Women’s soccer preview: Freshman class looks to lift BearcatsTweet
Typically the departure of 12 letterwinners – seven of whom were starters – signals a rebuilding phase in college soccer. But sixth-year head coach Sarah McClellan believes her 2013 team’s talent level and postseason potential remain strong with the infusion of a sizable (10) and lofty recruiting class.
Coming off a rare season that didn’t end with a postseason berth, Binghamton returns four starters and 18 letterwinners from an 8-8-1 team. That squad ended its season with back-to-back road conference wins but came up one win shy of earning the program’s eighth America East tournament bid in the last nine years.
“Last season is in the past, we came up short in the conference portion of the season and we have learned from it,” McClellan said. “We want much more this season and will work that much harder to get it.”
Back to anchor the team up the middle are co-captains Connie Gormley (center back) and Emma Kurth (center midfield) along with veteran keeper Carrie Martin. But the trio’s surrounding cast will be much different with at least seven positions showcasing a new starter in 2013 as McClellan transitions to a younger roster base that features 17 underclassmen.
“Our returning group now has some experience and are ready to step up and lead on the field,” McClellan said. “Several sophomores really started to shine in the spring and now heading into the season also; what I want to see from these players is a competitive fire and kind of a ‘game on’ attitude.”
Gormley, Cusato return on back line
Gormley, a smart and sound defender with a powerful right leg, returns to anchor the back line for her third straight season. The junior has started 32 of 34 collegiate games and McClellan is depending on her leadership to help several first-year defenders.
“‘Gorms’ is a soccer savvy player; she is smooth on the ball and her ability to read the game is a great asset to our back line,” McClellan said. “We ask a lot from her in organizing and coordinating players around her.”
Senior Liz Cusato returns on the left side of the back line, where she showed great resolve in her first season as a starter last fall and may spend time centrally as well. Also slotted in the back line positions are sophomore Alyssa Vallar and freshmen Allison Mack, Kasey Brida and redshirt freshmen Gen Crescenzo. Vallar, who played in 12 games as a freshman, can also move to the middle.
“I thought Vallar got some quality experience in big games last year and Sam and Gen came on strong this spring also,” McClellan said.
One newcomer option to join Gormley in the middle of McClellan’s 4-3-3 alignment is talented newcomer Kelly Corrado, who was a four-year standout at Freehold Township (N.J.). A 5-foot-11 defender, Corrado captained her club team to a state cup title and Premier League national championship.
“Kelly has developed great defending technique and habits and communicates well,” McClellan said. “She is a great addition to our back line and will settle in nicely.” “Our returners in the back line and our goalkeepers wil1l help bring Kelly up to speed at the college level; it’s a bit of a transition, but one that all of our newcomers are capable of taking on.”
On the right, sophomore Samantha Crane moves into a starting role after playing forward in her first collegiate season. Freshman Alyssa Falinski, a four-year starter up the highway at Cicero-North Syracuse High, begins her collegiate career and will give McClellan additional options for the back line or midfield.
“This year’s back line is very athletic,” McClellan said. “We will be able to play a number of players throughout games and look to be more attacking minded in getting forward from the back. With several new faces, there is a bit of a learning curve and we will need to have a high level of mental focus and communication to operate effectively.”
Workhorse Kurth patrols center midfield
Kurth, who played every minute of every game in 2012, returns for her senior season and has 49 career games on her résumé. The steady and unassuming defensive center back draws praise from McClellan: “Emma is so consistent and performs like a professional; she brings a level of composure and confidence to our midfield; she will be expected to lead and communicate in there.”
Joining Kurth in the middle and occupying the attacking positions are junior Emily Nuss and sophomore Rebecca Raber, each of whom saw significant minutes in 2012. Nuss is a speedy and versatile athlete who began her career at wing back. Raber, a first team all-state high school player, continues to make a strong transition to the college game. Each player tallied a goal in 2012. Katherine Corcoran, who will most likely split time in the midfield and forward positions will also be a player to watch.
Freshman Katie O’Neill will see minutes most likely at center midfield. O’Neill had a distinguished scholastic career in New Jersey, leading the entire state in assists as a junior and earning New Jersey “top-20” status as a senior.
“I’m really excited to see our midfield in action; they are super athletic and technical,” McClellan said. “Each bring a high level of soccer IQ and are crafty on the ball and more than capable of scoring and setting up goals.”
Front line absorbed biggest losses from graduation
The Bearcats took their heaviest hit at the forward position as all three veteran starters, including leading scorer and all-conference striker Sarah Furminger, have graduated.
Earning a starting position up top is senior Conor O’Brien, who has notched two goals in a reserve role in each of the last two seasons. Senior Kaitlin Martin will line up on the right side, where she contributed three points off the bench last fall. Sophomore Katherine Corcoran is expected to start on the left. Corcoran can also slide back into a center midfield role, where she played in 2012. McClellan will also look to senior Sophie Sylla and sophomores Stephani Church and Jacqueline Ehrenreich.
Several freshmen will be pushing for time up front: Kailee Rottet, Jacque Rice, Michele Galvin and Leighann Bennett. Timely scoring is paramount in conference games so McClellan will need to find a go-to scorer to replace Furminger, whose 1-on-1 skills resulted in four game-winners in 2012.
“Our forwards are going to need to bring tons of energy, alertness, and workrate up top,” McClellan said. “We need them to be active and on the ball often. Whoever wants the ball the most and is aggressive to goal will get a lot of time; they also need to communicate with the other forwards and be willing to work defensively.”
Of the 36 America East games last year, 72 percent (26) were decided by one goal or less and one-quarter of the games wound up 1-0 on the scoreboard. Binghamton has kept its opponents at less than one goal per game in each of the last two seasons but Binghamton’s offense was blanked in half its 2012 conference games, so McClellan knows the value of getting on the board.
“Our America East games are down to the wire every game,” she said. “Anyone can win any game and often-times it is an intangible or an extra effort that is the difference maker.”
Martin, Speirs tandem back in goal
After sharing duties in goal during 2012, seniors Carrie Martin and Stephanie Speirs return for their final collegiate campaigns. Martin started all 17 games last fall and posted a 0.72 goals against average (36th in nation) and a save percentage of 83.7%. Speirs held down the bulk of second-half duty and posted a 1.29 GAA in 15 games. McClellan believes Martin is a critical piece to the team’s defensive unit with her strong communication and organization skills.
“Our goalkeeper squad is strong,” McClellan said. “‘Marty’ and Speirs have tons of experience and are both capable of making big time saves; they are confident handlers of the ball and steady in controlling their box.”
Junior Gaby Gold and freshman Haley Downin, along with junior Alyssa Gutierrez, give the Bearcats depth.