2012 Season Begins Sunday
LAWRENCEVILLE-Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but summer is over, even if the calendar says you still have a few more weeks. The fall varsity athletics season officially begins this weekend.
Sunday evening the Rider University women's soccer team hosts NJIT at 5pm on the Ben Cohen Field to kick off the 2012 fall season. "Sunday is the starting point of the journey," said head coach Drayson Hounsome, the 2010 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
The Broncs defeated NJIT 2-0 last season in Newark. "Last year they had a new head coach and he has done a great job recruiting for this year," Hounsome said. "Their talent is going to be much improved. It is not the same team."
Rider is just about the same team, only a year older, a year wiser and a year more experienced.
Last year Rider enjoyed it best women's soccer season since 2004. The Broncs compiled a 9-6-4 overall record and return 19 letter winners this fall, including nine starters.
"It's so nice to have so many returners," said Hounsome, now in his fifth season at Rider and his first year with all four of his recruited classes. "We have a lot of experience with 16 or 17 upperclassmen. We don't need to spend much time finding out what we have. We can use these non-conference games to fine-tune everything for the MAAC schedule."
Rider is led by All-American candidate Abi Cottam (Leominster, England/Ludlow), who earned Second Team All-Region honors last year when she led the MAAC in goals (14), assists (11) and points (39). A First Team Academic All-American in 2011, Cottam ranked 14th in the nation in goals, 11th in assists and eighth in points last year.
Also returning to the Rider offense is junior Jennifer Meier (Sayville, NY/St. Anthony's), who compiled eight goals and 19 points last season, junior Bridgette Bartkowski (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee), who added six assists and 12 points and junior Jody Sokol (Bensalem, PA). Sokol has played in all 38 games in her two-year career and has compiled seven goals and 16 points.
"Those four make up the bulk of our offense," Hounsome said. "We scored more goals than any other team in the conference last year so I think they're going to be pretty good."
The Broncs return senior midfielder Demi Mello (Mattituck, NY), who has started 44 of the 50 games she has played in a Bronc uniform. Senior Claire Thompson (East Greenwich, RI) is a veteran of 53 games in the midfield and back, and senior Meghan Mohr (Holtsville, NY/Sachem) has played in 54 games on the Bronc defense.
"Meghan Mohr has been looking strong, and so has Kape," Hounsome said. The defense is bolstered with the return of junior Becca Kape (Westfield, NJ), who was a member of the MAAC All-Rookie team in 2010 but red-shirted last season with a foot injury. Mohr is also coming back from an injury. "They are both healthy and ready to go," Hounsome said.
The final line of defense before the goalkeeper is made up of junior Carolyn Wiley (Mount Laurel/Lenape) and senior Kaitlin Wylie (Croydon, PA/Pennsbury). "With Wiley and Wylie in the back we have a lot of good options," Hounsome said.
Junior goalkeeper Jenn Nichols (Stratham, N.H./Exeter) played in 14 games last year and had the fifth best goals against average in the MAAC. A two-time MAAC All-Academic team member, Nichols is a veteran of 30 Rider games and has made 73 career saves.
"Jenn has the experience," Hounsome said. "We have two talented freshmen keepers coming in but Jenn will lead the goalkeepers."
Defending champion Marist is picked to win the MAAC this year, with Fairfield picked second and 2011 runner-up Loyola picked to finish third in the 10-team conference. Rider defeated Marist 5-1 at Rider last season and this year Fairfield and Loyola have to travel to Lawrenceville.
"Three of the top four teams from last year are coming here this year," Hounsome said.
The MAAC schedule is a month away. The non-conference portion of the schedule features eight games before then, including four in August.
After the season opener Sunday the women's soccer team is home again Friday, August 24, hosting Howard at 5pm on the Ben Cohen Field.
If your summer has not quite ended yet and you can't make the games Sunday and Friday, the Rider website, www.GoBroncs.com, will once again provide live stats and BroncVision live video streaming of all women's soccer games (weather permitting).
Kiss summer goodbye this weekend and come enjoy the beginning of the fall with a soccer game on Sunday evening.