RYNIER IS A DIFFERENCE-MAKER FOR CAA TOURNAMENT-BOUND WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM
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Teresa Rynier is a senior midfielder on the JMU women's soccer team. She holds all of JMU's assist records, including assists in a game (4) and a season (15). In JMU's 2-1 win over Virginia Commonwealth in its Oct. 30 regular-season finale, she increased her career assist record to 50. This season she was named to the Hermann Trophy Watch List for national Player of the Year, and she has been named All-Colonial Athletic Association first team twice and All-Region once. A Dean's List student majoring in education, Rynier was named to the NSCAA/adidas Scholar All-America Third Team last season.
This article was adapted from an article that appeared in an issue of the JMU football game-day program earlier this season. It was written by John Martin of JMU Athletics Communications.
Every team that plays any type of competitive sport wants to win. This year's JMU women's soccer team is taking it a step further with the motto "How BAD do you want it?" With senior Teresa Rynier, there is no doubt how bad she wants a CAA Championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in her final campaign as a Duke.
"I came into this season really excited," Rynier said. "It is an opportunity to do really good things this year. I have this tough exterior, and I do yell and get on people on the field. Some people can take it the wrong way and think that I am a nasty person. But I really care about everyone on the team and all my teammates. It is just we have a job to do on the field, and I am trying to get the most out of everyone and that is my way of doing it."
"Teresa is a leader," JMU Head Coach Dave Lombardo said. "Since her freshman year, she has been outspoken, calling them like she sees them. Sometimes we would like her to have an 'edit' button before she calls them, but she is honest, and there is never a hidden agenda why she is saying something. She just wants to make sure that it gets communicated clearly and have people know it is always what is in the best interest of the team. I am really excited about the leadership that she, as well as all the seniors, are displaying so far."
The Dukes have had great success with Rynier on the squad. In her first two years, the team went 31-12-3 with a pair of CAA titles and two NCAA Tournament berths, including winning at least one NCAA game each year and advancing to the Round of 16 in 2008. However, the 2009 season ended disappointingly in the CAA Championship game with a 1-0 loss to UNC Wilmington. That disappointment is a motivating factor for the entire team this year to get back to the top of the league and into the postseason hunt, and only adds to the drive Rynier has displayed throughout her career.
"Teresa really doesn't look for other people for motivation, as she is one of the most self-motivated players I have ever had," Lombardo commented. "She has her own things that drive her and keep her going. From a leadership standpoint, she is very excited, and probably being modest right now, that she is one of definitive leaders of this team. But we are spreading everything around too, as everybody needs to do their part, but she is going to do her utmost at being a driving force. She did that at Richmond (a 2-1 season-opening win for the Dukes) as she was the best player on the field for both teams."
And coaches around the country have recognized her impact in previous seasons and what she could potentially be this year. A two-time All-CAA pick and a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Mid-Atlantic Region First Team selection in 2009, Rynier has been named to the Missouri Athletic Club's Hermann Trophy Watch List for 2010. The Hermann Trophy is considered the highest individual honor in intercollegiate soccer, and to be among the 45 players put on this preseason list is a great honor. But that is the furthest thing from her mind starting this year, as is potentially taking her soccer career to the next level.
"That's great that Corky has done that," Rynier said when talking about the success of former JMU standout Corky Julien, who is currently playing for Canada in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament in Mexico. "I believe that says a lot about the players and staff at JMU and how they helped her become the player she is now. It definitely shows us that if we work hard and are dedicated that we could have a chance to play at the next level. But I am not really looking beyond the next three months as we are focused on winning a CAA Championship. I will worry about those things later."
She has led the CAA in assists in each of her three playing seasons and in 2009 broke her own JMU season assist record with 15. Rynier ranked second in the nation in assist average (0.63) in 2009, when she also set school records for career assists (40) and assists in a game (four). But she sees a clear reason why she holds those records.
"I just can't score," Rynier said laughingly. "I have half as many as I did last season already (scoring a goal in the win at Richmond). I have been fortunate to have players around me that were able to get the job done. I wouldn't hold the assist record if people didn't know how to score. I don't really keep track when I get one, as I am more worried about helping the team win. I really am not concerned about the stats, just wins."
"Of course she has already got the assist record, and I think that is going to be safe for a long time," Lombardo said. "Two of our most successful teams were 2007 and 2008, and a lot of it had to do with her. There is a will and a spirit that she brings where she looks at people, no matter how big their reputation is, that they are not a lot better than we are. She never takes a back seat to anybody, and I think that competitive spirit is what I will always remember about her after she is done."
Her love for the sport started at an early age, as she grew up on a soccer field. Her dad coached her brother, who is three years older, and she always would go along to the field and practice and learn her love of the sport by being in the middle of it all.
"My brother is three years older than me and I wanted to do everything he did," Rynier continued. "My dad coached him and everything he did, I did. My parents both coached me when I was younger. It's been in my family since I started and I just love it. I was out at the soccer field all the time. I played other sports growing up too, but I have always loved soccer. I always played center mid (midfield) and loved it because you get to be in the middle of everything."
"In football parlance, she is our quarterback," Lombardo stated. "The central midfielder spot is not the one who always scores. They are the brains of the operation, making sure they see the field and play the appropriate person. That is what Teresa has going for her. Her speed of play is exceptional, her technical excellence is outstanding and her soccer IQ allows her to see things other kids don't see, and that makes her the best player on the field for us."
But as dedicated and competitive as she is on the field, she has a style all her own off the field. It is one that has shown itself to be the kind that draws people to her and appreciate all that she brings, both on and off the field.
"We would have a period of time on the bus where, if it was lights out and we were going somewhere, they were supposed to study," Lombardo said laughingly. "Then when it would get darker or after the game, we would then put the movies on. After a few minutes, she would just start singing '99 Bottles of Coke on the Wall' and wouldn't stop until we put the movie in. That becomes one of her legacies."
"I did the ENTIRE song!" Rynier interjected. "But just having 30 friends that you do everything with as we have had with the team, I wouldn't know what it is like to be a normal student. You make other friends, but we have each other and that is something that will last beyond JMU."
Even with all of the impact she has already had on the team, Rynier still believes there is more to come in finalizing her mark in Harrisonburg.
"I don't think I have accomplished it yet, but I want to be known as a game-changer," Rynier concluded. "I want to be that player that can make a difference when you need it, whether it is a goal or something more, that little piece to win a game. I want to be known as a person that can bring that to the field. I've had assists and goals here and there. I want to make this the year to make people around me better and make a difference for the program."
And if she does that, the Dukes could be looking at a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, where Rynier could help write even more history for her already storied career.