Women’s Soccer Preview: Lady Jackets Look to Turn Corner in ‘04
BILLINGS, MT – When Don Trentham took over as
the MSU Billings women’s soccer coach three seasons ago, he knew
he was inheriting a program in the midst of rebuilding. Following
a 2-14 campaign in that first season and a 6-10-1 mark last year,
Trentham believes that 2004 might be the year that the Lady
Yellowjackets finally turn the corner.
“We feel we are done rebuilding and it is
time to start showing other teams in our region that we should not
be taken lightly,” commented head coach Don Trentham. “We have a
talented team coming into preseason and I am looking forward to
the opportunity to coach them this fall.”
The Yellowjackets have not had a winning
season in their eight year history, posting their best record in
2001 at 9-9-0. Despite an ambitious schedule, the 2004 squad’s
balance of veterans and new talent may give the Jackets their best
shot at a winning season in the program’s history.
“The players are very confident and believe
that this could be the best season in the history of the program.”
says Trentham. “However, they are also well aware that there
still is a lot of work that needs to be done between now and our
last game to ensure that they do have a winning season.”
The Yellowjackets will encounter another
tough road schedule, although they will also have the most home
contests ever. They will play at Yellowjacket Field five times in
September and another five times in October for a record ten home
games. Add in one game at cross-town rival Rocky Mountain
College, and eleven of the Jackets’ 21 games this season will be
played in Billings.
“Some of our best performances last year were
on Yellowjacket Field. I believe mainly because of the great
support we get from the families and friends of our program. It
is refreshing to know we will be in Billings for more than half of
our games next season, and it will definitely help our odds at
having a winning season,” says Trentham.
For the first time in three seasons, the
Yellowjackets will open the season on the road. They will play an
exhibition game at the University of Montana on August 22,
followed by a weekend trip to a tournament hosted by St. Cloud
State on August 27-29. The Yellowjackets will face Bemidji State
on Friday and host St. Cloud State on Sunday.
MSU Billings opens the 2004 home schedule
with the Third Annual MSU Billings Cup Sponsored by Thrifty Car
Rental. The Jackets won the Cup last year with a pair of
shutout victories over St. Cloud State and East Stroudsburg.
This year’s tournament, which will be held September 4-6, features
North Dakota and Mesa State. North Dakota finished the 2003
regular season as the top-ranked team in the Central Region, while
Mesa State finished as the ninth-ranked team in the Midwest
The Yellowjackets will follow the first home
stand with three single home games the following week. They will
host Savannah (GA) College of Art and Design on September 12,
Rocky Mountain on September 14, and Central Washington on
September 18. The game against Rocky will be the first in the
Third Annual Rimrock Cup series. The Yellowjacket and Bears split
last season, but RMC won the Rimrock Cup after a shootout
following the second game in 2003. Central Washington will be one
of only two NCAA II West Region teams to visit Billings.
The heart of the Jackets’ West Region
schedule will take place on a week-long road trip to Washington at
the end of September. Over six days beginning on September 22,
MSU Billings will play at Seattle Pacific, at Seattle University
and at Western Washington. Seattle Pacific qualified for the NCAA
Tournament last year as the No. 3 seed in the West Region.
Seattle University finished as the fifth-ranked team in the West
After wrapping up the swing to Washington on
Monday, September 27, MSU Billings will return home for the Second
Annual Futbol Frenzy Weekend the following Saturday and Sunday,
October 2 and 3. The Lady Jackets will host Minnesota-Crookston
on Saturday and Northern State on Sunday.
Alumni/Parents Weekend Sponsored by Rimrock
Inn and the Rockpile will follow the next weekend, October 9 and
10, with games against Jamestown and Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon
will be the only other West Region team to visit Yellowjacket
Field in 2004. The weekend will also feature a Yellowjacket
Alumni Game on Saturday morning.
The home stretch will be played primarily on
the road. Five of the final six games will be away games and four
of the six will be played outside of the state. On a quick trip
to Idaho, the Jackets will face NCAA Division I Boise State on
October 14. They will then take the short ride to Nampa, ID to
face Northwest Nazarene on October 16.
One of the two games in Billings over the
final weeks of the season will be the second game of the Rimrock
Cup against Rocky Mountain. The second game of the 2004 series
will be played October 21 on the Bears’ home field, just a couple
miles down Poly Drive. The game at Rocky will be the first of
four-straight NAIA games to wrap up the season. The Yellowjackets
will play at Carroll College on October 24 and at University of
Mary on October 29 before concluding the season at home on a
Halloween senior day against Carroll.
