A trip worth making

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 16, 2006

MURFREESBORO – It was a trip worth making on several levels.

The women’s soccer team at Chowan University had an excellent showing in last week’s National Christian College Athletic Association South Regional tournament.

The Hawks upset top-seed Faulkner University and advanced to the regional final before falling to Palm Beach Atlantic.

The trip was successful for the Hawks not only because of recording a defining win, but also because the experience could be key for a group of freshman who had never experience post-season success at the collegiate level.

“It was a good, team-bonding experience that will help us in the future because we have no returning seniors,” Chowan junior co-captain Casey Driver said.

Second-year head coach Georgina Donnelly, who has worked hard to get the Hawks to a their current level, said the experience was good for the future, but was also good for this year.

“Over those two games, we played the best soccer we have all season,” she said. “We were definitely not 3-nil worse than Palm Beach Atlantic. We had our chances.”

Ally Pearson, a junior midfielder, said the team wanted to be at the South Regional.

“Everyone wanted to be there and wanted to go further,” she said.

Co-captain Stephanie Montague added the event served dual purposes.

“I had fun even though we didn’t win the region,” she said. “It also hit me that we only have one more season.”

Despite not losing any seniors from the squad, the Hawks have a highly-successful and athletic group of juniors who will suit up only one more season for the Hawks.

In addition to Driver, Pearson and Montague, upcoming Hawks seniors include co-captains Melissa Rodgers and Amanda Jenkins as well as Amanda Cothern, Kermethia Abernathy and Jackie Zielezinksi.

“I think they all realize they have one season left and they must be ready and get in the best shape of their lives,” Donnelly said. “Next year is all or nothing for them.”

The Hawks got down 2-0 in their first matchup at the regionals with Faulkner University. Nicole Jagt led Faulkner to the early lead, but the Hawks didn’t get down.

“When we got down two quick goals, we could have dropped our head, but we didn’t,” Donnelly said.

“We were determined to win the game,” Pearson added.

The difference was in heart and determination, according to Driver.

“We had more heart,” she said. “They were up 2-0 and we came back. When we got ahead, we wanted more and they kind of quit.”

Donnelly said the key to the win was Faulkner was forced to look for Jagt while the Hawks had a team of players who could score.

While Jagt was the leading scorer for the NCCAA, Montague and Pearson kept her in check for most of the contest, allowing the Hawks to come away with the 5-3 win.

The group had different reactions about the win.

Donnelly was ready for her team to meet Palm Beach Atlantic and Driver said she was “confident.”

“We were stoked because we didn’t get kicked out in our first game,” Montague said.

Chowan was ranked first or second in the South Region most of the year, but was seeded fourth in the regional tournament, but that wasn’t of much consequence.

“I was glad,” Driver said. “I knew the other teams would be over-confident. People underestimated us based on our ranking.”

Having made it to the finals and coming up short, the Hawks have every belief it will be a driving force next season.

“By losing, we were disappointed,” Donnelly said. “I think it makes us more determined not to feel that way again.

“The freshman got a taste of it,” she added. “All-in-all it was a good experience for the team.”

Pearson felt the championships showed the team where they needed to work to improve next season and said she felt the freshman and sophomore having the chance to play in post-season would be beneficial.

“I think we learned every game matters when you want to play in the nationals,” Driver said. “We have to come out next season and play just as hard in the first game as we do the last one.”

Donnelly agreed.

“Our intensity has to be there all season,” she said. “We’ have to come out hard every day.”

The Hawks finished up Donnelly’s second season at the helm 9-10-2 and have great promise for next season.