BALTIMORE – UMBC women's soccer head coach Leslie Wray is set to begin her second season at the helm of the Retrievers and looks to continue to change the culture of the program. The young squad, which features seven freshmen and seven sophomores, returns nine starters and 14 letterwinners from a year ago.
"We are very happy with this year's incoming class," Wray said. "They have transitioned well and fit in great with our talented returners.
"I was very pleased that everyone came into pre-season fit and ready to work hard," continued Wray. "We have changed the culture here so that the team is committed and focused on winning in training and in games. We are all anticipating the start of the season and know that if we continue to work hard we will be successful."
The Retrievers are excited for the return of redshirt-junior Jessy Brown, who was expected to have a big impact offensively for UMBC in 2012, but suffered a season-ending knee injury the second game of the year. Brown, who will serve as one of the team's two captains, has started every game in her career (36) and is the Retrievers' active leader in shots (24). Senior Stephanie Smith saw improvement in her junior season, despite being sidelined for five games due to injury. The forward has registered nine shots in each of the past two seasons, but will be looked upon to be even more aggressive offensively in her final season.
After seeing action at the midfield in her first two seasons with the Retrievers, Lilly Rydon will see most of her time as a forward during her junior campaign. Rydon has seen action in 29 games in her career and started a career-best 10 contests last season.
Sophomore Bria Bass is the only UMBC forward besides Smith to have scored a collegiate goal entering into the 2013 season. Bass, who will see action as a flank player in the forward position and the backline, led the Retrievers with three goals and six points, in addition to ranking second on the team in shots (18) and shots on goal (nine). Fellow second-year player Sunita Mengers will look to increase her role after appearing in four games as a rookie.
UMBC welcomes a talented group of freshmen forwards in Amanda Dailey, Colleen McKenna, Destinee Morris and Caitlyn Whitford. Dailey compiled 21 goals and 16 assists during her career at Freehold Township High School, while Morris led the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference in scoring as a sophomore and was an all-state honorable mention as a senior. McKenna earned Howard County Soccer Coaches' All-County Honorable Mention while guiding River Hill High School to a Maryland state championship in 2012. Whitford, an all-county player at Howard High School, offers versatility for the black and gold, providing depth at the forward and back positions.
"We will have a great rotation with our forward line," explained Wray. "Lilly and Amanda are creating quality opportunities with their runs from the central position and our flank players have the ability to get behind the defense. It will be critical for us to capitalize on the opportunities we are creating. With the leadership of Jessy and Stephanie up front, I am confident we can do that."
Wray will look to the black and gold's midfield to spark an offense that scored just 12 goals last season. Junior Paige Preston will be looked upon to provide leadership in the midfield, having played significant time in her first two campaigns with the Retrievers. Sophomores Preslie Quaranta and Nikki Boretti wasted no time getting into the mix as rookies, however, Quaranta, who was tied for first on the team in goals (three) and points (six) a year ago, will miss the season due to injury. The Dawgs will look to Boretti to step up her offensive attack after starting 15 of 17 games for the Retrievers in 2012 and cashing in on five of UMBC's seven goals during the spring season.
Newcomers Meg Kowalski and Victoria Burress will provide relief in the midfield for the Retrievers. Kowalski saw great success during her high school career, helping Freehold Township High School to a pair of Division A North Championships and its first-ever Shore Conference Championship. Burress brings an offensive-minded approach to the middle after leading Brentsville District High School in scoring en route to earning all-district second team honors.
"Our midfield may be the most dramatic change from last year," admitted Wray. "We will keep consistency with our holding midfielders in Nikki and Paige, and will add talented newcomers to the attacking midfield positions. With these players we will be able to work through our midfielders and keep possession going forward."
All four of the Retrievers backs in 2013 are returners from last season's squad which ranked fourth in the league in goals allowed per game (1.53). Junior Melissa Hummel ranked third on the team in 2012 in minutes played (1527) and is the only Retriever to have started all 34 games over the past two seasons. Classmate Morgan Taylor will see an increased role after the graduation of four-year starter Aly Gazarek. Taylor battled injury to see action in 12 games in her sophomore campaign.
Sophomore Amira Walcott proved herself to be a key and physical member of the Retrievers' defensive line in her first season with the Dawgs, leading the team in minutes played (1557) and earning a spot on the America East All-Rookie Team. Wray will look for continued production from sophomore Alexa Quaranta, who tallied two goals and one assist, while making 16 starts in her first collegiate season.
"Our backline will have the most consistency," said Wray. "Amira and Melissa will anchor the center back position again this season, both of whom are strong, consistent and reliable. Both of our outside backs, Alexa and Morgan, will be asked to join our attack and create chances for us, in addition to being steady in their defending."
Senior goalkeeper Lauren Kadet ranks second all-time at UMBC in career saves (308) after three years as a starter for the Retrievers. The Oakville, Ontario, native led the league in saves per game (6.56) for the third straight season in 2012, in addition to amassing a conference-best 105 saves. Kadet earned America East All-Conference Second Team honors last year and was named a College Sports Madness Preseason All-Conference First Team selection for 2013.
Sophomore Jen Nance, who saw action between the pipes in two contests in her rookie campaign, including an outstanding nine-save effort in her first collegiate start against Boston University, and newcomer Annette Cappellino will serve as Kadet's backups.
"Our senior captain and starting goalkeeper Lauren Kadet is one of our most consistent players on the field," Wray said. "Her leadership will be important as we develop this young team. She is supported by Jen and Annette, both of whom need to be ready to step in if needed."
UMBC kicks off its 2013 slate at the Retriever Soccer Park against Mount St. Mary's on Friday, August 23. The Dawgs host six of their 10 non-conference games, before opening league play at Maine on Sunday, Sept. 29.
The Retrievers were picked to finish eighth in the America East 2013 preseason coaches' poll after posting a 1-11-5 overall record and an 0-5-3 mark in America East action last season. Hartford (61) edged out reigning AEC tournament champion Stony Brook (59) by two points and one first place vote, followed by Maine (49), Vermont (38), New Hampshire (35), Albany (29) and Binghamton (28). UMBC earned 15 points and were followed by first-year America East member UMass Lowell (8).