From Staff Reports
The Clayton State University women's soccer team surprised a lot of opponents in 2004, evidenced by having the second best improvement in one season among all NCAA Division II teams last season.
In 2005, head coach Totty Totty's Lakers will try to build on that success, but it won't come easy as the program has announced its schedule, arguably the toughest in school history. Along with Clayton State's formidable eight-game Peach Belt Conference schedule, the Lakers have eight non-conference matches against several of the top programs in the NCAA Division II Southeast Region.
The Lakers will kick off the season with four straight region matches against teams from the South Atlantic Conference, all of whom finished with winning records last year. The squad's opener will be on the road, traveling to face Newberry College on Saturday, Aug. 27, followed by traveling to Presbyterian College on Saturday, Sept. 3rd, and remaining on the road for a Friday, Sept. 9th match at Tusculum College. Clayton State will return for its home opener on Sunday, Sept. 11th in one of its stiffest tests of the season, hosting Carson-Newman College, the team that ended the Lakers season last year in the NCAA Soccer Championships.
The Eagles, champions of the SAC last year, finished with a 20-3-1 record last season and No. 3 ranking in the nation, advancing to the NCAA Final Four. The Lakers will try to avenge a 3-2 loss to C-N in last year's national tournament.
The Lakers will open its Peach Belt Conference schedule on Saturday, Sept. 17th, hosting North Georgia College & State University, a new member to the Peach Belt this season. Kickoff for the match is 7:30 p.m. and will be the first women's match under CSU's newly lighted field.
A couple of other matches to circle on the calendar will be Homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 15th and Senior Day on Saturday, Oct. 23rd.
The Lakers will host the University of North Carolina Pembroke for Homecoming in a 1 p.m. match. UNCP finished last season with a 12-5-2 overall record and was just behind the Lakers in the Peach Belt standings. For Senior Day, Clayton State will host the University of South Carolina Upstate, a club that finished with a 12-2-3 record last season and was second in the Peach Belt. In addition to these home matches, Clayton State will host PBC opponents Armstrong Atlantic State University and Columbus State University along with non-conference foes Lenoir-Rhyne College and North Greenville College.
The Lakers will host AASU, entering its first season of soccer in the PBC, on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m., followed by Columbus on Wednesday, Oct. 5th at 6 p.m. LRC will visit Clayton State on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 6 p.m., and the Lakers will host North Greenville on Wednesday, Oct. 26th at 4:30 p.m.
Clayton State is coming of its finest season in school history, finishing last season with a 13-6-1 record, advancing to the NCAA Division II National Championships for the first time. Totty, entering his eighth season, led the Lakers to the second biggest turnaround in NCAA Division II, going from 4-14-1 in 2003 to last year's 13-win season.
Expectations for 2005 are high, as Clayton State returns last year's freshman sensation in Olaitan Yusuf. She led the nation in scoring and points per game finishing with 35 goals and 74 points, both school and Peach Belt Conference single season records. Yusuf was named an All-America, All-Region and the PBC Freshman of the Year.
On the defensive side, the Lakers return one of the nation's top goalkeepers in 2004 All-Region and three-time All-Peach Belt keeper Judith Chime. She holds CSU's all-time goals against average of 1.35 in three seasons of play. The Lakers will have a major hole to fill with the graduation of All-America and 2004 Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year Nkiru Okosieme. One of the world's only 4-time World Cup players, Okosieme finished her career with 62 goals and 24 assists in three years of play at Clayton State. She is the all-time PBC scoring leader and ranks among the all-time best in NCAA history.
To fill Okosieme's void, Totty has assembled the school's top recruiting class, signing a number of national caliber players.
Top on the list will be two Nigerian players that starred at Lindsey Wilson College in Nkese Udoh and Antoinette Anounga. Both Udoh and Anounga started at the NAIA school that was the national runner-up in 2003 and the national champion in 2004. Udoh was an NAIA All-America in 2003 scoring 39 goals, while Anounga made the NAIA National Tournament All-Tournament team and was All-Mid-South Conference, scoring 22 goals in 2003. Totty also signed another talented Nigerian player in freshman Bose Tanimola, who was a national team pool player, and will welcome UNC Pembroke transfer Yasemin Sunbul, who played in 18 matches for the Braves last year.
In addition to Yusuf and Chime, the Lakers Ã¯ ¿ ½return nine other starters from last year's record-setting team, including former All-PBC player Cassandra Rapaich, defensive standout Lairin King and '04 PBC assists leader Jennifer Winslett.