Women's Soccer 2001 Outlook
The 2000 season was a frustrating one for head coach Michelle Salmon and the Retrievers. UMBC, who finished 6-9-3, dominated play in many instances, but rarely were able to generate the offensive firepower needed to win close games. In fact, the Retrievers were shutout eight times, lost two games in overtime, and played to a pair of 0-0 ties. In addition, the team lost three, one-goal games. As a result, UMBC failed to qualify for the four-team Northeast Conference Championships, despite finishing 5-2-3 in the league.
"Last season was a real eye-opener for our players," Salmon said. "The great thing about the game of soccer is that you must play a complete-game in order to win. We played well defensively and in the midfield, but it was always that final pass or touch that let us down. I hope the returning players used last season as a learning experience and as a motivational tool for the upcoming season."
Salmon is confident that she has recruited players who will provide an offensive spark, and if the Retrievers are to be successful in 2001, the newcomers must contribute immediately.
"We have a very strong freshman class coming in," said Salmon. "Theyíre players who can play up top and we will rely on them heavily." Seniors Jennifer Wilhelm, Jamie Gerhart, and Viviana Saraceno will be asked to provide leadership for Salmonís young squad, and are all expected to earn starting roles.
Wilhelm is slated to take over as the Retrieversí starting sweeper. Replacing Danielle Konschak will be a tough task for Wilhelm, but Salmon believes that she is ready for the challenge after displaying some great skills during the spring season. Gerhart will most likely start the campaign at left fullback, but Salmon would like to push her up to the midfield to take advantage of her athleticism and competitiveness. Salmon believes that another defender, senior Staci Grider, is the most underrated fullback in the league. Known for her physical play, Grider brings consistency to the position and should start on the right side. Sophomore Jessa Karko is an emerging leader and enjoyed a terrific initial season in 2000. Last year, she played everywhere on the field before settling into a defensive position, and Salmon believes she will be an impact player there for the next three years. Junior Milana Ward enjoyed a great spring and appears to have made a complete recovery from her knee surgery. Ward, who recently shed her restricting knee brace, seems to have regained most of her speed, and in addition, Salmon believes that she has become a smarter player. Freshman Kim Sawyer will also compete for time and brings great size to the position.
Saraceno will be asked to be the general of the midfield. A great competitor, Saraceno has the ability to make a big play on attack and stifle an opponent on the other end of the field. According to her coach, nobody works harder on her game than Saraceno, who will serve as a team captain for the second straight season. Junior Laura Motley possesses great technical skills with the ball and will vie for the center midfield role. Juniors Katie Zoller, and Caitlin Kinsella, sophomore Lori Quintavalle and sophomore transfer Kristen English are the leading candidates for starting spots on the outside. Zoller, who is known for her accurate crossing ability and great fitness, has made quick progress after she underwent knee surgery last spring. Kinsella has improved her speed during the off-season and is one of the hardest working players on the team. Quintavalle displayed her competitiveness in her first season, and is a player who refuses to quit on any play. Salmon expects English to surprise some people right away with her all-around play. A speedy freshman, Julie Libertini and Sawyer will also see time at the position. Sophomore Carolynn Patton provides the team with great strength off the bench and will compete for time in the midfield as well as in the back. Another sophomore, Kim Peterson, will vie for time after sitting out last season with a leg injury.
The starting forward positions will be hotly contested in 2001. Salmon feels that feisty junior Nicole Grinspoon is ready to recapture the form that made her the 1998 NEC Rookie of the Year. Grinspoon missed the entire 1999 season and struggled through an early season knee injury last year, but enjoyed a solid spring season and is beginning to feel more comfortable in Salmonís system. Salmon expects freshmen Missy Moore, Lauren Cunningham, Roula Adams and Libertini to join English and perhaps Gerhart up front this season. Moore is regarded as the best goal scorer of the group. Cunningham, who led the IAAM A Conference in scoring last season, should be a workhorse as she has the reputation for being able to run all day. Adams has the strength and size to hold off her opponents and has an extremely strong and accurate foot. Senior Liz Farrell provides the Retrievers with some more depth and great leadership up front.
"The forward position will be very interesting this season," said Salmon. "We have a great deal of competition and nobody has claimed a starting spot yet."
Junior Becky Hicock and freshman Kelly Lizon will compete for the starting position in goal. Salmon was unhappy with the drive and competition level at the position last season and anticipates a much better situation in 2001. Hicock is the favorite for the job, but Lizon is regarded as a very athletic keeper with a great deal of potential. Hicock impressed Salmon during the spring as she worked extremely hard on cross plays, her biggest weakness according to her coach.
The Retrievers will have an excellent opportunity to get off to a great start as they will play five of their first six contests at home. In fact, UMBC will host 11 of their 17 regular-season contests at UMBC Soccer Stadium. Salmon would like her team to be more consistent and become a better home team than they have been in the past. "Itís important for us to play with a different mentality on our home field this season. Our team didnít play with enough confidence at home last season. In fact, we struggled last season on our turf and that canít happen again this year."
Salmon feels that Quinnipiac, Central Connecticut, and Long Island are the pre-season favorites to win the Northeast Conference, but certainly does not rule out the possibility of the Retrievers winning their first league crown.
"Our goal this season is to qualify for the NEC Tournament and I believe we have the players who can get us there," Salmon stated. "If we do that, anything is possible. Our returning players have demonstrated a new commitment to the program. They are starting to realize what it takes to have success at this level. Iíve seen more players who are working out more regularly than in the past. Everyone seems to be on the same page and the team unity has never been better. All of these are great signs for the future."