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Cougar women look for more success in 2008

Last season the University of Minnesota, Morris women's soccer team finished in second place in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference. The Cougars had a 14-4-1 overall record and were 12-2 in the UMAC.

After a fourth trip to the UMAC tournament championship game, the Cougars will have a new look this season. With a turnover of 11 players from last season's squad, the Cougars will be aiming for a fifth trip to the championship game.

Nine returning players will be joined by 10 new athletes.

The Cougars will be led by captains senior Maddie Haisley, senior Andrea Dexter, and junior Maddy Gerber.

Haisley was second in scoring in 2007 with nine goals and 27 points. Gerber was third with eight goals and 19 points.

The Cougars lost leading scorer Nina Jarnot who contributed 12 goals and 30 points.

Third-year coach Dan Magner will be working with the team to form a cohesive unit and hone their skills for a tough schedule.

"We will rely on the returning students to serve as mentors to the new comers," he said. "The team will be a work in progress and our goal is to gel and be playing our best soccer of the year for the conference slate."

Magner said the Cougars will strive to outwork their opponents.

"We are a young team, more than half of our student/athletes are in their first year with the team. With this in mind we will focus on team building and developing a positive team chemistry. All of the young women are diligent and eager to learn and improve themselves daily in our training sessions.

"To start out the season we will have all new players in the back (goalkeeper and defenders). This is a major change since last year all the players in those positions were UMAC All-Conference players, so we have our work cut out for us to work in a new group. Defending is a critical component to having a successful team and we will use the non-conference slate to work with this new group and have them gel into a cohesive unit. We have a wonderful situation in the goal as both of our keepers (Andrea Dexter and Emily Jacob) are strong.

"Specific goals for us include improving both individually and collectively on a daily basis. We will use the non-conference schedule to find the correct mix of players for specific situations and hone our fitness level. As a coach I am looking to find the right mix of players to have on the field at any given time. As the team progresses through the season I fully believe we will get better and better.

"It is our goal to qualify for the UMAC tournament (top four teams participate) and compete for the UMAC title. The top two teams in the regular season will host one of the tournament games and we will be battling for the right to host."

This season the UMAC is a full member of the NCAA at the Division III level. Magner believes that this is positive for all of the athletic teams and the University as a whole.

"From an athletic standpoint it means that our teams are now more attractive for opponents to play due to the fact a game with us "counts" toward qualification for NCAA Regional and National Championship tournaments.

"There is also added incentive now for our programs as we can qualify for NCAA championship events (automatic bids are still two to three years down the road). The opportunity to compete within the national tournament will be a boost for us in our recruiting efforts as the strongest student/athletes want the opportunity to compete at the highest level.

"From a University standpoint it means we have taken all the steps to be recognized by the leading organization in intercollegiate athletics (NCAA) which gives us credibility among peer institutions. The opportunity to compete at a regional and national level gives UMM one more tool to use in recruiting top notch students and athletes."