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Women's Soccer Kicks Off 2008 Season This Weekend, Hosts Bucknell Friday
Morgan Warrington earned team MVP and America East All-Rookie Team honors as a freshman in 2007.
A fresh start.
That’s what the UMBC women’s soccer team is looking for in 2008 after going 3-13-2 last season.
And with a new head coach and seven incoming freshmen, a fresh start is likely what the Retrievers will get.
Alyssa Radu takes over at the helm of a team that has won seven just games – including two America East contests – in the last two years. But the new coach believes the previous two seasons were a growing experience for her team.
“I think the girls’ experience in the past has shaped them a great deal and has really brought them together,” Radu said. “We are going to be playing a little different than they did in the past, and these changes take time and patience. As a team, we are committed to our approach, and this season will test us to stay the course with these new standards.”
Despite posting a 2-6-0 conference mark in 2007, the Retrievers finished just one point out of the six-team America East Championships, and Radu believes making the league tournament in 2008 for the first time in four years is a realistic goal.
“As a team, we set a goal to reach the conference tournament,” she said. “Our training is focused around establishing the proper mentality and work ethic for the future. I am confident we will surprise some of our opponents. They will see a different team than in the past.”
Since a good defense creates a good offense, UMBC’s strength starts in the backfield. Three players will compete for the starting goalkeeper job. Seniors Christine Bacinski and Catie Bukowski each have considerable starting experience, while freshman Mo Van Vlerah has shown the ability to quickly adapt to the college game. Bukowski has been limited by a shoulder injury during the preseason, giving Bacinski and Van Vlerah the early edge.
“Christine’s confidence is up, and she has improved her communication,” Radu said. “Mo has outstanding shot-blocking ability, and for a freshman she is very comfortable communicating with her backs.”
Throughout her first preseason with UMBC, Radu has noticed many of her players’ ability to excel at more than one position.
“I have found some versatility with the girls, and this will help us against the tough opponents we will face,” she said. “At any given moment, any player can be expected to step in and contribute, and this group is more than willing to do that.”
The versatility begins with 2007 America East All-Rookie team members Morgan Warrington and Erin Johnson, who will anchor a strong defense. Despite playing mostly in the backfield last season,
“Morgan is composed on the ball and plays hard, and with one year under her belt she will be asked to take more on,” Radu said. “
Johnson, juniors LaShawna Epps and Naomi Opaleye and freshman Toni DiRenzo will all see time at the outside back position but can also slide up to outside mid. Opaleye has seen limited playing time in her first two years at UMBC, but her coaches and teammates have noticed marked improvement. DiRenzo matriculated in the spring, and Radu believes the extra time with the team has helped the freshman’s transition.
Junior Arielle Tagger is another versatile defender who will see time on the backline when she recovers from an ACL injury.
Similarly, Radu foresees a group of players contributing in the center mid position, led by Sadowski, sophomore Sandra Vacarino, junior JoAnne Jackson and freshman Danielle Kell. Vacarino started 10 games last season and scored two goals, while
“Sandra Vacarino has developed into a dangerous center mid,” Radu said. “She plays both sides of the ball. JoAnne has also really stepped up from a leadership perspective in training, and she will be expected to help the young players around her.”
The midfield will benefit from the return of redshirt senior team captain Amy Morrison, who has missed the last two seasons with knee injuries. Prior to her setbacks, Morrison had started every game in her career, and she currently ranks among UMBC’s career assists leaders. However, Morrison’s return is tempered by the loss of sophomore Megan McDonald, who will miss the entire season after tearing her ACL over the summer.
In addition, freshman Jenna Quaranta has continued to adjust to the collegiate game and will see considerable playing time. Quaranta trains with her cousin, Santino Quaranta, a former Major League Soccer all-star who currently plays for D.C. United.
Radu envisions a number of options at the outside mid position, including Johnson, Epps, Opaleye and DiRenzo. In addition, she said Jackson and sophomore Elyse Bilardo will see a lot of time on the flanks with their ability to create service. While redshirt sophomore Ashley Woodrow is still recovering from injury, her contributions will mostly come in the midfield, as well, and freshman walk-on Lauren Maldeis will vie for playing time.
The Retrievers scored just 16 goals in 18 games last season, but Radu is not worried about where the offense will come from.
“Our system will create scoring opportunities,” she said. “Our defense will create quality offense, and we will look to combine through our midfield and attack as a unit, not through one individual. Our flanks will be expected to create quality service.”
The coach is excited for the freshman tandem of Canadian import Brooke Piper and local product LeAnne Edgar on the front line. Piper was a prolific scorer at the national level, while Edgar was a high school All-American.
“LeAnne and Brooke have really established themselves from the get-go,” Radu said. “Their preparation coming in will enable them to contribute early, and they have quickly adjusted to the speed of play of the college game.”
Sophomore Ashley Singer led the Retrievers in scoring last season with four goals and eight points, and she can expect to see considerable playing time up top when she returns from injury.
In addition, junior Michelle Worrest, a walk-on in 2006, has scored more points over the last two years than all but five returning players.
The Retrievers will once again face an extremely challenging schedule which features four teams that advanced to the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
“We have a very tough schedule,” Radu said. “Our goal is to make the America East Championships, and we look at each game as a step toward that goal.”
The Retrievers kick off their season this weekend, hosting Bucknell on Friday at 4 p.m. at UMBC Soccer Stadium, then heading to
Dawg Bites: The Retrievers’ top four goal scorers last season were all freshmen, led by forward Ashley Singer (4g, 8pts) and back Morgan Warrington (3g, 7pts)… UMBC returns 69 percent of its offense (11-of-16 goals) from 2007… Senior midfielder Amy Morrison and senior back Kali Schwartz repeat as team captains in 2008…
Bison Bites: Bucknell finished 11-9-1 overall last season and won its second consecutive Patriot League regular-season title… Five all-conference players and two all-region performers are among 10 returning starters… The Bison bring back five of their six leading scorers from 2007, led by reigning Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, Jennifer Dervarics, who scored 12 goals and 30 points last season… Sophomore goalie Kathryn Sutton posted a 1.38 GAA with four shutouts in 2007… Bucknell finished the 2007 season ranked 13th in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Last Time vs. Bucknell: The Retrievers lost to the Bison, 5-1, last season in
UMBC vs. Bucknell All-Time: The all-time series between the Retrievers and Bison is tied, 2-2-0, as the teams have alternated wins and losses. Prior to last season’s meeting, the teams had not met since 1993.
Cat Clips: Villanova finished 11-4-6 overall last season… The Wildcats led the nation in save percentage (.897) and shutout percentage (.667), allowing just 11 goals and registering 14 shutouts in 21 contests… Junior Kelly Eagan was named the Big East Preseason Defensive Player of the Year… Villanova was picked to finish fifth in the National Division in the Big East preseason poll… The Wildcats return 17 letterwinners from last season, when they posted at least 10 wins and a winning record for the ninth consecutive year… Villanova’s recruiting class of six freshmen was ranked 30th in the nation by Soccer Buzz Magazine… The Wildcats finished the 2007 season ranked 10th in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Last Time vs. Villanova: The teams have not met since Sept. 9, 2001, when the Wildcats won, 5-2, in
UMBC vs. Villanova All-Time: The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 2-0-1. Villanova has won the last two meetings, with the lone tie coming in 1990 in