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Published: Thursday, 10/23/2008

Rockets hit their stride after soccer defeat to Akron

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Evans Evans
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Coming off two NCAA tournament appearances, some players on the University of Toledo women's soccer team feel this season really began after a loss.

When the Rockets fell to Akron 1-0 on Oct. 3, the Zips carried their goalkeeper off the field in celebration.

"It hit us really hard," senior defender Laura Mecklenborg said.

"That game was just out of our reach, and to see their excitement, you know we do have a target on our backs. That was just a wake-up call for us."

Since then, the Rockets haven't lost. They take an 11-4-0 record and five-match win streak into two home matches this weekend. UT plays Buffalo at 4 p.m. tomorrow at Scott Park and Kent State at 1 p.m. Sunday.

"The team has really come together in the past couple weeks," UT coach Brad Evans said. "The loss at Akron really sharpened the focus on what could happen. They responded really well."

With three games left in the regular season, UT is one point behind Central Michigan in the Mid-American Conference standings. The Rockets are 6-2-0 and the Chippewas are 6-1-1. UT is already in a good position to get a first-round home match in the MAC tournament, which it has won the last two years.

"The regular-season final standings aren't important to us," Evans said. "For us it's getting to the tournament and positioning ourselves well."

An increased defensive effort has propelled the Rockets' win streak. Leading the way is freshman goalkeeper Vicki Traven, who was named the MAC player of the week after two shutouts last weekend. UT has shut out its last three opponents and has allowed just one goal in five games, thanks in large part to Traven, a native of St. Charles, Ill. Traven is 9-2 for UT with six shutouts and a 0.45 goals-against average.

"For a freshman coming in, she has exceeded everyone's expectations," Mecklenborg said. "She's a very strong voice on the field, not to mention that she makes exceptional saves."

UT has had a balanced attack this season. Reigning MAC player of the year Molly Cornwell is one of four players with four goals. Junior Heather Wesley leads the Rockets with a .364 shot percentage, scoring four goals and adding two assists.

"We knew after last season that either the emphasis was going to be on Molly, or Molly wasn't going to be able to score 14 goals every year," Evans said. "That's not typical. It's been fun to watch, see who's going to do it on what day."

The Rockets' regular season concludes a week from today at Bowling Green. The MAC tournament starts Nov. 2.

Contact Maureen Fulton at: mfulton@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.


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