Hermann Hopefuls

  • September 19, 2008 04:17 PM
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By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
September 19, 2008

  Amanda Cicchini does it all for the Mountaineers.
WVU Sports Communications photo

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia University women’s soccer team is one of only 10 programs to have at least two players named to the 2008 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy Watch List.

Senior midfielder Amanda Cicchini and senior defender Greer Barnes are two of 47 players nationwide who achieved the feat of earning national recognition for their stellar play on the field.

Both players have been stalwarts at WVU, making tremendous contributions over their four seasons that has escalated the Mountaineer program not only in the BIG EAST but across the country.

Cicchini, who recently notched the game-winning goal to give WVU a 1-0 victory in a nationally-televised contest against Kentucky, immediately made her imprint on the program after being named a Soccer Buzz Freshman All-American in 2005. The Oakville, Ontario, native started 21 of 21 matches at center midfield to give the coaching staff a glimpse of what she could provide in the future.

Since her breakthrough season, WVU soccer’s No. 10 has lived up to all the buzz that has surrounded her. Just like how quarterback Pat White has made himself a Heismen trophy hopeful over the last two seasons, Cicchini has done the same by already being named to the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Watch List in her junior year, and once again has the opportunity to advance to the final 15 that will be named in November if she can continue her fine senior season.

“For me it is a great accomplishment,” Cicchini admitted. “But I feel better when the team is doing well. The greatest accomplishment for me was reaching the Elite Eight last season. It’s more about the team accomplishments than the individual accolades for me.”

If the National Soccer Coaches Association of America bases its criteria for the trophy on team success combined with individual skill, then Cicchini has quite the chance to advance to the semifinal group. WVU’s active leader in matches played (74) and matches started (71) has once again risen to the occasion by leading her talented squad to a 5-1-2 mark and a No. 14 ranking in the NSCAA/adidas poll.

With everything Cicchini has accomplished as a Mountaineer, she understands that practicing and playing with great teammates and a well-accomplished coaching staff has benefited her game immensely.

“Everyday they are behind me and have supported in practice,” Cicchini said of her teammates and coaches. “They’ve all been committed to making me a better player and have tried to help get me to the next level.”

Barnes has been steady on the back line since making the switch from midfielder prior to the start of her junior season. Her ability to win balls and pose as a tremendous offensive threat despite being a defender is what has led to her first-ever appearance on the Watch List.

The Rye, N.Y., native is the Mountaineers’ first defender to be named First-Team All-BIG EAST when she helped stifle opposing offenses last season. She continues to do much of the same this year, contributing to a defense that has allowed only 23 shots on-goal in eight games, and an abysmal 0.47 goals scored average by opponents.

Having worked so diligently since entering Morgantown in 2005, Barnes believes that having two Mountaineers eligible for collegiate soccer’s most prestigious award is a reflection of the school’s top-notch talent.

“It shows we have a real strong program, and Nikki (Izzo-Brown) has developed us into good players,” Barnes said. “We have a good system. I’d say it’s working if we have two players on the Watch List.”

  It's difficult for any opponent to get past Greer Barnes.
WVU Sports Communications photo

Barnes and Cicchini have gotten a taste of some of the country’s best players in the past. Both competed against 2006 Hermann Trophy winner Kerri Hanks of Notre Dame, and also battled against 2004 and 2005 recipient Christine Sinclair of Portland during their freshman campaigns.

Now both players have the opportunity to reach the level of some of the greatest athletes to ever grace the field in women’s soccer. The thought of being placed in the upper echelon of some of the best players in the country left Barnes excited when she first found out.

“I was like, ‘Woah! Really?’ Barnes admitted. “Because I’ve always heard that Kerri Hanks got it, and Ashley Banks was recognized as a semifinalist when she played here. I was shocked and excited. It’s nice to be honored for something like this.”

Only one defender has earned the honor of the nation’s best player since the award’s inception in 1988. Catherine Reddick of North Carolina made history in 2003 by proving that not everything can be measured in the stat book, and Barnes hopes to prove the same.

Although she knows that being a defender means greater difficulty in gaining recognition, Barnes takes comfort in knowing that the frustration opposing offenses have shown in the past two seasons have been largely due to the suffocating play by herself and her teammates in the back line.

“I think I’m in a tougher position than the forwards and midfielders because they get to score more goals,” Barnes admitted. “It’s harder for defenders to get recognized, but we get shutouts and I do get into the attack and can get some opportunities where I can put some shots on-goal with the 4-3-3 system we have.”

If the Mountaineers continue their hot play with a high-powered offense combined with a vast array of active defenders, look for Cicchini and Barnes to turn more heads when November rolls around.