— Frostburg State women’s soccer head coach Brian Parker entered his first season in charge of the Bobcats with many expectations for his team, mainly not to miss a step as the Bobcats were coming off their most successful season in the program's history.
After capturing the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference championship and earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, the Bobcats were predicted to again claim the league crown. However, this year’s team would have to encounter the program's most difficult schedule to date as FSU faced seven regionally ranked teams, including six of those games on the road.
"I knew going in that we had both a quality returning team and a tougher new schedule, but I wasn’t really sure how high a level of soccer we could reach," said Parker. "I expected we’d be the favorites in the AMCC, but it turned out to be a much more competitive conference than I think anyone expected."
Parker found out quickly he had a quality team and that it would take a lot of hard work and effort to repeat the team's success and earn another trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Bobcats finished the season 10-8-4 overall and 4-2 in the conference and accomplished much more than expected in those 10 wins.
Parker and the Bobcats successfully defended their AMCC Championship as the third seed in this year's conference tournament. Their second consecutive league crown, success in overtime matches (3-0-4 record in a school-record seven overtime contests) and strength of schedule earned FSU its second straight invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
"It is clear to me that the selection committee sent a message that strength of schedule and quality games is a factor," said Parker. "I feel our team was much more prepared than last season because of the tough opponents we faced."
However, the Bobcats could not earn their first NCAA Tournament victory, as they fell to Westminster for the second time in the season. Despite the early exit, the program continued to improve its reputation both on the regional and national levels.
While the team posted impressive results, so too did several individual players.
Junior goalkeeper Stephanie Zych (Guilderland/Slingerlands, N.Y.) followed up her record-breaking season of 2001 with another stellar year. In 2002 she built upon her statistics by capturing the school career records for saves, wins and shutouts. She ended the season with a career totals of 14 shutouts, 32 wins and 345 saves overtaking the marks set by Jessica Richardson (12 shutouts, 29 wins and 327 saves).
Zych's accomplishments brought her a lot of recognition as she was named the AMCC Goalkeeper of the Week four times and earned a spot on the all-AMCC honorable mention team.
Sophomore Karen Kotofski (Northeast/Glen Burnie, Md.) followed up her spectacular freshman season, in which she set single-season records with 21 goals and 49 points, with another outstanding year.
Despite missing the first five games of the season with a leg injury, she still led the team in goals (17) and points (36).
Kotofski earned AMCC Player of the Week honors twice during the season and was named to the All-AMCC first team for the second year in a row. She was also recognized for her efforts in the classroom as she was named to the Verizon/CoSIDA All-Academic District II second team.
The Bobcats' difficult season began with early contests against regionally ranked Mount Union and Wooster at the Mount Union Invitational. FSU showed the promise needed to earn success as its played the teams evenly earning two ties against the solid opponents.
FSU then traveled to Westminster, who would eventually knock them out of the NCAA Tournament, and dropped a close 3-2 decision.
Following the loss, the Bobcats made their move by winning their next four games and followed with an amazing double overtime tie against Grove City to bring their record to 4-1-3. Kotofski sparked the run by scoring eight goals in her first three games back in the lineup.
However, the Bobcats then hit a tough 2-6-1 stretch in their schedule that would almost break their season. The run included trips to John Carroll, Case Western Reserve, Allegheny, Pitt-Greensburg and Eastern Mennonite. The Bobcats lost just two of those games by more than one goal and two were back-to-back 1-0 defeats.
With their AMCC title defense and possible postseason berth in doubt, the Bobcats turned in a late season surge to keep their drive alive.
The turning point was a 1-0 road shutout of regionally ranked Carnegie Mellon which began a stretch of four straight wins, including victories at both Pitt-Greensburg and La Roche in the AMCC Tournament.
At Pitt-Greensburg, the Bobcats were able to overcome playing a man down for over 57 minutes and pulled out a 2-1 overtime win. They followed that amazing performance by playing La Roche to a 2-2 tie through two overtime sessions before winning the league crown on penalty kicks, 3-1.
The Bobcats will look to continue to improve their program that has developed into a championship caliber team, as they will return 19 of their 20 players from 2002.
"Our freshman class was outstanding and matured rapidly," said Parker. "They mixed into our lineup well and made us an even more competitive team. There is no doubt we’ll be more prepared to play in big games in the years to come."
"In spite of the eight losses, we got results against nationally ranked teams and won our conference for the second year in a row. We met almost all of our soccer goals for the year and had a great finish to the season with a very young team."
"Next year, I think it will be a realistic goal for us to finally win the AMCC regular season out-right and not just get into the NCAA Tournament but to win a game or two and start really making some noise at the national level."
For further information on this release, contact:
Office of Sports Information
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303