Oct. 17, 1997

1997 Women's Soccer Outlook

As she enters her second season as head coach at the University of Virginia, April Heinrichs knows she has a chance to build one of the top women's soccer programs in the nation. The Cavaliers have traditionally had a very strong team, making the NCAA Tournament in nine of the last 10 seasons. But Virginia has posted only one victory in those nine NCAA appearances.

The Cavaliers have always been a very good team, but have never been able to take the next step to greatness. But now Heinrichs may have UVa in position to move to the next level.

"The most important thing for this team is that we understand what commitment and dedication it takes to be successful," says Heinrichs. "We want to start to define ourselves and separate ourselves from all the good teams. We don't want to be one of the 30 or 40 best teams in the country. We would like to establish ourselves as one of the top five teams in the country."

With eight starters and five All-Atlantic Coast Conference selections returning from last year's 12-7-2 squad, the Cavaliers have the talent necessary to be one of the top teams in the nation. And this year, they may also have the depth and versatility to make things happen.

"Last year, I don't think we had a lot of depth," says Heinrichs. "When we had injuries, we were really put in a bind. This year, with the freshman class we have added, depth will not be a question. Some players who started last year may be coming off the bench this season. And with this depth, we have a number of players with the ability to perform at two or three different positions. That versatility will help us in the long run."

To lead this team, Heinrichs has a group of seven seniors who are looking to make a statement in their final season.

"We have some phenomenal players who understand the commitment that is takes to be successful in the ACC," says Heinrichs. "And now they have a sense of urgency to succeed since they are seniors and their careers will be coming to an end. I think the senior class will collectively pull the team along, to make their last year the best season of their careers."

A position by position breakdown of the Cavaliers follows:

FORWARD: The Cavaliers return one of the most potent scoring combinations in the ACC with senior Dina Padula and sophomore Angela Hucles. Padula earned third team All-America honors as a sophomore and battled through injuries to turn in a solid campaign in 1996. She totaled seven goals and four assists last year and was named second team All-ACC, despite missing five games. With 19 goals and 21 assists so far in her career, Padula is on the verge of becoming one of the most prolific scorers in school history.

"Dina Padula continued to improve her work ethic during the offseason," says Heinrichs. "She has a greater commitment to the game and to herself, and wants to have a strong season in her last year of collegiate soccer."

Joining Padula up front is Hucles, who had the most outstanding freshman season in school history last fall. She scored a school single season record 17 goals in the 1996 season, including six game winners. With three years remaining in her career, the first team All-ACC selection has an excellent chance to break Andrea Rubio's school record of 36 career goals.

"What excites me about Angela Hucles is, she is one of the most intrinsically motivated players we have on the team," says Heinrichs. "She has been invited several times the U.S. under-20 national team camp, and is a real student of the game and how to get better. Her challenge will be to succeed now that other teams will focus their defenses against her."

A third scoring threat for the Cavaliers is junior Jill Maxwell. After missing all of her freshman season due to injury, Maxwell saw her first collegiate action midway through the 1996 campaign. She scored one goal in nine games last season, and now appears to be ready for a larger role in the offense.

"I think Jill Maxwell has finally put her injuries behind her," says Heinrichs. "She is getting increased mobility and increased confidence on the ball. If we can get her the ball inside the box, I think she is going to be a very consistent scoring threat."

Rounding out the top forwards for Virginia will be freshman Sasha Wilson. Although it may take her some time to adapt to the collegiate level of play, Wilson has an excellent work ethic and can push the players ahead of her for playing time.

MIDFIELD: Looking to the center of the UVa midfield, the quarterback of the team may be senior co-captain Jennifer Rawlings. Despite her small stature, she has become the heart and soul of the team with her commitment to make herself and the team the best they can be. Last season Rawlings tied for the team lead in assists with seven, while also scoring four goals.

"Jennifer Rawlings finished first in almost every single fitness event that we did during the spring," says Heinrichs. "She has stepped up her commitment, her game and her work ethic to an even higher level, and has earned great respect from her teammates and the coaching staff."

