Vanderbilt's women's soccer program got a shot in the arm last November when a pair of senior phenoms from McIntosh-- Katie Schulz and Jessica Lenze-- collectively decided to accept scholarship offers from Vanderbilt. For fifth-year coach Ronnie Coveleskie-Hill, it was a coup of the first magnitude.
How dominant were this Georgia pair? Schulz, a two-time Parade All-American, and Lenze, the two-time Atlanta Journal-Constitution Player of the Year, led McIntosh to a 41-game unbeaten streak, through which the Lady Chiefs registered 28 shutouts and outscored their opposition by a score of 261-15. Their 2004 state championship came at Georgia's class 5A level; moved down last season to class 4A, the McIntosh juggernaut had little difficulty repeating.
"We had great chemistry, because most of us had played together on the same club team since we were very young," Lenze said. "Katie and I and Monica Hogans (a third team member, who signed with South Carolina) got to where we just knew exactly where the other was going to be."
Lenze, who scored an unbelievable 106 goals (2.3 per game) over the two championship seasons, is starting out this season at forward, while Schulz is competing for a spot as a midfielder / defender. In last week's scrimmage vs. UAB, Lenze made her presence felt immediately by setting up junior Monica Buff with a header for a score.
So far, the transition is going smoothly, says Schulz. "The intensity is definitely the biggest difference," she says. "Everyone here is hard-core, 24/7 soccer players. It takes a little getting used to."
Neither Lenze nor Schulz is a slouch in the classroom either, as both received NCSAA Scholar Athlete honors last season.
Last week VandyMania wedged a chat with both Lenze and Schulz in between team practices and weightlifting sessions.
VandyMania: Obviously college is a huge transition for you both, in many ways. For one thing, you're going from playing your season in the spring to playing in the fall. I know you've been to summer camps before, but have you ever been through any preseason training that was this rigorous?
Katie: (giggles) No, this is a shocker! It's definitely hard, I would say.
VandyMania: Have you done a lot of weightlifting before?
Katie: No, my arms are pretty weak. I'm not very strong. I have big thighs, so I guess it looks like I weigh a lot. (Jessie giggles.) But mainly the weightlifting is all going to be new to me.
Jessie: It's been tough, but it's been fun. The practices... getting to know the other girls... I think we're playing really well right now. I'm excited to get going.
VandyMania: Were either of you here in school this summer?
Jessie: No, we came in for the first time around the 8th of August. It was kind of hard at first, but we're adjusting.
VandyMania: Were you sort of best friends in high school too?
Jessie: (Both laugh.) Yeah, since we were eight, we've been like best friends.
VandyMania: When it came time to choose your colleges, were you kind of a package deal, then?
Jessie: No, not at all... we decided totally separately.
Katie: Jessie decided a long time ago, and I was having trouble deciding. It was just the way it worked out.
VandyMania: If each of you had to say what ultimately sold you on Vanderbilt, what would you say?
Jessie: I loved the academic and soccer mix... the team... and Ronnie... but especially how high the academics are. It was just the right mix for me.
Katie: I mean, that's what drew me too. Because it's like, SEC, and a great school, and high academics, very high. And Ronnie... everyone loves Ronnie.
VandyMania: So, er, Jessie didn't have anything to do with it?
Jessie: (Both laugh) Oh, and of course, my buddy was going to be there! And we also knew a bunch of the girls who I'd played with before on various teams, like the region teams. So I probably knew at least three girls before coming here. That helped too.
VandyMania:> When you go off to college and you room with your best friend, sometimes that doesn't work out so well. Is that working out OK with you so far?
Katie: (Laughs.) Hopefully... I'm sure there'll be times when I just want to kill her, and throw a pillow at her face! (Jessie giggles.) See, she's like the early bird, and I like to stay up late at night and watch TV. I'm the night owl, and she gets up really early. But we've roomed together so many times, that this is not the first time. We pretty much knew what we were getting into.
We're pretty much opposites in every way. Little things, like eating. I have to eat everything on my plate one thing at a time, and Jessie just picks at all of her foods. It's just every little thing!
VandyMania: Would you say you're pretty much adjusted after being here a couple of weeks?
Jessie: (Both laugh, shake heads.) Oh, no! Definitely not... I think we've both got a lot more surprises headed our way.
VandyMania: Have the upperclassmen been treating you OK?
Katie: Oh yeah, they've been awesome! They've included us and tried to make us feel welcome.
Jessie: They're very accepting... although if we mess up, they're like, [sternly] "Freshman!" (Both giggle.)
The Commodores open the season Friday vs. Colorado in Boulder, and play again Sunday at the University of Denver. The home opener at the Vanderbilt Soccer Complex is Friday, Sept. 2 vs. Francis Marion.