Lady Buffs spill Brevard

Photo by Dave Boyd
Pulling up on BrevardÕs Crystal Robinson, MilliganÕs Dehara September (10) gets set to fire a shot.

By Seth Bartee
Elizabethton is known for its sports, especially its high school football team. Year after year they have proven themselves to be successful. At Milligan College, via Milligan Highway, the Lady Buffs are also known for their winning ways.
In 2001 they qualified for the NAIA National Championship and in 2002 they were Region XII runner-ups. One of those winning reasons is senior forward standout Bianca Spoto.
Spoto continued those winning ways Tuesday as she led the Milligan Lady Buffs to a 5-0 win over the Tornadoes of Brevard College. She scored four goals after a 13-day layoff because the wrath of Hurricane Isabel canceled two of their games in Pennsylvania.
"I felt we went to their level today," said Spoto. "We have not practiced in 13 days, so it hurts us a little bit."
The Lady Buffs had 31 shots on the Brevard goal, while holding their opponents to only seven shots. Early on in the first period freshman forward Kristin Zutt scored a goal to put the Lady Buffs up 1-0. Soon afterwards Spoto scored on a breakaway, making the game 2-0.
"I feel pressure to score, especially this being my last year to play at Milligan," said Spoto.
First-year Lady Buffs soccer coach David Dixon is not exactly new to the kind of pressure that Spoto feels.
Dixon was an All-American at Houghton College and his team won three NAIA Regional Championships. He understands in order for a team to play successfully, they must gel.
"It's hard to get good reps in practice, it's not the same speed as the game pace," said Dixon. "I'm halfway pleased. We got 31 shots on the goal and scored five of those. But we need to speed up our game more."
The Lady Buffs went into halftime with a 2-0 lead but they slowed down the rest of the first period. The second period saw Spoto bombard the net with three goals and a tough Milligan defense on Brevard.
The Lady Buffs improved their record to 4-3 but that is not exactly the tale of tape.
"All of our losses have been to two top 25 teams and one top two team to start out the season," said Dixon.
But Spoto believes these tough games will help them towards winning their conference and heading into the regional tournament.
Obviously Coach Dixon believes a tough schedule makes a tough team. The Lady Buffs' next four games are with ranked teams. The next is with #22 Covenant College, and after that is #26 Virginia Intermont, as Milligan will face both of these teams away.
"The next four games are very important for us," said Dixon. "We need to be able to give everything we've got to face these top 25s".
If you're a fan of sports and especially soccer, Dixon and the Lady Buffs will be the team to watch. Dixon's three-year plan is to lead the Milligan ladies to the final four of the NAIA's.
"We are getting some good recruits and have some good young players progressing," said Dixon. "We are recruiting a couple of players playing in the World Cup".
Since this is Spoto's last year, a coach has to think about replacing her.
"It's impossible to replace a player like Bianca," said Dixon. "We have to find good recruits and depend on our 15 new players."
The future lies in players like sophomore midfielder Tanya Ruppert.
"Tanya is quick up and down the field," said teammate Spoto.
Coach Dixon said that Ruppert is a hard worker and that's what it takes to make a team successful. The Lady Buffs also have two future gems in Louisville recruits freshmen, Megan Elrod and Kristin Zutt. Elrod had an assist to Spoto and Zutt scored the first goal Tuesday.
Lady Buffs notes
The Lady Buffs leave for a five-game stretch. They will face four top 25 NAIA teams, including Covenant, Virginia Intermont, Houghton College and Union, which is currently No. 5 in the NAIA.
They will return to Milligan Oct. 16 to play Cumberland College at 4 p.m.
Senior defensive player Katie Ketchum was injured in the first period Tuesday. She did not return to the game.