Two other key contributors in the center of the midfield will be junior Carryn Weigand and freshman Katie Tracy. Weigand saw the majority of her time last season as a defensive midfielder, after returning from an off season knee injury. A strong all-around player with excellent ball control, Weigand will look to return to the form of her freshman season when she scored four goals and four assists. Tracy is one of the team's top incoming freshmen, and was chosen as the top recruit in the region by Soccer America. She should become an important part of the Cavalier midfield in her first season of collegiate action.

On the wing Virginia returns senior Wendy Hartwig, a two-time second team All-ACC selection. The team's most consistent defensive wing midfielder over the last few seasons, Hartwig also became more of an offensive threat last season with two goals and seven assists.

"Wendy Hartwig is a student of the game, who wants to get better and wants to improve," says Heinrichs. "She is an incredible force to get by on her flank, and is also committed to her physical piece of the puzzle. She will once again play a key role for us."

Two other players who should see a good deal of action on the wings will be sophomore Lindsay Ritter and freshman Tracey Lache. Ritter played in only five games last year due to injury, but turned in some strong performances during spring practice. A former defender, Ritter has an excellent work ethic and commitment to the game. Lache is another of the Cavaliers' outstanding freshmen, and brings excellent speed and versatility to the lineup. She has the ability to contribute on both the left and right flanks.

DEFENSE: With all but one player returning in the back, it is obvious the defense will be a strength for the Cavaliers this season. Junior Karem Esteva and senior Kelly McLaughlin are both two year starters, who will form the foundation of the defense this season. But they could both be pushed for playing time, with UVa bringing in a pair of talented freshmen in Tammy Westinghouse and Breanne Smith, along with sophomore Shannon Garvey, who missed all of last year due to injury.

Esteva, who is the only player on the squad to have started every game each of the last two seasons, will likely serve as the leader of the defense. A second team All-ACC selection in each of her first two years, Esteva will probably play most of her time as a central defender but could also see some action as a defensive midfielder.

"Karem Esteva is obviously one of our better players," says Heinrichs. "She played some as a defensive midfielder during the spring, and I think that improved her game since in the midfield the game comes at you instead of you having to respond to the game."

McLaughlin, a fifth-year senior and co-captain, will look to hold onto her job at right back, but also has the versatility to contribute to the Cavaliers in the middle of the defense if necessary. McLaughlin has played in every one of the team's games over the last two seasons, starting all but three contests.

"Kelly McLaughlin has excellent speed, so we really need to play her at a flank position because it allows her to neutralize someone," says Heinrichs. "She is an solid defender who has also developed her ability to get forward into the attack."

Leading the newcomers in the back will be Garvey, who sat out in 1996 after suffering a knee injury. A versatile player, Garvey has the ability to contribute at any defensive position and has incredible sophistication with her feet. If she can return to full health by the beginning of the season, Garvey will likely earn a spot somewhere in the starting lineup.

The freshman tandem of Westinghouse and Smith will also be a valuable part of the defense. Westinghouse has outstanding experience on the high school and club levels and could play most any defensive position. She will likely grow into a leadership role and take over as the anchor of the defense once Esteva graduates. Smith is a strong athlete and intense competitor who also has the versatility to play anywhere in the back.

GOALKEEPER: Megan Boehm earned first team All-ACC honors as a true freshman, and will likely lead the Cavaliers in goal this fall. She posted a 6-5-1 record and a 1.55 goals against average last year, but nine of the 20 goals she surrendered came in the two games against North Carolina. Along with Hucles, Boehm has also participated in many camps with the U.S. under-20 national team.

"Megan Boehm demonstrated last year that she is one of the top goalkeepers in the ACC," says Heinrichs. "But she also has a little bit of a history of being injured. If she remains healthy, I expect her to have an outstanding season."

Pushing Boehm for time in the goal will be senior Brit Swenberg and freshman Julie Harris. Swenberg was a starter in 1995 when she went 11-5-1 with an 0.95 goals against average and six shutouts. She improved tremendously during the spring, and has shown a great commitment to once again challenging for the starting position. Harris has excellent size and athleticism, to go along with a good history in her high school and club programs.