Belles record best season in history
By SARAH RYKOWSKI
Teamwork was the word that the Saint Mary's soccer team used to describe the 1999 season, their best season to date.
The Belles finished fifth in the MIAA this season, with a record of 3-4-1 in conference play, and 9-6-2 overall.
"Our biggest asset was our teamwork," Lynn Taylor, freshman midfielder, said. "The way we worked as a team helped us to outplay our opponents."
In its second year of MIAA play and its first under new head coach Jason Milligan, the Belles improved from their overall 1998 record of 6-10-2.
"I think Jason's coaching style helped the girls to grow as a team," senior co-captain Erin McCabe said. "This year we had both the excellent individual talent and the synergy to make this a winning season."
Milligan was the assistant coach during the 1998 season, and with other teams has compiled a coaching record of 63-11-7.
"I can honestly say Jason is the best coach I have ever had," freshman midfielder Heather Muth said. "His coaching style is very different from what I am used to — he's very relaxed, calm and keeps everything in perspective."
Milligan started for Bethel College's men's soccer team for three years, including the 1997 team which finished first in NCAA play.
"His laid-back personality is reflected in his coaching style — he tries to make the atmosphere positive and fun," co-captain Katy Barger said. "He is very optimistic and believes in us all the way. It's definitely more fun when he plays with us as opposed to just standing on the sidelines and calling out stuff."
The Belles' new assistant coach was Jared Hochstetler.
"Jared was the defensive coach," sophomore defenseman Jessica Klink said. "He has made me a better player. He helped [the defense] calm down and stay more focused. We always worked as a unit and we knew what each one of us was going to do. He contributed both as a friend and as a coach."
"Jason and Jared have great insight into the game, and they applied that well during their first season as collegiate coaches," Barger said. "Playing a sport at a small Division III college means something special. It means that we play because we love the game. It means we're willing to make the sacrifices because we're part of a team. It also means 18 instant friends and a season of good times."
At one of the first practices, Barger told the freshmen that they could count on the upperclassmen for help with homework or any other problems. She emphasized the need for unity in all things.
"I think each person contributed to our team in some way. Everyone plays a unique role — that's what being a team is," Barger said. "Our returning players contributed guidance and experience, while our freshmen elevated our play with their enthusiasm and talent. Our season was successful because we cared about each other and we had a common goal — to improve and to win."
Barger led her team as she has all season with 111 shots, eight goals, and nine assists. Barger made four of them in the final regular-season game against Defiance. Barger was at the top of the League Leaders List for assists in the MIAA.
"[Barger] was a solid consistent player both offensively and defensively and she put tremendous effort into anything she did," Klink said. "She led the team as a captain very strongly — verbally and physically."
Mary Campe scored four goals for the Belles and McCabe had five assists. Campe and McCabe both had 45 shots on goal for the season.
"Erin McCabe has outstanding foot skills," Muth said. "She has a knack for fueling her frustration from negative situations into positive outcomes."
As a team, the Belles totaled 400 shots on goal, 31 goals, 26 assists, and eight shutouts, allowing only 26 goals against.
"Katy Barger's strong foot and nose for goals helped out a lot," Taylor said.
The defense stopped 166 of 192 shots against them. Brie Gershick had 95 saves in her first season as the Belles' goalie.
"I think our defensive line is pretty solid, and the midfield did a great job this season," Barger said. "Our forwards need to work on finishing [their shots]. That was our biggest nemesis this season."
Senior co-captain Rachel Egger led the defense this year and also contributed two goals on offense.
"Rachel Egger inspired and motivated the team with her cheerful comments and funny remarks," Muth said. "She's one of the quickest defenders I have ever seen. She really helped raise the motivation level of our team — she's such a positive person all-around."
The three co-captains, Barger, Egger and McCabe, will be sorely missed by their teammates.
"Our captains led by example," Taylor said. "Every practice they worked hard, pushed everyone to do their best, and supported everyone on and off the field."
This year the Belles had a 2-2-1 record at home, and were 7-4-1 on the road.
Non-conference opponents included Marian College, Illinois Wesleyan, Bethel College, Franklin College, Anderson University, Washington University, Manchester College, and Goshen College. Overall, the team's favorite game was against Kalamazoo early in the season. Although Saint Mary's lost, they held the top MIAA team to two goals, a significant improvement over last year's loss of 10-0.
"It's important to keep in mind that we learn from our experiences and we constantly grow into better people and players," Barger said. "I envision even better things for this team next year. I am incredibly sad that this was my last season playing for the Belles. I am truly grateful that it was such a wonderful experience."
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, November 9, 1999