Global Awareness: Soccer builds on 2011 “surprise” season

Goal keeper Tori Brown started her sophomore year with 26 saves in the first three games.
Goal keeper Tori Brown started her sophomore year with 26 saves in the first three games.

As all the world seemed inundated with information about how England fared against France, whether the Czech Republic could beat Portugal, and what Obama and Putin were really saying to each other through body language, Brenau Soccer Coach Mike Lochstampfor quietly pondered a little international strategy of his own: whether adding two experienced players from Nigeria and another from Colombia would make a difference when the Golden Tigers kicked off their 2012 campaign. It did. The team beat Savannah College of Art & Design and University of South Carolina, Beaufort, on the road before defeating Georgia Gwinnett in the home opener.

Last year, before the season began, pundits picked the young, inexperienced Tigers to finish 10th in the Southern States Athletic Conference. However, with only three seniors and a junior, the squad of mostly sophomores and freshmen finished third – 9-3 in the conference and 10-6-3 overall. In the process, some of the youngsters proved their mettle. Freshman goalkeeper Tori Brown from Windermere, Fla., won first team all-conference honors and ranked 14th in the nation with her 135 saves, an average of 7.5 per game. And freshman forward Jenny Knibbs from Doncaster, England, made the all-conference freshman team while leading the Tigers offense with 12 goals and four assists. In 19 games she took 61 shots and 39 shots on goal.

Although the 18-member roster already had an international flavor with Knibbs’ fellow Brits Kirsty Smith, a sophomore who is also from Doncaster, and senior Laura Hirst from Hudderfield, plus senior Erin Brinks from Ontario, Canada, most listed last year were from Georgia with three from Florida and one from Alabama.

Although Hirst and Brinks have now graduated, Lochstampfor in the off-season added Monica Sanchez, who currently lives in Parkland, Fla., but holds a dual citizenship in the United States and Colombia, where she was part of the Colombian National Team pool in 2008. In this country her Florida high school team ranked No. 2 in state championship play, and for the past two years she has been involved with Miami Cagliari Calcio Strike Force U18 that was ranked in the Top 20 nationally. He also signed junior Esther Anyanwu and Linda Chukwuji, both from Lagos, Nigeria, and both completing two-year stints at Georgia Perimeter College where they were among the best in the nation at the junior college level.

Forward Anyanwu led the nation in scoring and became a first-team National Junior College Association All-American and the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year. Although she was slowed by injury in 2011, she nabbed All-American status again replicating her prior-year

performance, by compiling a remarkable 59 points (26 goals and 7 assists). Her college career record is 74 goals and 21 assists.

Chukwuji, a midfield, was equally impressive. The second team NJCAA All-American in 2010 came back in 2011, also overcoming injuries to record 5 goals and 11 assists, pick up the GCAA Player-of-the-Year award and join the first-team NJCAA All-American group.

Lochstampfor says additional international experience should play well in the highly competitive SSAC, which boasts the No. 1 and No. 5 teams in the nation – the only two teams, incidentally, that beat the “inexperienced” Brenau women after Sept. 10.

The 2012 team also picked up another Alabamian, midfielder Kaylee Ellison, a graduate of Auburn High School, a perennial state championship contender.

“Not to take anything away from a group that really excelled last year, I think, without a doubt, these new players with their experience in faster, more aggressive international play will elevate the entire team,” says Lochstampfor. “Plus, they’re all great students.This is going to be a great combination to watch.”

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