Five Blue Raiders land all-tournament honors

Middle Tennessee collects hardware after title

November 7, 2010 · Athletic Communications
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -Sun Belt soccer tournament champion Middle Tennessee placed nearly one-half of its starting 11 on the all-tournament team, as five Blue Raiders received honors after the championship game Saturday in Bowling Green, Ky.

Junior goalkeeper Rebecca Cushing led the group as she was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, becoming the first player in school history to receive the honor. The Lone Tree, Colo., native put together a spectacular three-game run in net, helping Middle Tennessee to the program's first title and NCAA Tournament berth.

Also a member of the all-tournament team, Cushing allowed just two goals in 310 minutes for a 0.58 goals-against average with 14 saves, an 87.5 save percentage. She stopped numerous shots in all three games against Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky and No. 15 Denver, with her biggest saves coming during the penalty kick situations to decide which team advanced after the semifinals and championship. She often made diving or leaping saves, keeping the ball out of the net, and had solid control of the backline in front of her.

Senior defender Fran Howells also received all-tournament accolades after scoring two of the team's four goals. Despite not scoring throughout the regular season when she was named to the All-Sun Belt First Team, she raised the level of her offensive game to another level during the tournament.

She tallied the Blue Raiders' first goal of the event early in the second half of Wednesday's quarterfinal against Florida Atlantic. After MT drew a foul inside the Owls' 18-yard box, Howells toed the penalty spot and knocked in the goal, giving the No. 2 seeded Blue Raiders a 1-0 lead. She would add another goal the next night, during Thursday's semifinal against Western Kentucky. Also coming in the second half, Howells used her height to her advantage and redirected with her head a corner kick pass from freshman Jessika Oseguera into the Lady Topper net for another 1-0 Middle Tennessee edge.

Howells, a native of Swansea, Wales, helped the Blue Raiders start the penalty kick situations on the right foot, literally. She was the first MT player to line up for a shot in both cases and scored both times, as one of three Blue Raiders to hit on both of their attempts.

Fellow senior and All-Sun Belt First Team honoree, midfielder Vanessa Mueggler, collected her first all-tournament honor despite not having a point in the three games. As one of the national and conference-wide top scorers throughout the regular season, and Middle Tennessee's leader, the Pincourt, Quebec, native was still a factor in the Blue Raiders' title run.

She topped the team with nine shots, including five on goal and helped set up various team chances, including the first goal. Mueggler drew the foul inside the 18-yard box against Florida Atlantic, and after being injured on the play, had to be removed from the field of play. Howells then hit on the PK attempt before Mueggler returned later in the game.

Her shots towards the opposing nets often had to be saved by dives or leaps, and she helped MT control possession in the midfield and in its offensive attack throughout the three games.

Redshirt sophomore Regina Thomas also received all-tournament honors. Thomas, an All-Sun Belt First Team selection after the regular season, again used her speed to her advantage, opening up a number of offensive opportunities for Middle Tennessee.

Thomas found her way past opposing defenders, taking the ball deep into their end, before setting up teammate chances with crossing passes or turning it into corner kicks. Because of her speed, the Centennial, Colo., native had to be constantly marked by an opposing defender, helping the Blue Raider attack become multi-dimensional.

With the game nearly decided, Thomas scored her only goal of the tournament with under five minutes remaining to provide an insurance tally for Middle Tennessee in its quarterfinal round victory over Florida Atlantic. She received a pass from junior Shan Jones and sprinted past the Owl defense for a breakaway.

Whitney Jorgenson, a true sophomore hailing from Olathe, Kan., was the fifth Blue Raider member of the all-tournament team. Jorgenson, like Thomas, often disrupted the opposing defenses with her speed and runs, allowing her teammates more open space with which to work in the middle of the field.

The All-Sun Belt Second Team honoree managed just two shots, but both were on goal. She also took the majority of Middle Tennessee's corner kicks, setting up her teammates on the set piece. Jorgenson's lone assist came in the quarterfinals against Florida Atlantic, where she set a corner kick into the box to senior Jaimee Cooper, who redirected it into the net for the eventual game winner with just over 30 minutes to play in regulation.

During the penalty kick situations, Jorgenson stepped to the spot as the second Blue Raider shooter both times. She joined Howells, and sophomore Paige Goeglein, as the only three Middle Tennessee players to hit both of their attempts.

The five Blue Raiders on the all-tournament team are the most by the school in a single season and the first Middle Tennessee representatives since 2006. Only six previous Blue Raiders were named to the squad in school history prior to this season.

Middle Tennessee enters its first NCAA Tournament with a 13-8-2 record and a 15-game consecutive streak of allowing a goal or less, dating back to the Duke Nike Classic in mid-September.

The Blue Raiders will learn of their NCAA Tournament fate at 3:30 p.m. Monday, live on ESPNU.

2010 All-Sun Belt Tournament Team:
Rebecca Cushing, Middle Tennessee
Fran Howells, Middle Tennessee
Vanessa Mueggler, Middle Tennessee
Regina Thomas, Middle Tennessee
Whitney Jorgenson, Middle Tennessee

Mayara Bordin, FIU
Mallory Outerbridge, WKU
Lara Campbell, Denver
Nicholette DiGiacomo, Denver
Kristen Hamilton, Denver
Kalie Vaughn, Denver

Tournament Most Valuable Player
Rebecca Cushing, Middle Tennessee

Blue Raider All-Sun Belt Tournament Team honors:
Rebecca Cushing*, 2010
Fran Howells, 2010
Vanessa Mueggler, 2010
Regina Thomas, 2010
Whitney Jorgenson, 2010
Holly Grogan, 2006
Kala Morgan, 2006
Rebecca Rodriguez, 2005
Claire Ward, 2005
Debs Brereton, 2004
Lisa-Marie Woods, 2004
*-Most Valuable Player

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