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Hawks prepare for 07 By Thadd White 08/22/2007 MURFREESBORO – Time is drawing near. Chowan University#8217;s women#8217;s soccer team will take the field for their season opener Saturday afternoon. Th

MURFREESBORO – Time is drawing near.

Chowan University’s women’s soccer team will take the field for their season opener Saturday afternoon.

The Hawks, who return 15 lettermen from last year’s 9-10-2 team, are looking to make improvement again this season.

“I always go into a season really optimistic,” third-year skipper Georgina Donnelly said. “I do know we have a lot tougher schedule that we have in the past, but I believe we can do well.”

Fueling the optimism this season is the return of a bevy of key players from last year. Headlining that group will be seniors Casey Driver, Stephanie Montague and Melissa Rogers.

Driver is a 5’3” midfielder from Yorktown, Virginia who has been a key force on the team for all four seasons with Chowan while Montague (Virginia Beach, Va.) is a midfielder/forward who has played in most every position during her time.

Rodgers is a defender who hails from Alexandria, Virginia. She represented the team at Fall Sports Media Day. She was joined on the dais by junior Katelyn Mahoney of Chesapeake, Virginia.

The two joined their coach in being optimistic about the coming season.

“You always want to go further than the year before,” Mahoney said. “Last year we made it to the NCCAA regionals and made it through two games. This year we want to go further.

“Also, I want us to leave everything out there every single game,” she added. “I don’t care if we don’t have the strength to get up the hill after the matches.”

Rodgers agreed.

“We want to go all the way,” she stressed. “Coach said she would literally pull us into the van to leave if that’s what she had to do. We want to show Chowan University is evolving into a great athletic program, a great soccer program.”

A key class of sophomores will also be important to the success of the Hawks.

Ashley Bradford, a 5’4” forward from Chesapeake, Virginia was the leading scorer on last year’s club. She had 23 goals and nine assists for a total of 55 points. She also led the team with a .311 shooting percentage.

Next on the offensive end was Clara Danziesen who had eight goals on the season to go with five assists. The 5’7” midfielder comes from Richmond, Virginia.

Danziesen also led the team in game-winning goals (2).

Helping anchor the defense was 5’10” defender Erin Jackson from Norfolk, Virginia.

Another key returning player is last year’s goal keeper, Tiffany Lee. The sophomore from Yorktown, Virginia had 132 saves during her freshman season.

Donnelly will also be counting on a quintet of freshmen to contribute during the 2007 season.

Keepers Kristy Brown (Chesapeake, Virginia) and Jackie Stepp (Southern Shores) will provide competition for the position for the first time in several years.

Donnelly has also been impressed by the preseason of Jillian Ferns from Chesapeake, Virginia and Kathleen Feagans of Stafford, Virginia.

Lacy Crafton, a red-shirt freshman, is also expected to contribute heavily this season.

While having players is important, it is also imperative that they be prepared to play. The coach said she was pleased in that area.

“The general level of fitness is higher,” Donnelly said. “We need to work on game fitness, but we’re much stronger.”

The coach also said the team was a lot deeper than a season ago and that would make a difference in a tough schedule.

The Hawks will have seven home games, something both coach and players agree is important.

“Having more home games is important to us,” Donnelly said. “We like being on our home field.”

The stats back up Donnelly’s assertion, as her team went 4-2 on their own field last season.

Mahoney said playing at home was so important because of the support the Hawks receive at home.

“Sometimes when we play, the whole football team will be there to support us,” Mahoney said. “That’s huge to look up and see everyone there giving us that extra umph to do our best.”

Rodgers agreed, “Being at a small school helps us because our athletes support other programs. Our team thrives on that support.”

The Hawks will get the chance to begin their season at 2 p.m. Saturday when they welcome defending Conference Carolinas league champion Belmont Abbey.