Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Looking Back at Courtney Cook

This past week, women's soccer's Hailey Beam tied Courtney Cook for the 49ers all-time lead in goals scored with 36. Sometime in the not too distant future, she will surpass Cook. Cook had stood alone atop the charts for a long time. A member of the 49ers first women's soccer class, Cook established the single-season and freshman records for goals scored with 18 tallies in that first season. She continued her high-scoring exploits over the next three years to set career records that have stood for the better part of 12 years.

It was 1994 and Charlotte debuted its women's soccer program. First year head coach Robbie Church (father of current men's hoopster, Kyle) brought in a wealth of local talent as well as some stars from across the country.

Two came from Apple Valley, Minn. They played together on the Bangu Express club team that had won three state titles and their Apple Valley High team had advanced to the state championship games in each of their last two years. Cook was a two-time all-state selection.

And she could score.

She started all 19 games as a freshman, scoring 18 goals with 12 assists. She ranked third among the nation's freshmen in goals. She had a pair of hat tricks. And the 8 points (3 goals, 2 assists) she had against East Carolina are still a school record. The 18 goals stood as a school record until 2002, when Courtney Crandell netted 21 as a freshman. The 12 assists stood until 1998, when Christina Papp passed out 13. Lindsey Ozimek since broke that record with 19 dishes in 2005. Cook's 12 assists still stand as the 49ers freshman record.

Heading into this season, 12 years since Cook had graduated, her name still stood atop the career goals and career points list. Beam has now passed the career points mark -- in fact, Beam and Cook are the only two in school history to accumulate over 100 career points. Cook still stands in the top 3 of career goals, career assists and career points and single-season goals and single-season points.

But now, as we watch those initial records fall, as they were meant to do, I thought it appropriate to look back at the roots of what has become one of the 49ers strongest programs. Dominant in the A-10 with back-to-back NCAA appearances in 2007 and 2008, a pair of C-USA titles and NCAA bids in 1998 and 2002, nationally-ranked at various times throughout its still young history -- the women's soccer program owes a great deal of gratitude to that first class.

That class went 13-4-2 in their first season, with games against the likes of Davidson, Furman, Clemson, Wake Forest, Louisville, Alabama, Virginia Tech. They were new on the scene -- but they never acted like it. From day one, they belonged.

In their second season they went 13-7-2 and defeated Evansville in the inaugural Conference USA Championship game after toppling Memphis, 4-1 and Louisville, 4-0 in the opening rounds. Two years. One conference title. They were not about to take a back seat. And they never did.

The stage was set for this hot program on the rise.

So as we watch Beam break records and look down the road at Weinraub taking it to the next level-- and we praise the great success the women are enjoying -- think back for a moment to the likes of Cook, Blair Angell, Dana Erato, Meredith Campbell, Maria Ciaravino, Kristen Reed, Kamilah Barker, Jennifer Rogers, Jessica Ryan, Catherine Anderson, Heather Bridgewater, Laurel Gooch, Lori Foreman, Mindy McBrayer, Amy Rucinski, Melissa Mullinax, Julie Berkau and Shayna Bruce. Members of the first class that helped set the tone for all that has come afterwards.

They always wanted to be the start of something great. And boy, were they ever.
Tom Whitestone
Assoc. A.D./Media Relations

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