2016 Season Outlook

Courtesy: Rider Sports Information
         
Release: August 11, 2016
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Courtesy: Peter G. Borg (Rider University)

20th Season Looks to Be Broncs' Best

With the return of 10 starters from the 10-win 2015 playoff team, along with two other starters from the 2014 MAAC Championship team who sat out last season, the 2016 Rider University women’s soccer team has the potential to be the best in the 20-year history of the program.

"We only graduated one player," said head coach Drayson Hounsome, who has led Rider to the MAAC semifinals four times in six seasons.

"We have the most depth," Hounsome said, "and if everyone performs to their best, I would have to say yes, this should be the best team Rider has ever put on the field."

Heading the list of returnees include seniors Bethany-May Howard, Caroline Healy, Hollie Kelsh, Victoria Maley and Heather Maierle. "These players were good coming in, with huge potential and have improved over the years, but more importantly any one of them would cut off their arm if that is what it took to win a game," Hounsome said. "They truly love playing this game."

Howard was an All-Region keeper last year when she ranked 14th in the nation in save percentage and 21st in saves. "If there is a better player in the conference I don’t know who it is," Hounsome said.

Twice an All-MAAC selection, Howard has 14 shutouts in the last two seasons, including all six home games during the 2015 regular season. "She has natural attributes along with a drive and a desire to go along with them," Hounsome said. "She doesn’t really have any weaknesses and now she has confidence." During the summer she competed in England’s Women’s Super League 2. "Playing against the top players there are certainly helps."

Healy led the 2015 Broncs in goals (six) and points (15) as well as minutes played, and ranked 10th in the MAAC in points, ninth in goals. "Caroline has established herself in the last 12 months as possibly the top attacking player on our field," Hounsome said. A veteran of 56 Rider games, Healy is a former member of the Irish Youth National team and moved from a wide to central player this year. "She has blossomed at her new position," Hounsome said.

Kelsh earned First Team All-MAAC honors last year when she ranked 12th in the nation in assists at the end of the regular season. After leading the MAAC in assists last year Kelsh enters her senior year sixth in career assists at Rider and 17th in points. "She was a good player coming in and only got better," Hounsome said. A former member of the Youth National Team in England, Kelsh was a Second team All-MAAC selection as a rookie.

Maierle is a team captain for the second year in a row, and has been voted the team’s best defensive player three times. "I believe she’s the best defender in the conference," Hounsome said. Maierle was a member of the 2013 and 2014 MAAC Championship All-Tournament teams and was second on the 2015 team in minutes played.

Maley started all 18 games last season and ranked fifth on the team in minutes played. "Every year she is challenged for playing time and every year, for whatever reasons, she has found a way into the starting line up," Hounsome said.

The Broncs will also be led by juniors Shannon Kelly, Ellie Smith, Emily Schmitt and Michelle Iacono, and sophomores Kourtney Cunningham, Maddie Lipton, Meghan McCabe.

Kelly was named the team’s Most Improved Player after starting all 18 games last season in the midfield. "Shannon is as good as anyone, she just doesn’t maybe get the attention because she doesn’t have a lot of offensive stats, but she is good and in the best shape of her life."

Iacono was a preseason All-MAAC selection last year but played just one game due to a foot injury. In 2014 she was a First Team All-MAAC selection on the Championship team. "The dynamics of the team changed when Michelle was out last year," Hounsome said. "When you have a player of her caliber competing to be a starter that says a lot about the talent level of this team."

Smith earned Second Team All-MAAC honors last year despite missing seven games with a hamstring injury. "She never really recovered from that last year," Hounsome said. "This year she looks strong and is in great shape. She is an absolute threat because of her dribbling ability. She can dribble with the ball so close to her foot and it’s very hard to get the ball from her." Smith had 11 points in 11 games last season. "She scored a ton of goals this summer," Hounsome said, "playing on a very good team."

