Donnelly optimistic about ’06

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 22, 2006

MURFREESBORO – When it comes to winning, it’s hard to beat optimism.

And if there’s a place optimism abounds right now, it’s on the practice field for the Chowan University women’s soccer club.

&uot;The preseason is going extremely well,&uot; second-year skipper Georgina Donnelly said at the school’s annual Fall Sports Media Day. &uot;We have 25 on the roster, up from 14 last year. Our intensity level has improved 100 percent.&uot;

Donnelly said she had a strong recruiting class and had 11 freshmen on the field, leaving her club at a much stronger position than having 14 total players during her first season in 2005.

The coach said the difference on the practice field was remarkable.

&uot;With only 14 last year, everyone knew they would play at some point and it was hard to instill the level of professionalism I wanted,&uot; Donnelly said. &uot;The players who started every game last year are fighting just to travel this season.&uot;

Junior captain Melissa Rodgers, a defender from Alexandria, Virginia, said practice this season had an entirely difference feel than last year.

&uot;Practices are hard, but they’re worth it,&uot; she said. &uot;The team is bonding a lot more with so many freshmen, we have to work together.&uot;

Donnelly admits she has a tougher schedule in front of her than last year’s squad which came home with a record of 6-7-1, but said she believes post-season play is a legitimate goal.

&uot;We have a tougher schedule with 18 games and more Division II schools,&uot; she said, &uot;But we definitely have a chance to go to the post season. That’s what we are working towards.

&uot;The juniors experienced a regional championship, but I think we could go further this season,&uot; she added.

Rodgers echoed those thoughts, saying she felt the team could go back to the National Christian College Athletic Association national tournament.

&uot;We want to get back to a place of going to the nationals and doing better than third,&uot; Rodgers said. &uot;We want to put the program on the map for good.&uot;

One area in which the Hawks will see a dramatic improvement will be the midfield area because last year’s small numbers forced Donnelly to play a number of players out of position.

&uot;Last year we had to use our strongest midfield players in defense,&uot; she said. &uot;Now we have recruited defenders and the girls in the back can move to the midfield along with some freshmen who will compete for time.

&uot;We’re stronger everywhere, but we were very weak there last year so fixing that makes us stronger,&uot; the coach added.

As she looks to Thursday’s season-opener against the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Donnelly insists she wants to see an all-out effort.

&uot;I want intensity,&uot; she said. &uot;I want us to go out full throttle and explode out of the blocks.&uot;

The coach said she also wanted to see how the team’s 11 freshmen would handle playing at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II level.

&uot;They were all the best players on their high school team, but this is not high school,&uot; she said. &uot;They are now going to be the best player on the field individually and we need to see how they handle that.&uot;

Both Donnelly and Rodgers said they hoped to see continued improvement in support for the teams when they are home. Both said they were pleased with the crowds a year ago, but wanted to see even more people at their games.

&uot;We had a good show of support last year,&uot; Donnelly said. &uot;I want people to come out and support us as they do football and basketball. We’re going to be fun to watch.

&uot;If people come out and watch, they will get hooked,&uot; she added.

For her part, Rodgers said her squad always enjoyed seeing people at their matches.

&uot;When people come out it brings more intensity,&uot; she said. &uot;I want to win for the community and the school even more. I don’t want to disappoint the college, my family or friends.&uot;

The Lady Hawks will take the field at 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon at Pembroke for their season-opener. They follow that match with a home date with Barton College at 4 p.m. Monday, August 24.