Tuesday, October 18, 2011

WSOC | Freshman Hunsberger fits in well as role player for Syracuse

Contributing Writer
Published: Monday, October 17, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 17, 2011 23:10
Syracuse and Villanova were in a scoreless tie in the 56th minute and neither team was breaking through. The Orange, two games below .500 at the time, needed a boost.
That's when freshman Megan Hunsberger stepped up and scored the decisive goal, propelling the team to a 1-0 victory.
"Tina (Romagnuolo) played her a great ball down the left side, and she took a great touch across the defender," SU head coach Phil Wheddon said. "The defender had a choice to either bring her down and foul her or let her go. She chose to let her go, and Megan struck the ball past the goalkeeper in the top corner."
Hunsberger's game-winning goal, the first of her Syracuse career, started a four-game winning streak and helped to turn the team's season around. The next game, she scored a goal against Seton Hall and contributed with an assist to Romagnuolo in a 4-1 triumph. Her recent success, combined with her experience playing competitive soccer in high school, has given her a significant spot on the roster of a Syracuse (7-6-3, 6-4 Big East) team that has qualified for the Big East tournament.
"She's done really well," said Romagnuolo, a junior midfielder. "Obviously, when she first got here I think she was a little nervous, but now she's coming out of her shell and playing really well. She's really good at crossing the ball."
Hunsberger's positive energy and ability to contribute at multiple positions has enabled her to play in 14 games this season in her first year. She started against Central Connecticut and Big East opponent Pittsburgh. She has played primarily in the midfield, but is flexible to other positions, such as outside back.
"She's fought hard in every training session, and when she gets on the field she's a very good technical player," Wheddon said. "She's played a lot of different positions, which is a coach's luxury."
Soccer has been at the forefront of Hunsberger's life ever since she was a child. As a teenager, she was a member of the U-15 United States national team, a team that traveled to California to play elite club teams.
"The U-15 national team was an outrageous experience," Hunsberger said. "It prepared me for the speed of play in college soccer and playing with that level of competition was unbelievable."
Along with the national team, Hunsberger participated in the Olympic Development program, played for club teams Albertson Fury and AC Perugia, and excelled at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pa.
"Soccer, friends, that's pretty much it," she said.
Along with her soccer skills, Hunsberger's sense of humor and infectious personality off the field also keep her teammates laughing.
"She's really funny," assistant coach Abby Crumpton said. "She's a great soccer player, but is also really great for chemistry. She keeps us laughing and keeps our spirits high at the right times."
Certain aspects of the transition to collegiate-level soccer have been difficult, such as the physical style of play and fast-paced action. But Hunsberger has seamlessly made the jump from being a high school star to a Syracuse role player to start her career.
"Playing every day definitely helps you, and playing with different players expands your horizon and knowledge of the game," she said. "You understand it more. It's a different experience. It helps you out."
Although Hunsberger has already started two games and scored two goals, she has higher aspirations. "I definitely want to get into the NCAA tournament and maybe after college play for a professional team."

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