Otahkians wrap up OVC crown

Monday, October 28, 2002

On a day of celebration and recognition for Southeast Missouri State University's first graduating soccer class, Valerie Henderson provided the offense and last season's Ohio Valley Conference defender of the year Jenny Hamilton kept Tennessee-Martin at bay.

The result was a 3-0 Southeast victory at Houck Stadium Sunday as the Otahkians (12-4-1) clinched their second straight OVC regular-season title.

After a tense first 15 minutes that saw central defenders Hamilton and Heather Reding having to slow the Skyhawks' high-scoring attack, Southeast was able to grab the momentum and take over the game.

Southeast coach Heather Nelson said once again her team showed just how strong its defensive unit is.

"This year we've given up some goals, but by far we're the hardest team to score on in the conference," she said.

Southeast dominated the later part of the first half, with several good chances coming from forward Erin Slattery. But it wasn't until early in the second half that the Otahkians took control of the game for good.

Seven minutes into the second half, Henderson put in a bending shot past Skyhawk goalie Caryn Scheufler, who had to leave the game midway through the half after a collision inside the goalbox, to get the Otahkians on the board. Slattery earned an assist.

Less than a minute later, Henderson took a pass from Lisa Schweppe and banged it in off the left post for her second goal of the game.

Henderson, who now has six goals on the season, has been asked to move from midfield to defender throughout the season. In some contests Henderson will even switch positions during the game itself.

Nelson said Henderson has come a long way this season in being able to go from position to position without any loss in her game.

"That's really exciting to have a player that can be that dominant at various positions on the field," Nelson said.

After Henderson's two goals, the Otahkians continued to pressure UTM. Less than 10 minutes after Henderson's second goal, Schweppe scored off a Henderson corner kick to finish off the day's scoring.

UTM coach Nathan Pifer said his team just didn't come out ready to play early on.

"We didn't start playing until our goalie got hurt," he said.

The play got physical at the end, with both teams picking up yellow cards. Southeast kept its composure and kept the Skyhawks (10-5-3) off the scoreboard, with goalies Amanda Wrzos and Lauren Fabbro combining for the shutout. The shutout was the 11th for the Otahkians this season.

The win capped off senior day for Southeast, which marked the last regular-season home game for senior defenders Jenny Hamilton, Kori Marchi and Stephanie Bleau, who have been with the program since its inception.

"It was an emotional day, which made it that much better to win today," Hamilton said.

The win also guaranteed Southeast the top seed in the OVC Tournament, which will be held at Houck Stadium Nov. 8-10. Southeast will either play Tennessee Tech or Murray State in the opening round, depending on the outcome of Southeast's final regular-season game at Murray State Wednesday.

Nelson said Sunday's accomplishment is just the start for her team.

"This is the first goal we've set for ourselves," she said. "We want to win the tournament and go on to the NCAA's."

Southeast extended its season-high winning steak to five games, and improved to 7-2 at home.

jjoffray@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 171

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