The Yellowjackets are deep and young at the
goalkeeper position, and they should be strong in that area for at
least the next few years. Megan Plank (So., Phoenix, AZ)
returns after being named the team’s Most Valuable Player and
Newcomer of the Year last season. Plank was between the posts in
all six of the Jackets’ wins last year. She earned four entries
into the Lady Yellowjacket record book, including a school-record
1.15 goals against average for the season.
“Megan had a good freshman year, but I expect
her to have an even better sophomore campaign,” commented
Trentham. “She worked hard this pat spring and set high goals for
herself for the 2004 season.”
Also vying for the starting goalkeeper
position will be newcomer freshman keeper Anita Renemans (Casper, WY). She led Natrona County High School to back-to-back
Wyoming State Championships and allowed just four goals against
her as a senior. Another possibility in goal will be second-year
player Alyssa Wolfer (So., Longmont, CO), who played in
eight games as a true freshman and posted a 2.64 goals against
average. However, Trentham would rather see her on the field than
in the goal this season.
The Yellowjackets’ attack should be
experienced and deep in 2004. Three-time team captain Candy
Cherry (Sr., Missoula, MT) and two-sport star Margot
Merrill-Johnson (Sr., Salt Lake City) enter the season with 51
career starts apiece. If each stays healthy, they will tie and
break the school games started record on the Futbol Frenzy
Weekend. Merrill-Johnson led the team last year with eight goals
and was second with 18 points. She enters the season as the
second-leading career scorer in school history with 39 points.
“Candy and Margot are two of the more
experienced players on our team, and will certainly be looked at
as the leaders in our attack this season,” says Trentham. “If
they have good seasons individually, our team will have a good
All-region midfielder Ally Taylor (So., Ojai, CA) returns as the Yellowjackets’ leading scorer. She
totaled 21 points as a true freshman, scoring seven goals and
seven assists. Taylor became the program’s first all-region
selection last year when she earned second team honors.
Stephanie Clark (Sr., Tualatin, OR)
scored three goals last year and enters her senior campaign tied
for the No. 9 spot in school history for career points scored with
10. With a wealth of game experience and a powerful shot, Clark
will be looked upon to be the link between the defense and attack
for the Jackets this season.
The Yellowjackets also return three second
year players who saw significant playing time last season. Megan Beckstead (Sr., Salt Lake City) transferred to
MSU Billings last season and played in all 17 games. Kelsey
Vinnedge (So., Great Falls, MT) and Jenny Moellendorf (So., Green River, WY) each gained valuable experience as true
freshmen, playing in 17 and 16 games respectively. Another second
year player, Wolfer, will be not only competing for time as a
keeper, but also as a forward.
Michelle Kinzer (Jr., Butte, MT) was a
red shirt last season after transferring from Jamestown, and will
compete for time in the center of the park for the Jackets this
season. She was Butte High School’s team MVP as a senior in
2001. Kinzer will be joined by newcomers Brittney Sandau (Fr., Billings, MT), Abby
Bennett (Fr., Livingston, MT) and Amy Stephens (Fr.,
Colorado Springs, CO) as fresh faces on the Yellowjackets’ roster. Sandau was a two-time all-state
player at Billings West High School. Bennett was Park High
School’s MVP as a junior and a senior. Stephens was a four-year
letter winner and all-state player at Rampart High School.
The Yellowjackets’ defense was one if its
strongest areas in 2003, but the graduation of starters Mandy Reed
and Heidi Robertson along with Clark moving to the midfield will
create a rebuilding situation for the defense. Jenni Furman (So, Casper, WY) saw action in 16 games as a true freshman last
year and started the final seven games of the season. She will be
the Jackets most experienced defender. Also returning are Laura Trinkle (Sr., Westminster, CO) and Stacy Dix (So., Grand Junction, CO). Trinkle played in just one game last
year and Dix saw action in six games before missing the rest of
the season with an injury.
One transfer and three freshmen will by vying
for playing time in the Jackets’ defense. Lacey Albrent (Jr., Ojai, CA) is transferring from Ventura County CC after
lettering for two years. The three freshmen were accomplished
players in high school and should be able to compete for playing
time this season. Vanessa Edwards (Fr., Kent, WA) was a
two-time all-league selection at Kentwood High School. Lauren
Mackey (Fr., Casper, WY) was a two-time all-state player and
two-time state champion at Natrona County High School. Janica
Larsen (Fr., Salt Lake City) captained Skyline High School to
a runner-up finish at the state tournament last year.
“When looking at the situation we have in
defense this season, it definitely appears that we should be
concerned. However, I actually think we are going to be better
this year than we have been in the past two. In all honesty, our
defense is going to be the strongest part of our team in 2004,”