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Women's Soccer Kicks Off 2009 Campaign Tuesday at No. 20 Rutgers
Sophomore GK Mo Van Vlerah
The will to win starts with the will to work.
That is the mantra that the UMBC women’s soccer team has adopted heading into the 2009 campaign. After hard lessons learned in 2008, when they posted a 3-16-0 record and missed the America East Championship for the third year in a row, the Retrievers are bringing a strong work ethic and positive attitude to the field in 2009.
“This is a new team. It’s a new phase of the program,” second-year head coach Alyssa Radu said. “Every single member of this team knows that the past is the past. Every person in that locker room is committed to our team and program goals. We’re focused on the now and working toward the future.”
With just 14 players returning from the 2008 roster and eight newcomers joining the team, Radu knows that her team is young, but she sees a renewed commitment from her players that will benefit the team and future of the program.
“We’re still a work in progress, and the girls understand that,” she said. “We’re committed to the process, and we’re focused and much more willing to put in the work to get to where we need to be.”
Scoring opportunities were at a premium in 2008, as the Retrievers tallied just 10 goals in 19 games. But a number of incoming freshmen, as well as the return of offensive-minded midfielders Megan McDonald and Elyse Bilardo from injuries, should give UMBC a more balanced attack that will jumpstart the offense.
Radu will look to a pair of underclassmen in sophomore Brooke Piper and freshman Rachel McKee to lead the attack. Piper is the Retrievers’ top returning goal scorer from a year ago, with both of her goals coming in the final two games of the season, and Radu expects her to build off her late-season success. A local product from nearby
“Rachel has separating speed that allows her to get in behind defenses and attack the goal,” Radu said. “Brooke has come back with a much more focused mentality and is seeing the game a lot clearer and creating opportunities for herself.”
Sophomore Danielle Kell and junior Sandra Vacarino are both center midfielders who have the ability to contribute as forwards, as well. Kell tallied four points in her rookie campaign to match Piper as the Retrievers’ top returning scorer, while Vacarino is a dangerous target who will look to go to goal.
Sophomore LeAnne Edgar and freshmen Sarah Kopytko and Lindsay Powell will also contribute at midfield. Edgar started eight of the first nine games last season before an injury ended her rookie campaign, and Radu believes she has great potential for a breakout season because of her passion, knowledge of the game and play-making abilities. Kopytko likes to work in and out of tight situations and can find seams, while Powell is a playmaker who looks to set her teammates up to score.
UMBC has good depth on the flanks, led by senior JoAnne Jackson and juniors Megan McDonald and Elyse Bilardo. The most experienced outside midfielder on the team, Jackson has seen her playing time increase each season, and she is one of just four Retrievers to start all 19 games a year ago. She is joined by McDonald and Bilardo, whose 2008 campaigns were derailed by injuries, but the duo is healthy and ready to compete.
Freshmen Morgan Andrews and Sarah Purdum will also contribute on the outside. Andrews has the ability to create opportunities for herself off her dribble, while Purdum is a tenacious defender who also has experience as a center midfield.
Anchoring the Retrievers’ defense is junior Christine Sadowski, a team captain who has earned the squad’s Unsung Hero award in each of her first two seasons at UMBC. Radu has high expectations for Sadowski because of her vast playing experience, great understanding of the game, and composure under pressure.
Also seeing time at center back will be senior Katie McKay and freshman Katie Gitlin. At 5-foot-11, McKay is a dominant presence on the field, while Gitlin is fast and composed on the ball and also has the versatility to play center midfield.
Senior captain Arielle Tagger, junior Erin Johnson and redshirt freshman Aly Gazarek will be mainstays at outside back. Tagger has recovered from a knee injury that forced her to miss most of last season, and she hopes to return to her freshman-year form, when she ranked third on the team in scoring.
Johnson, an America East All-Rookie selection in 2007, brings tremendous experience to the back line, as she has started all but one game in her first two seasons. Gazarek transferred to UMBC after sitting out her true freshman season at
Seniors Naomi Opaleye and LaShawna Epps are recovering from offseason surgeries and will also compete for time in the backfield. Opaleye is a composed presence at outside back, while Epps can also contribute in the midfield with her attacking mindset.
Three goalkeepers combined to allow 2.7 goals per game in 2008, so Radu brought in a new goalkeeping coach in Kerry Smith, who spent the last two seasons at VMI, which established school records in shutouts, save percentage and goals-against average each year.
“Both keepers were excited at the news of an experienced coach coming on board to help them develop in goal,” Radu said.
The Retrievers will be tested right out of the gate when they face nationally ranked
The Retrievers will be challenged throughout the season but will approach each adverse situation as an opportunity to develop and grow, never straying from their mantra: The will to win starts with the will to work.
Dawg Bites: All 10 of the Retrievers’ goals in 2008 were scored by underclassmen… Senior back Arielle Tagger (East Brunswick, N.J./East
On the Scarlet Knights:
Radu’s Return: UMBC head coach Alyssa Radu was a four-year starter at
“I’m excited about going back to my alma mater,” Radu said. “It’ll be a little different to be on the visiting side.”