grawrock has seen the effect of bringing in impact players who want to represent the university and are excited to don the green and white.
With the team finishing with a respectable 8-8-1 record in 2012, including a 5-1-1 mark to end the season, Grawrock is fully aware of the importance of playing with pride as the program enters its first season as a member of the Capital Athletic Conference.
"We're excited to be a member of our conference and see how we stack up at this point in our program," Grawrock said. "The overall growth of our women's soccer team has been fun to watch and it's great to see the talent we've been able to bring in over the past few years."
The strong finish to the 2012 campaign will serve as a rallying point to build momentum for the 2013 slate.
"I think we can build off of last year's record," Grawrock said. "We've put ourselves in a position to do well both in conference and overall. With our returning players and a great recruiting class coming in, we have reason to be confident in the direction we're going."
Leading the way will be junior Lora Palmer (Alpine, Utah), who finished last season with a team-best 15 goals and 34 points. The talented forward achieved 49 shots during the season and earned five game-winning goals while distributing four assists.
"Lora did great things for us last year and is our top returner," Grawrock said. "With her being the returning leading goal scorer, it will be important for her to use her leadership to direct the offense and continue to get the ball into the net."
Bryndel Kindred-Lytle (Tremonton, Utah) started 15 games last year and scored four goals to go with an assist for nine points. A forward, Kindred-Lytle took 44 shots and scored one game-winning goal for the year.
"I'm excited to have Bryndel back as she brings a lot to the team and we hope she has a great senior season," Grawrock said. "She is a dependable leader and good at controlling our offensive tempo, so we look to her for consistency in our attack."
Senior midfielders Meagan Varney (Loganville, Ga.) and Meghan Blackham (Las Vegas, Nev.) will also be counted upon to push the ball upfield and keep the ball on the opponent's side of the pitch as much as possible. Each scored one goal last season.
"It's big that they'll be back," Grawrock said. "They're seniors and provide great leadership on and off the field. A lot of the girls look up to them and they play a critical role in our system."
Defensively, senior center back Randi Jones (Tremonton, Utah) captains a strong back line that limited 2012 opponents to 40 goals on 213 shot attempts, allowing only 12.5 shots per game. Starting all games last year, she took six shots herself in her first year after transferring from Eastern Wyoming College.
Junior goalkeeper Makenzie Lundquist Cox (Alpine, Utah) started 12 games last season with nearly 1,000 minutes in the box and is the leading candidate to resume the position. Achieving one shutout last season, she earned a goals-against average of 2.27 to go along with 52 saves, recording a 6-5-1 mark as a sophomore.
"While Makenzie is still relatively young in experience, she is going to be huge for us in our efforts to have a successful season," Grawrock said. "She had a great season last year and is our top keeper coming back. It is our hope that Autumn Bronson (Stanton, Calif.) and our two other goalies arriving will push her for playing time."
Grawrock is hopeful that returners Victoria Slade (Nicholasville, Ky.), Alina Grawrock (Aloha, Ore.), Maia McArthur (Laie, Haw.) and Harmony Schiavi (Batesville, Ind.) will provide solid, consistent play and fill the open starting roles or give solid minutes off the bench.
He also brings in a talented recruiting class bound to help the program reach new heights and elevate expectations.
"I'm really excited about this class," Grawrock said. "We've got some scorers coming in and we've really solidified our midfield. The defenders coming in will do a great job.
"The class has committed to the program earlier than any class I've been associated with. We've gone all over the country and done our due diligence in finding people who want to be here. Many of them are going to compete for starting positions."