Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fresh start for young Mountaineers as Eastern Oregon opens CCC play this weekend

It has been a difficult and sometimes heartbreaking non-conference start to the season for the Eastern Oregon Mountaineers, a team with a first-year coach and a roster that features only one senior. On Friday they look to forget their 0-7 record when they open their Cascade Collegiate Conference schedule on the road versus Corban in Salem.

“We are actually really excited for conference play because I think we’ve been building little by little every single game and what we are really focused on is being a solid unit once we hit conference,” said head coach Jennifer Simonetti after the Red Lion Challenge in Spokane earlier this month.

The 2012 campaign is a new beginning for a team that posted only two wins a year ago, a new low for a program that had not posted any more than four conference wins in any of the past five seasons.

Quincy Moore
With defender Quincy Moore (Moscow, ID) as the only remaining senior on the roster, the team is leaning on its group of juniors and up-and-coming newcomers to lead the team in the future.

“We have two junior captains in Mauriana Gonzalez and Carolyn Danek (Spokane, WA), who have not only brought the team together off the field, but on the field,” said Simonetti. “And they have really helped mold our eight freshman into the team (to the point that despite) that many newcomers, you can’t tell the difference anymore because they get along on and off the field. They respect each other and they push each other, so it’s been great.”

Freshmen Haley Hill, Danielle Robinson
Gonzalez has been one of the key players on the field so far, setting up two of the team’s four goals this season. Meanwhile, freshman Courtney Randall leads the team in scoring with two strikes with the other two coming from junior Erika Whitehurst (Bend, OR) and sophomore Kelli Jones.

A further sign that the team is essentially beginning anew under Simonetti, three of the six players that have tallied a goal or an assist this season so far are freshman.

“I think that we’ve definitely improved in our build up, and our attack has definitely greatly improved,” said Simonetti. “We need to focus a little more defensively, and focus for 90 minutes. But moving forward we are pretty happy; young squad, young season so keep moving.”

Moore and Danek highlight a group of Inland Northwest players from outside the state which also includes youngsters Haley Hill (Boise, ID) and Kiah Jones (Kuna, ID).

“They are just a good group of kids and we’ve got everyone from a freshman to a senior on that list so hopefully we’ll keep some local kids and the parents are out here (in Spokane) because of it. It brings a better atmosphere to the games,” Simonetti said at the Red Lion Challenge of the INW players on the squad.

The challenge ahead is not only a new start for the players and the team, but for the head coach as well. Simonetti is in her debut season in the northwest. She previously served as an assistant and head coach at several Division III colleges and high schools in the east after graduating from the University of Dayton, where she helped guide the Flyers to four Atlantic 10 regular season and three playoff championships.

She also knows a little something about young players serving as leaders on the team having earned conference and All-Great Lakes Region honors as a freshman and a sophomore for Dayton. She went on to win receive them again as a senior along with NSCAA All-America honors and the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year award.

“It’s going ok. It’s new; trying to learn the ropes of the university and the team,” Simonetti said of how her first year is going. “It’s a great group of women both athletically and personally so we’re excited with what we can do with them and I think we’re a little impatient to get where we want to get but it’s gonna take a little time.”