Schmitt was second on the team in minutes played last year. "She had a solid season last year, coming off an ankle injury," Hounsome said, "but maybe wasn’t as sharp as she was before the injury. This year she looks back to her very best."

Cunningham was named to the MAAC All-Rookie team last year, sharing the team lead in points. "Courtney is one of most dangerous winners in the conference," Hounsome said. "She can take people on, on the dribble as good as anyone else in the MAAC. She can create so many chances, for herself and others."

Lipton was a member of the 2014 MAAC All-Rookie team but missed last season with an injury. "She’s a natural lefty with pace," Hounsome said. "She’s not 100 percent yet but she is getting close to where she was. The expectations would be by the time conference play begins she’ll be back to her very best."

McCabe earned Second Team All-MAAC honors and was a member of the MAAC All-Rookie team last year. She came to Rider as the New York State Player of the Year, as a defender. "She had a very good freshman year and now comes back with confidence," Hounsome said. "She’s a solid defender and a threat on set pieces."

Other key returnees include seniors Priscilla Santos and Sorren Henderson, juniors Shannon Kelly, Alanna McDougall and Brianna Magana and sophomore Sam Picinich.

Santos was a member of the 2014 MAAC All-Tournament Team and scored a goal and an assist in the 2015 playoffs. The former MAAC All-Rookie team member suffered a knee injury in the preseason, the third of her career. "That was a huge blow," Hounsome said. "She worked so hard to get back last year."

Henderson has seen action in 28 games as a Bronc. "Sorren was our ‘Unsung Hero’ last year," Hounsome said. "You need people like her to keep the team together, to have the team chemistry needed. We are relying on her in her senior year to give us that again. She is an important part of that."

McDougall is a veteran of 33 games. "She is a good player and had a good spring," Hounsome said. "She can score." Last year McDougall scored in a playoff win over Niagara.

Magana played in 11 games last season, starting five. "Bri has the ability to compete to start," Hounsome said.

Picinich played in 14 games last year, starting seven. "Sam started seven conference games," Hounsome said. "She’ll challenge to compete to get in the midfield. She can score, she can win headers, she’s a solid player."

The newcomers will be led by Valeria Pascuet, Erica Ludwikowski, Sofia Soares, Nora Trapp, Patricia Chasson, Bethany Feinstein and Rebecca White.

"They are all good, and a few years ago many of them would have started here as freshmen," Hounsome said. "but this year we have so much more talent, so much more depth."

Pascuet came to Rider from Pamplona, Spain and competed against the best players in Europe on the Spanish National Team. "Valeria comes in playing at a high level," Hounsome said. "She is one to look out for."

Ludwikowski led Williamsport (PA) High in scoring her freshman and sophomore seasons before earning All-Star honors as a midfielder her junior and senior years. "Ludwikowski is physical, strong, athletic," Hounsome said. "Of the freshman she is the most ready athletically."

Soares comes to Rider from Brazil, where she played on the club team that won the National Championship. "She’s versatile, hard-working and technically very good on the ball," Hounsome said.

Trapp is German but comes to Rider from Indonesia. "She’s a good player," Hounsome said.

Chasson comes to Rider from Barcelona, Spain and played at the highest level in Catalonia. "Another natural lefty who will compete on the left side," Hounsome said.

Feinstein led Howell (NJ) High School to the State Championship as a junior and led the team in scoring as a senior. "She’s fast and hard-working," Hounsome said. "She can score goals."

White is a goalkeeper from Massapequa, NY. "Becca and Amy Kozlowski will be competing hard in case anything happened to Beth," Hounsome said. "If there is an opportunity we are confident one of them will be ready to go."

A very talented incoming class that, if there are no injuries to the returnees, isn’t really needed on a team that is expected to rank among the best ever at Rider.

"I can’t think of a stronger group of players than what we have this year,"" Hounsome said.

The 2016 Rider women’s soccer team. Twenty years in the making. This looks to be the year.

-ru-

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