2011 Women's Soccer Outlook
With the return of 16 letterwinners, including seven players who started almost every game last year, the 2011 Broncs will be a young team of veterans, looking to reach the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference playoffs for the third straight season.
"The goal is pretty simple, to win the MAAC tournament," said Drayson Hounsome, the 2010 MAAC Coach of the Year. "Obviously we have to get to the MAAC tournament first."
The Broncs gave up the fewest goals (23) in program history last season, yet the Bronc goalkeepers made the least saves in the MAAC. "We had an outstanding freshmen central defender (Preseason All-MAAC Becca Kape) and three outstanding sophomore fullbacks (Angela Monaco, Meghan Mohr and Kaitlin Wylie), and they're all back and improved this season," Hounsome said." Defensively we'll be strong."
Kape started 18 games and was named to the MAAC All-Rookie team, but has been slowed since last year with a foot injury. Kape was an NSCAA/adidas High School All-American at Westfield High.
Monaco has played in 38 games as a Bronc, starting 36, and is a MAAC All-Academic team member.
Mohr shared the team lead with five assists last season and was named to the MAAC All-Tournament team. A member of the MAAC All-Academic team, Mohr has started all 38 games over the last two years.
Wylie has played 38 games at Rider, starting 34, and compiled three assists last season.
"We'll have the same two full backs as the last two years, Meghan Mohr and Anglea Moncao, who will clock some serious game time again this year," Hounsome said. "Carolyn Wiley came on strong after an illness last year and is showing what we expected of her. Those three along with freshmen Katrina Seidenthal, who is a strong central defender, and Natalie Dold is an offensive back, look to see the majority of time. The way we play we want to attack from our defense. Dold is a great attacking option for us. Those five will be competing originally."
Seidenthal comes from Miami, where she played for the nationally ranked Gulliver Prep. Dold compiled 33 goals and 27 assists in her high school career at Thomas Jefferson High in Maryland.
Rider's offense returns the top three scorers and eight of the top nine, led by Second Team All-MAAC forward Abi Cottam. "We definitely expect those three plus others to be scoring goals for us this year," Hounsome said. "Our midfielders need to be more offensive this year."
Cottam missed the 2009 preseason and all but the final eight games and still managed to share the team lead in assists as a rookie. Last year Cottam started all 19 games and was second in the MAAC in game-winning goals with five and sixth in the MAAC in points (21).
"Last year was almost like her freshman year and you could see the confidence grow," Hounsome said of Cottam. "She's exciting. I don't know who in the conference is better than her as an all-around player, with her athleticism, her speed and her ability to score. I'm expecting big things from her."
Along with Cottam, a pair of rookies, Jennifer Meier and Jody Sokol, combined for 11 goals and five assists last season. "Our front line last year was new, they had never played together, yet they still managed to come up with a lot of goals," Hounsome said. "Now they know how each other plays, they know each other's strengths. They have gotten used to playing together. I expect them to score a lot of goals."
Rider was third in the MAAC in goals last season.
"Jen Meier could be one of the best players in the conference," Hounsome said. "Right now offensively she is tough to stop. She's technically advanced, she has good pace and good balance. We possessed the ball a lot last year which might have limited her potential. Under a different style of play she might have gotten a lot more goals. She's just an all-around quality player. Jody Sokol is lethal in how she attacks. Like Meier she has great skills, works hard and they are great people off the field."
"Kate Stevens is in the best shape of her life," Hounsome said, "and Demi Mello is in great shape. My first year we brought in as many quality players as we could. Last year we got the defense and the offense squared away. This year we got the midfielders squared away so now I feel all the parts of our game are in place."
Bartkowski shared the team lead in assists as a rookie last year. "We're not going to have just three forwards," Hounsome said. "There will be multiple players up front. Freshman Amber Mello will play on the front line as well as last year's big three and Bartkowski. Bartkowski didn't score last year but was involved and played a big role in many of the other goals. We have a lot of good options. We can play a few different styles of play."
Thompson started just five games last year but was fifth on the team in scoring with a pair of game-winning goals. A MAAC All-Academic team member, Thompson has played in 34 games and has 13 points.
Mello welcomes her younger sister to the squad this year. Demi has 31 games under her belt and Wiley played in 17 games as a rookie last year, starting four.
The goalkeeping chores will be done by junior Jenn Nichols and red-shirt freshman Danielle Singson. "Danielle and Jenn are both strong goalkeepers who are vying for that position," Hounsome said. "If they both continue to play well than they both will play. I'm not worried at all about our goalkeeping. It is in safe hands with those two. Jenn Nichols is in great shape."
"Kristen and Sarah are right there," Hounsome said. "They are going to be competing as freshmen. We have to discover where to best use their talents. This freshman class is smaller but a quality class."
Wulk was a First Team All-South Jersey selection at Bishop Eustace.
The squad will be a veteran one, but without a senior. "We return a big junior class that has played a lot since their freshmen year," Hounsome said. "Experience is not an issue this year. It is a good thing that we have the experience we have but when you do not have any seniors there is a concern for leadership. Everyone is expected to step up."
Last season the Broncs defeated perennial MAAC power Loyola and qualified for the four-team MAAC playoffs. "I don't know if the players realize, or even if I realize how big it was to beat Loyola (first time in program history) and to make the playoffs," Hounsome said. "Someone watching this program over the last 12 years or so would realize how big it was, but we have the expectations of ourselves that we are as good if not better than anyone in the MAAC. "
The Broncs are picked to finish sixth in the 10-team MAAC this year despite their top-four finish last year. "I think we will be tough in the MAAC this year," Hounsome said. "Canisius and Siena will be tough and you cannot count out Loyola. Marist had a great year last season, Fairfield has everything it needs to do well. The MAAC has a lot of good teams, and we are one of them."
The schedule begins earlier than ever this year, hosting Mount St Mary's August 20. The MAAC schedule begins with games at Loyola, Niagara and Canisius. "We have a tough opening with three away games against the top teams," Hounsome said. "If we can come away positive from those first two weekends we just have to take care of business at home to be where we want to be."
The Broncs look for a third straight MAAC tournament but with a better outcome. "Last year we were legitimately disappointed in the MAAC playoffs (losing in the semifinals)," Hounsome said. "Our goal last year was to get to the championship game and we fell one game short. This year we want to reach that game and win it. There is no reason why we cannot. Last year our experience was our only question mark. We were such a young team. This year we have the experience we need. The addition of this freshman class makes us a stronger team. We're excited and confident going into the season. If we can stay healthy and follow the game plan there is no one in the MAAC we are frightened of. We're a better team going into this season than we were going into last year."