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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Soccer Log

PC women drool at more prosperous prospect
Test enhances as its all Big East games now

Upon burying the Massachusetts Minutewomen with an imbalance of shots (17-7 overall attempts, 8-4 on net) and tipping them over for a 1-0 triumph Sunday, the Providence Friars stuck down the interleague sect of their 2008 schedule at a nourishing 5-1 transcript.

But, if one can look past the overall atrocity this program trudged through last season (3-14-1 record, 1-5-1 out of their league), the path as it reads so far is scarcely out of the norm for fourth-year skipper Jim McGirr’s field project. Since his introduction, PC has gone a satisfactory 4-3 in the tune-up slate of 2005 and a worthy-of-no-complaints 3-0-3 in 2006.

In fact, over the last decade, between McGirr and the six preceding years under Tracy Kerr’s tutelage, only thrice have the Friars tilted the losing way in the nonconference portion of their season.

That said, after taking 2007 off to compress their endless statistical scrapes, abrasions, and lesions, they’ve returned to that familiar face-to-face confrontation with the query: Is this the year they smoothly translate the winning habits to legitimate Big East playoff contention?

For what it’s worth, the strike force is emitting a much more propitiating impression than most any of its recent predecessors. They might have stood to bend UMass stopper Lauren Luckey a little further than through one solitary goal on Sunday, but they did scorch six unanswered shots to start the game, getting three on net and culminating with Jill Camburn’s deciding conversion in the 23rd minute.

Camburn, the leading scorer two years back with 5-1-11 totals as a frosh, is now in a three-way tie atop the Friar charts opposite Courtney Collins and Tara Ricciardi. All three have officially doubled the output of last year’s leader (Megan Mancarella), equated that of the top guns from 2005 (Kelley Pettersen and Ashley Amaral), and surpassed that which everyone not named Camburn could cultivate in 2006.

When they did let the Minutewomen have a protracted buzz with the ball Sunday, specifically nonstop between the 75 and 83rd minutes, goalkeeper Jill Schott impermeably dealt with three shots on as many UMass corner kicks. When she pushed away Natalie Muka’s bid at 82:46, the Friars finally cleared and Schott’s second shutout (third for the team overall) turned to stone.

Schott, who a month ago stood in as Lonely Laura Elfers’ presumptive heir apparent with a solid three-and-a-half minutes of playing time to her credit, also effectively mollified the sting from last Friday’s 1-0 falter at Connecticut –PC’s lone Big East tilt and lone shutout loss to date. Only a hefty 10 saves on as many shots within her vicinity –seven of those coming in the second half- preceded Husky Annie Yi’s decisive strike at the 86:24 mark.

Through the first twenty minutes of their Friday visit to Morrone Stadium, the Friars temporarily led the shooting gallery, 4-2, and propped up a 2-1 SOG advantage. Although, save for Schott’s responsive rigidity, UConn ultimately assumed the visible command to which PC is all too accustomed.

They are also accustomed to fizzling with the foliage as the Big East slate intensifies. And, once they are finished tussling with Marquette here on Thursday, they will take an uncompromising aptitude test in the form of five uninterrupted road games, starting at South Florida this Sunday and concluding in Pittsburgh October 12.

And consider this: with all member schools having already consumed one of their 11 intra-conference tilts –save for Rutgers and Villanova, who tangled in their second respective games Monday- only three Big East teams are currently below .500 overall. (One, quirkily enough, happens to be the Huskies).

Now everybody’s relatively ambiguous nonconference background shall converge for the stretch drive. Truer colors, including those of Friartown, are on their way.

Free Kicks: In each of the last three games, at least two Friars have recorded three or more shot attempts…The forthcoming Marquette Golden Eagles have won each of their last three encounters with PC, all by 2-0 decisions…Camburn, Ricciardi, Lindsey Trubia, Christie Gent, and Marra Whaley have started all seven games to date this season. Gent and Whaley played through the full length of both Friday and Sunday’s matches.

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