Women's Soccer Outlook
The UMBC women's soccer team has taken great strides towards becoming a power in the Northeast Conference. After failing to qualify for the NEC Tournament in 2000, the Retrievers came back to post an 11-6-2 (9-3 NEC) record, and finished one goal short of becoming conference champions.
"Last year we started off slow," said head coach Michelle Salmon. "We started out 1-5 before generating that 12-game unbeaten streak. With the bulk of my players returning, I think one of our goals is to get out of the gate pretty strong this year and not dig ourselves a bit of a hole.
According to Salmon, last year's freshman class deserved much credit for the team's success. "When you have a freshman class that alone scores 20 or more goals - that's an impact freshman class," said the coach. "When you bring all of them back, you're hoping good things can happen."
Entering the new season, the Retrievers will have to deal with the loss of four seniors, including forward Liz Farrell, midfielders Jamie Gerhart and Viviana Saraceno, and defenseman Jennifer Wilhelm. In addition, forward Nicole Grinspoon decided to forego her last year of eligibility.
"We have to replace Nicole Grinspoon and that's going to be a hard foot to fill, but I think the players coming in are going to provide us a little bit more depth and a little bit more creativity," said Salmon. "They won't have the experience, but they'll gain that right off the bat."
Slated to return as a starting forward will be sophomore Missy Moore. The Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year, who led the team in scoring (14g, 4a) in 2001, made a tremendous impact on the Retriever squad. This season, she will be accompanied up front by classmate Lauren Cunningham. According to the head coach, Cunningham has learned much from the previous year. "Players don't know how to stop her," said Salmon. Yet another sophomore vying an offensive role will be Roula Adams, who has picked up quickness during the offseason.
"Defensively, we have just about everyone coming back in the unit except for Jennifer Wilhelm," said Salmon. "We're going to be solid again."
Regarded by Salmon as the most underrated player in the Northeast Conference, as well as one of the most underrated backs in the country, senior Staci Grider will return to the same starting position she held the previous year. As a very competitive player who loves to go forward, Grider was credited with assisting Moore for the game-winning goal in last year's match against Monmouth. In 2002, she will receive help from junior All-Conference performers Kristen English and Jessa Karko.
Last year alone, Karko recorded three goals and two assists, earning her Northeast Conference Second Team honors. A well-respected player in the league, she is able to win everything in the air and is a leader of the Retriever squad both on and off the field.
Challenging for the starting sweeper role will be junior Carolynn Patton, who had an excellent spring season. However, she will be contested by newcomer Jessica Golibart, a highly recruited freshman who Salmon regards as a well organized and fierce competitor.
Currently, the midfield is wide open as some adjustments have been made in the lineup. "We've switched Caitlin Kinsella from the outside into the center," said Salmon. "On the outside, we have Milana Ward, a senior captain who brings tons of leadership and experience."
Kinsella, also a senior captain on this year's team, is a strong and technical player. Alongside her will be senior Laura Motley, a starter from last season who is known to be creative and dynamic on the field. Other Retrievers who might see time in the midfield in 2002 will be junior Lori Quintavalle, and sophomore Kim Sawyer. Like the very competitive Quintavalle, Sawyer was also pushing for a starting role late last fall.
In the goalkeeper position, Salmon is convinced that the preseason will determine the starting netminder. Although senior Becky Hickok has started for the last three years and brings experience to the position, Salmon would not be surprised to see either sophomore Kelly Lizon or freshman Robin Babaris at the net in 2002. According to the coach, Lizon is very soft on the ball, while Babaris, one of Canada's top keepers, is very dynamic on the line and has a true soccer player mentality. "If the freshmen are getting the business done, they're going to play," said Salmon.
The remainder of the freshmen is also expected to make an impact on this year's team, as the incoming class is comparable to last year's set of rookies. Newcomers Kerrie Sample and Tricia Adkinson will be competing for time in the midfield, while Elizabeth Day might provide some needed depth in the back. Sample, an accomplished player who has constantly been in and out of the national pool, might have a similar impact that Moore had last year, as she is very dynamic on the ball and an overall great player. Unfortunately, another freshman that was also expected to make a huge impact, Mary Hearin, suffered a torn ACL and will red-shirt for the entire 2002 season.
"One of the things I don't worry about this team that I have in the past is leadership. I have five seniors, and those five players have been with me all four years. They know me, they know my system, they know how I am, they know my mentality, and so when it comes to educating the new players and bringing along the sophomores and getting them to understand the UMBC way, those guys are top notch," said Salmon. "Really, it's their show to run this year. Now, they've got that taste of being one goal away from being in the NCAA Tournament. And once you've put that taste in a senior's mouth, the desire and the passion to get back is unbelievable."
This year, the entire Retriever women's soccer team wants to go out doing something that UMBC has never done: win the Northeast Conference Championship and participate in the NCAA Tournament. With the senior class showing leadership and the entire squad learning to work together for the benefit of the entire program, UMBC might have the chance to finally emerge as a true power in the Northeast Conference.