Nyiesha Ford had heard it before.
A sophomore goalie at Radford (Va.) University, Ford and her teammates were preparing for last weekend's Big South Conference women's soccer tournament. Highlanders coach Ben Sarobi told his players that "you have to play with heart."
"That's like Coach [Steve] Matters would say at Oakland Mills," said Ford, a 1997 graduate and four-year starter for the Scorpions. "We didn't have the best players, but we played with a lot of heart."
Ford's teams at Oakland Mills were very successful in postseason play. The Scorpions won the Class 1A-2A state title in 1995 and were the 1994 state runner-up.
And while the state championship is one of Ford's career highlights, it isn't at the top. Not when your college team is in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1985.
"This is a little bit bigger than a state championship," Ford said Monday, a day after her team defeated UNC-Asheville, 1-0, for the Big South Conference title and an automatic bid into the tournament. "Now I feel I'm among the best."
Radford had three shutouts in the tournament -- it defeated two teams it had lost to in the regular season -- and Ford was named to the all-tournament team. The Highlanders (11-7-2) will play at James Madison University at 6 p.m. today in a first-round game.
Ford started every game except the first one last season as a freshman, and Radford had a school record 12 shutouts. The Highlanders went 16-3 -- losing in the conference tournament semifinals -- and Ford was named to the all-conference team.
"It was a real good season," Ford said.
This year has been "up and down," said Ford, whose team was seeded fourth in the tournament.
"No one ever lost hope," said Ford about her team's tournament chances. "It's like you know you can do it, but everyone has to play together at the same time. And that's what happened. Everybody showed up."
Ford, who missed two starts this season because of an injury, said her play has improved in many ways since coming to Radford. But she credits the Oakland Mills program, as well as playing against talented players during the summer, with building a strong foundation for her success.
Ford said one of the toughest adjustments to college has been the balance between academics and soccer.
"Time management. That's the hardest thing," said Ford, who has a 3.23 grade-point average. "Missing classes [because of games] and finding ways to make up the work is not easy."
Connecticut sophomore midfielder Lauren Molinaro (Centennial, '97) has been named to the All-Big East second team. Molinaro, a two-time Howard County Player of the Year selection, has started 19 games for the Huskies (19-1-2), who are ranked sixth in the country and seeded fifth in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies, who lost, 1-0, to Notre Dame last Sunday in the Big East final to end a 21-game unbeaten streak, open the tournament Saturday against the Colgate-Syracuse winner.
Wofford (S.C.) freshman Amanda Berman (Wilde Lake) was named second team All-Southern Conference as well as to the all-conference tournament team. Berman, the Co-County Player of the Year last year for the Wildecats, finished with nine goals and six assists. She scored the only goal of the game when Wofford (10-11) defeated Davidson in the first round of the conference tournament.
Davidson junior Ginny Dye (Oakland Mills, '96) was named second team All-Southern Conference. Dye had seven goals and three assists this season for Davidson (7-13).
Furman freshman Kathy Gaertner (River Hill) started 14 of the last 15 games and finished with seven goals and six assists. Gaertner, the Co-County Player of the Year last season, had the game-winning score against UNC-Wilmington. Furman finished 13-8, losing 2-0 in overtime to UNC-Greensboro last Sunday in the Southern Conference tournament final.
Another Howard County resident, sophomore Sara Tollick (Seton Keough, '97), started all 21 games for Furman and had six goals and seven assists. She was named to the Southern Conference all-tournament team.
Hammond's fifth-ranked girls soccer team plays No. 8 Hereford (14-3) at 6 o'clock tonight at Howard in the Class 1A South region final. Hammond (14-1-1) is led by Michelle Jenkins (nine goals, six assists), Martha Bielefeld (seven, eight), Meg Tilley (seven, seven), Katie Fink (nine, two) and Monica Serianni (four, seven).
Hereford, which lost to Glenelg in last year's Class 1A-2A state championship, is led by Missy Mueller (23 goals).
Five county volleyball teams are in action today. Hammond (7-9) plays host to Smithsburg of Washington County at 7 p.m. in a Class 1A South Region semifinal.
In the Class 2A South Region semifinals, Atholton (9-8) travels to No. 2 Mount Hebron (18-0) for a 4 p.m. match, and No. 10 River Hill (10-6) plays at No. 4 Centennial (13-3) at 5 p.m.
Mount Hebron has beaten Atholton twice, once in the regular season and the other in the county championship. Both were three-game matches.
Centennial has beaten River Hill twice, the first time in five games and the second in four games.
Pub Date: 11/11/98