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Women's soccer begins with new coach, attitude

A new school year seems like an appropriate time for new beginnings. A fresh start, a clean slate.

But with a new head coach, the loss of three starters in key positions, including legend Angela Hucles, and the addition of six freshmen, the clean slate of the Virginia women's soccer team just may be the cleanest of all.

New coach Steve Swanson replaced April Heinrichs in February, who left Virginia for the U.S. Women's National Team. Swanson, who previously coached at Stanford for four seasons, brings a career record of 104-63-11 to Virginia, along with a more personal approach to coaching.

Swanson "is very experienced and an excellent coach," junior midfielder Heather Terry said. "His coaching style is very positive. He is a very nice guy and a genuine person, which establishes a good relationship and attitude on and off the field."

Swanson was on vacation and could not be reached, but senior midfielder Katie Tracy, a co-captain for next season, agreed with Terry's praise and added that the team has been very responsive to Swanson.

"With any coaching change, everyone's really nervous because you just never can tell what's going to happen," Tracy said. "But I don't think anyone could have predicted that we would be as happy with Steve as we are. His attitude and enthusiasm really carry to the team."

No doubt Swanson's enthusiastic coaching style will energize everything from the team's attitude to its performance. Despite the graduation of record-setting scorer forward Angela Hucles and starting forward Jill Maxwell from a team that finished 13-8 last season, the Cavs aren't worried about their offense.

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    With a dynamic pair of center midfielders in Tracy and junior Lori Lindsey returning, the offense should be more than just fine. Tracy and Lindsey combined for seven goals and nine assists last fall and will remain the key to setting up the Virginia attack.

    "I love playing with Katie Tracy," Lindsey said. "It's going to be even better this year because we have a little more experience playing with each other."

    Tracy also expressed that she can't wait to go back and team up with Lindsey.

    "I'm always excited to play with Lori," said Tracy. "She's an amazing player and she can make just about anybody look good. We get along really well on and off the field which always adds a lot."

    Perhaps, more of the Cavs' early difficulties will be on the defensive end of the field. With the graduation of Carryn Weigand and the loss of senior Tammy Westinghouse to a torn ACL, they are left without definite central defenders.

    "Some people might have to move from the midfield to the back," said Lindsey. "It shouldn't be too difficult though. We all have had experience playing a number of positions at some time in our careers. I think Kelly Worden might move there, she was playing a little in the back over the spring."

    Perhaps the six incoming freshmen can make an impact in the scramble for field adjustments. Anne Abernethy, Jodi Clugston, Melissa Somadelis, Erin Engelhardt, Kelly Melton and Sarah Lane will have their chances to prove themselves on the college level beginning August 10 when team practices begin.

    "It seems like a pretty strong freshman class," Harris said. "We don't know too much about them yet, but [Swanson] is good at training them. We always are going to welcome them in."

    So yes, it may seem like the Cavs are beginning their season with a lot of unknowns. But they have no plans to let any of the uncertainties slow them down on their way to postseason glory. Whether it involves avenging last year's upset loss in the first round of the ACC Tournament to Clemson or perfecting muddy swan dives at Klockner Stadium, they have no apprehension.

    "At the end of the spring season we had a team goals session," Terry said. "The whole team set very lofty goals, but I have no doubt about the tremendous amount of talent that was present on this team during the spring. And with the new recruits it will be even more so. I'm really excited and I think the whole team is really excited about this season."


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