Showdown with Div. I power UNC looms for KSU women's soccer team
In their brief history‚ the KSU Owls have rarely entered a soccer match as anything other than a prohibitive favorite to win.
(Sep 1, 2004) — In their brief history‚ the KSU Owls have rarely entered a soccer match as anything
other than a prohibitive favorite to win. Their sparkling two−year record of 43−1−1‚
combined with two Peach Belt Conference championships and the 2003 NCAA Div. II national
title‚ bears strong witness to the amazing job done by reigning Div. II ‘Coach of
the Year’ Rob King and his players.
This fall‚ however‚ change is in the air. For the first time since women’s soccer made its debut in 2002‚ the Owls will play the role of underdog as they begin their transition to the elite world of Div. I. Nowhere will that change be more evident than this weekend in Chapel Hill‚ N.C.‚ where KSU joins Div. I powers North Carolina‚ Duke and Florida for the Nike Carolina Classic.
King’s Owls‚ 2−0 after a pair of season−opening wins over Div. I foes UNC−Asheville and Mercer‚ open the tournament Friday at 5 p.m. against nationally ranked Duke‚ then return to the field Sunday for a 3 p.m. showdown with the host Tar Heels. UNC returns 23 letter winners off its 2003 team‚ which went 27−0 en route to the program's 18th national championship‚ and recently sent two players to Athens‚ Greece‚ to represent the United States in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
“For us to get a shot at them‚ and be able to go up to Chapel Hill‚ which is sort of like the soccer Mecca‚ it’s great‚” King said. “It’ll be a good experience; I think we’ll learn a lot.”
Duke and North Carolina are just two of the seven Div. I teams on this year’s schedule. The Owls also play nine Div. II opponents‚ as well as one NAIA school. The regular season opened with a bang at last weekend's Tennessee Tech Classic in Cookeville‚ Tenn. It concludes Nov. 4−6 with a trip to Colorado Springs for a pair of games against Northern Colorado and Utah Valley State‚ two other teams making the Div. I transition‚ in the Independent Cup.
“We could put together a Div. I schedule where we’d win every game‚” said King‚ whose team makes its home debut Sunday‚ Sept. 12 against 2003 Div. II quarterfinal foe Barry University. “Without any doubt‚ we could put that sort of schedule together. But that doesn’t serve the players well‚ because they’d actually be dropping down a level in the level of games that they played‚ and it doesn’t serve us well on where we’d like to get to with the program.”
Although the challenge is great‚ King is hopeful that his 2004 club – stocked with veterans from last year’s national championship team – will put up a strong fight‚ regardless of the level of competition. Down the road‚ he fully expects KSU women’s soccer to take its place among the elite programs in Div. I.
“The next couple of years are quite difficult in many respects for the players‚ but they do understand the long−range goal that we have‚ and they know how important it is to be able to compete well against these Div. I schools‚ right off the bat‚” King said. “I’ve got no intention of heading up a mediocre Div. I women’s soccer program. We intend to be a nationally competitive Div. I program as soon as possible.”
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.