Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bevin English: One for the Books

by Lauren Biggers, Sports Information Department

As second-seeded Davidson prepares to battle the seventh-seeded Wofford Terriers in the first-round of the 2007 Women’s Soccer Southern Conference tournament at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Alumni Stadium, the ‘Cats will be looking to translate their regular-season success into postseason glory.

Having won 12 of their last 14 games and riding a five-game winning streak, the Wildcats avenged last year’s quarterfinals loss to the Georgia Southern Eagles with a 2-0 triumph, fittingly, on Thursday’s Senior Day.

Fittingly because this year’s three seniors — who double as tri-captains and roommates — defender Nancy Haskell, forward Kristen Koehrn and goalkeeper Bevin English are the winningest class in Wildcat women’s soccer history and enter this weekend’s tournament game with a record of 50-25-6 over their four-year career.

Head coach Greg Ashton enters the tournament with a 50-25-6 overall record of his own and a 31-7-3 league mark in his four-year tenure and leads one of the program’s most successful, if not talented, teams to date.

And while Haskell and Koehrn are unquestionably large pieces of this year’s Wildcat puzzle, it is English who has been putting together one of the best seasons in program history.

Leading the SoCon in goals against average (0.80), save percentage (.849) and shutouts (10), English is having a career year with personal highs in saves, shutouts, goals against, wins and saves in a single game.

With a SoCon-best 10 shutouts this season, English set the all-time Davidson record for shutouts in a career with a 2-0 defeat of Elon on Oct. 25 for her 19th shutout. With 79 saves this season, she has moved into the top-five in career saves with 218, and her current career goals against average of 1.08 ranks first all-time among Wildcat keepers.

A two-time student athlete of the week and an All-SoCon academic team member the past two years for excellence on the field and in the classroom, English has started 50 of her past 51 games, including 16 this season. The ‘Cats’ starting keeper for the past three seasons has amassed a 30-14-5 overall record.

A member of a top-two league finisher in all four of her seasons, success is anything but unfamiliar to English. And while this year’s accomplishments weren’t necessarily unexpected, English admits there were some questions after the team’s 0-3 start.

The team got its first victory, a 1-0 overtime win against High Point, at home on Sept. 2, but dropped another pair of games, on a trip to Colorado Springs, Colo., to Air Force and Colorado College. With a 1-5 record, all wasn’t lost, but Southern Conference play was quickly approaching.

“After going 1-3 in the beginning of the season,” English said. “We all got together as a team, and we also got together in small groups based on our positions to kind of refocus. It wasn’t time to panic, but we had to win games.”

The team that needed to find an identity found one in English’s backyard at the College of Charleston’s tournament. The ‘Cats opened the tournament in dramatic fashion as sophomore Blakely Low’s header lifted the team to a 2-1 overtime win over Vanderbilt for the team’s first win over the Commodores. That same weekend, Davidson registered an even bigger win, downing previously unbeaten LSU, 3-0, to take the tournament title behind English’s second shutout of the season.

“That was fantastic,” English said of winning the tournament title in her hometown. “I got to play in front of some friends and family from around there. Some people I played with in high school came; my high school coach came. Beating two SEC teams, especially after the way we started the season, was huge for us. Things finally started to come together, and we realized we can compete with anyone.”

Entering the SoCon tournament as the second seed, that’s exactly the approach the 2007 Wildcats will carry into the weekend. After two of the biggest wins in program history, the team put together an eight-game unbeaten streak. Its lone conference loss, though, came to regular-season champion UNC Greensboro, a 3-0 setback on Oct. 14 at Alumni Stadium. To win the conference, the ‘Cats will likely have to go through the Spartans, but English chooses to focus on the end goal.

“Our goal since the beginning of preseason when we sat down and planned our team goals has been to win the SoCon championship so we could get in the NCAAs,” English said. “That has always been the big goal and the focus. In the back of our minds, while we are focusing on every single game, that’s our ultimate goal.”

And as good team captains go, one of the best goalkeepers in Davidson history is quick to dismiss her own accomplishments and shift the focus to her team.

“It is nice, but most of the credit goes to the defenders in front of me,” English said. “They do a lot of the work and don’t get any credit for stats. So they are not really my records, even though my name is the one in the book.”

Undoubtedly, Senior Day and a final SoCon tournament bring reflection, but English insists she will be completely focused on the game as she takes the field Sunday. When pressed, she admits it is her teammates that she will reflect most fondly upon as her storied career comes to an end.

“Obviously, the people I played with over the past four years, that’s the best part,” English said.

With English in goal, the second-seeded ‘Cats will take the field against the seventh-seeded Wofford Terriers on Sunday. The program’s fourth Southern Conference championship would be a perfect ending to the story.

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