Oct. 24, 1997

Wagoner Has One Goal: A Big East Title

By Carolyn Thornton
Providence Journal-Bulletin Sports Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- With field-hockey season -- and her college career -- quickly coming to a close, Paula Wagoner has been doing everything in her power to ensure that the Providence College women's field-hockey team has one of its best seasons in several years.

The senior is proving to be pretty powerful.

Ranked eighth in the nation among Division I schools in the lastest NCAA poll, the Lady Friars sport an 11-6 record -- 3-1 in the Big East -- and have their sights firmly set on their first conference championship since 1991.

Wagoner has collected 3 goals and 16 assists this season, which places her sixth in the country in assists and ninth on PC's all-time career points list with 64. She's been involved in scoring the deciding goal five times, including the game-winner in a 3-2 win over UConn.

"On the field, she's very much a catalyst for the team," coach Jackie Barto said of the All-American candidate. "She creates a tremendous amount of offensive opportunities for us. At all times, she gives 100 percent, and she makes her teammates step up a level."

A native of Toledo, Ohio, where she led her high school to two state titles, Wagoner was named Big East Rookie of the Year as a freshman, as well as earning second-team All-Big East honors. She has been named to the all-conference first team for the last two seasons and was selected to the All-America third team last fall.

Wagoner is relishing the role of co-captain that she shares with Heather Koopman.

"I'm a center midfielder so I'm in the middle of everything," said Wagoner. "I keep the forwards, the midfielders and the backfield all working together, relaying information as the game goes on. My role as a captain is to keep everyone up even if I'm having a bad day. If I get razzled, everyone else gets razzled and that wouldn't help at all. It's a lot of pressure, but I'm used to it. I thrive off it."

Providence faces Syracuse in its Big East finale tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Hendricken Field. A win ensures PC of a share of the regular-season title. If the Orangewomen beat UConn in their last match on Nov. 2, PC takes the title outright.

The Lady Friars are coming off a tough run of four nonleague losses to Harvard, UMass, Maryland and Georgetown last week, but Wagoner is confident her team can rebound.

"I think we've been overanalyzing the game too much instead of doing what we know how to do," she said. "We just need to forget about the four losses and start from square one.

"I think we match up great with Syracuse, but I think we have more of an advantage because we're playing on grass and on our home field," she added. "I think we also have a lot more confidence because we've already made the Big East Championship and they haven't. So they're playing to stay alive. If we get an early goal, we might be able to razzle them right away."

Wagoner enters tomorrow's match one assist away from breaking the school's all-time season assist record. But that will be the last thing on her mind.

"Looking back 50 years from now, a Big East Championship would mean so much more than any awards. I think this team has the closest bond of any team I've ever been on. My teammates are my best friends. I want to share everything with them. Without them, I would be nothing.''

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