BLACKSBURG, Va. - The 2004 Virginia Tech women's soccer team completed its first-ever season in the Atlantic Coast Conference under the direction of second-year head coach Kelly Cagle and her staff.
The Hokies set numerous records during the march to their first-ever NCAA Championships and turned heads throughout the conference with their aggressive, attacking style of play. During the year, Tech set seven team records, while tying one more. Individually, four records were broken in addition to several Hokie players re-writing the record book.
Finishing 11-9-0 overall, Tech shattered the record for wins in a season, which Cagle's team tied during her first season at the helm, going 9-9-0. The Hokies' ACC record was 4-5, placing seventh out of 10 teams. In the preseason poll, Tech was selected to finish ninth.
"We approached this season with a little bit of a chip on our shoulders," said Cagle. "We weren't sure there were a lot of Virginia Tech believers out there. We knew we were going to have to make people believe in what we are doing here and I think our season was a clear statement to anyone watching that we have every intention of competing and of becoming a consistent national caliber program. We still have a long way to go, but this past season gave us the foundation we needed to move in the right direction."
In the second game of the season, the Hokies netted nine goals against VMI. They also tallied seven assists, totaling 25 points in the contest, all of which were new school-records. Tech tied the mark for corner kicks in a game, with 13.
Tech continued its high-scoring attack throughout the season, shattering the previous record for goals, assists and points in a season. The 43 goals scored were eight more than the program had ever totaled in a season. The 40 assists and 126 points broke the single-season records in both categories.
"The best part of our scoring success that we found this season was that we found it from several different people," said Cagle. "Obviously Ashley Stinson had a bang up freshman season. She led our team and scored some enormous goals for us this season and she did it pretty consistently. Ashley was a part of a class that wanted to come to Virginia Tech and make a difference, and it showed in the impact she and her classmates had.
"Aside from Ashley, we had big scoring help from some of her fellow classmates (Heather Hallberg and Erin Moore), and several very big goals were scored by Ashley Stoutland, Molly McCall and Ryan Johnson. All of that aside however, I think I was most excited about how many of our goals were assisted. We had unbelievable service from Moore, Shannon Poach, Stoutland, Johnson, and even some fantastic service from our backs that created scoring opportunities for us this season. It was absolutely a group goal scoring effort this season, something we hope to build on during the spring."
With the help of the 24th ranked recruiting class, according to SoccerBuzz.com, the mixture of upperclassmen and youth served as a valuable component of the season's success. The freshmen accounted for 29 goals and 28 assists, totaling 86 of the Hokies' 126 points. Eight of the goals by the freshmen were game-winners.
None of the freshmen's eight game-winners were as big as the one against Maryland. Playing in College Park, Md., in the school's first-ever ACC match in any sport, Ashley Stinson took a pass from Ashley Kinser and gave the Hokies a 1-0 advantage. Less than two minutes later, the two connected again for a 2-0 lead Tech would not relinquish.
"We had teammates set one another up all year," said Cagle. "Ashley Stinson is an incredible runner off the ball, and in that particular game, Kinser found her perfectly. Those two goals were a carbon copy of one another and were very similar to the way we scored all year long."
Facing a tough schedule that included eight games against ranked opponents at the time the game was played, Cagle's squad did not back down from anyone. Not only was the ranked competition tough, but the schedule featured 10 teams that made the NCAA Championships.
"We knew our schedule was going to be very tough, and I think our team handled it pretty well," said Cagle. "That being said however, there was definitely a point three-fourths of the way through our season that our team felt the affects of a schedule like the one we were playing. In order to compete nationally, like we want to do, we are going to have to do a better job at handling a schedule of that caliber. A lot of that will come with having more experiences like the ones we had this past fall."
Starting out the season, Tech rattled off four wins, which was good enough for its second-best start in school history. After dropping two contests at the Ohio State Tournament, the Hokies rebounded by blasting Liberty 4-1 and knocking off No. 19 Wake Forest 3-2 in Tech's first-ever home ACC match.
In its first-ever postseason game, Tech hosted Miami in the first-round of the ACC Tournament. After playing to a scoreless tie in the first half, Ashley Stoutland netted the game-winner in the 60th minute of play. Stinson notched her 17th and final goal of the season at the 70:18 mark en route to the 2-0 win to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Hokies would drop an 8-0 decision to the Cavaliers in the ACC quarterfinals, but at the conclusion of the ACC Tournament, Tech was selected as an at-large team to the NCAA Championships. The Hokies were one of an ACC-record eight schools chosen for the Championships. Selected to play William & Mary in the first-round, the Hokies prepared for a trip to Chapel Hill, N.C., for the neutral site affair. Hallberg put Tech up 1-0 at the 5:27 mark off a pass from Molly McCall for a quick lead. The Hokies tallied 13 shots in the game and the defensive effort was phenomenal. Goalkeeper Mallory Soldner totaled eight saves in the contest, keeping Tech in the match. However, the Hokies would fall by a 2-1 margin. It marked the end of four Hokie careers - Figueroa, Jacobson, Johnson and Kammerer.
"We were obviously excited to get our first ever postseason bid," said Cagle. "I think our team was very deserving, and I thought we represented the bid well with our performance against William & Mary. Our team created a slue of chances until the final whistle of that game, and had an opportunity or two to tie the game. We did all this without Ashley Stinson, who represented almost half of our regular season scoring. We would have loved to have won that game, but for the first time in our program's history we had a taste of the postseason. I am happy our kids got that taste, and I am hoping it drives them to become even better in this off season."
Stinson, one of the nation's top scorers, set single-season records for goals (17), points (39), shots (75) and consecutive games scoring a point (8). For her efforts in the second week of the season in which she tallied five goals in two games, she was named ACC Player of the Week. She was also named to the Soccer Buzz National Elite Team of the Week. Hallberg and Stinson were voted onto the All-ACC Freshman Team. Stinson was named ACC Freshman of the Year.
Despite a prolific offense, Tech's defense kept them in numerous contests through shutouts or tremendous play in the backfield. The six shutouts were one short of the single-season school-record, which was set in 1994 and tied in 1996.
"In order to successfully recap the season we also have to talk about how good our defending was at times this year," said Cagle. "From our goalkeeper forward, we had some terrific bouts of very successful team defending. Mallory Soldner kept us in some games by making some huge saves, as did our back four with their organization and athleticism. Kjerti Trout's leadership and athleticism was felt all year long, as was the impact our three freshmen had on our results from the defensive position (Lindsay Alexander, Mary Elizabeth Newton and Ashley Kinser). We were at our best when we defended in numbers. Now we have to do it more consistently."
In addition to the records that were set during the season, several Hokie players etched their names in the record book. Stinson is tied for fifth in career goals, seventh in career points, 11th in career shots and tied for 13th in career assists. Moore is tied for sixth on the career assist list, while Shannon Poach and Kjersti Trout are 12th and 13th, respectively. Solder is in the career top five in four different categories. She is second in shutouts, third in saves and fifth in goals against average as well as save percentage.
"Record breaking seasons are super, but then the reality sets in," said Cagle. "Our reality is that we are in the toughest conference in the country, and we are no longer under the radar. We will have to be even better next fall in order for us to get 11 wins or more, and we will have to be able to deal with the rigors of the ACC better than we did this year. We will be looking to our rising senior class to give us the leadership we lose in our 2005 graduates, and we will be expecting even more out of one another. We raised standards this past year, and now we have to fight the urge to be satisfied."
Tech has 10 starters returning in 2005, including its top three scorers. The trio of Stinson, Hallberg and Moore combined for 64 of the record-setting 126 points.