Fantastic Six

As Sam Houston State goalkeeper Melissa Sauceda began preparation Monday for her final matches this weekend as a Bearkat soccer player, she summed up her career in four words.

“It changed my life,” Sauceda said.

The woman who has played in goal for Sam Houston nearly 5,000 minutes the past four seasons is one of six players who were members of the original team in 2003 when soccer was added as an NCAA Division I sport.

Sauceda, Jillian Eaker, Candee Hoggatt, Chelsea Janke, Danielle Porth, and Ashley Zendt each participated in that first practice in mid-August, 2003 when 26 players reported to start the sport at Sam Houston.

“It’s impossible to sum up the contributions of these six women both on the field and off,” SHSU head coach Marcia Oliveira said. “You have to remember, we didn’t give out many scholarships that first year. These kids were here because they love the game and they wanted to build a program at Sam Houston State.”

The six four-year letter winners, plus Kirsten Gurney, a two-year senior who transferred to Sam Houston last season from Houston Community College, will be honored in pre-match ceremonies Friday at 7 p.m. at Pritchett Field when the Bearkats play host to Texas-San Antonio. Sam Houston will wrap up the 2006 season with a rain makeup match against Southeastern Louisiana Sunday at 1 p.m. at Pritchett.

“When I first came here, they made me a captain and it felt really strange trying to tell a bunch of players the same age as me what to do,” Sauceda said. “It’s been a great four years and its gone by so quickly. It’s made me want to go into coaching. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”

Each of the players has been a major contributor to the soccer program the past four years. Porth and Hoggatt have played in 66 matches, Sauceda in 63, Janke in 60, Eaker in 45, and Gurney in 25

“These young ladies have led by example,” Oliveira said. “Any success this program achieves in the future owes these seniors so much for building the foundation.”

Highlights of the past four years include Sam Houston State’s first Southland Conference victory in overtime against Southeastern Louisiana in 2004 and the Bearkats performance at the 2005 post-season tournament when SHSU upset top seed Stephen F. Austin and reached the tournament finals.

“That was a thrill,” Sauceda, who was selected to the All-Tournament team in 2005, said. “We also take a lot of pride in how well we’ve competed with the top programs like SMU, Texas A&M, and other big name teams.”

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