Coast Guard and second-year head coach Eric Snyder return every starter from last year's team which won a share of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) regular season title and captured the ECAC New England Championship, finishing 26-6 overall, 8-1 in conference play and 13-0 at home.
"I am happy and proud of what we accomplished last season, but we have moved on and are looking forward to higher expectations and goals for our program," Snyder said in a press release. "We want to reach higher standards than we did a year ago."
The Bears return a trio of all-conference selections, led by junior Kelsey DePorto, a NEWMAC first team selection last season, while seniors Keriann Mason and Karen Matic were both named to the NEWMAC second team last season.
DePorto, a middle blocker, led the team with 321 kills, a .341 hitting percentage and 117 blocks. Mason, an outside hitter, was second with 306 kills and 364 digs while Matic, a setter, led the team with 901 assists to go with 245 digs and 171 kills.
The senior class consists of Mason, Matic and outside hitter/middle blocker Catherine Walker, a group the Bears will count on heavily this season. Walker tied for the team lead with 42 aces last season, was second with 55 blocks and she was third on the team with 263 kills.
"The senior class is incredibly talented, they have great skill set and we will look to them for leadership and experience throughout the course of the season," Snyder said.
DePorto and Samantha Marmolejo are the two juniors on the team. Marmolejo, the starting libero, led the way with 452 digs a year ago. The biggest class is the sophomore class, consisting of Christina Bilodeau, Leigh Anne Brazier, Kathryn Callaghan, Kelsey Hickle and Elise Sako. The Bears add a trio of freshmen to the mix.
The team opens the season at the Elmhurst Invitational beginning today in Chicago, where Coast Guard will play three teams ranked in the Top 25.
In 2011, the Coast Guard women's soccer team had a great start to the season, posting a record of 4-2-1, but injuries to key players saw the team drop eight of its last nine games to finish 5-10-1 overall and 1-7-1 in the NEWMAC.
Nine of the Bears 10 losses last season were by two goals or fewer, with six of those being one-goal losses. Coast Guard has not been able to win more than one conference game in a season since 2003, but head coach Susan Grant, in her sixth season, hopes the big freshmen class of 10 players in addition to the returnees, can turn things around.
"Last season, we got off to a great start, but by the midway part of the season, we were down five starters and that made it difficult," Grant said. "This season we are deeper and I will look to that depth to keep us rested and fresh late in games and if we can stay healthy hopefully turn those one-goal losses into wins."
Junior Devin Fellman will start in goal for the Bears, replacing four-year starter Mary Mills. Fellman is an aggressive, athletic, confident keeper with good skills and communication and a player that learned from Mills over the past two seasons.
The Bears' strength will be their veteran group of defenders. Senior tri-captain Kelsey Freeman, junior tri-captains Judy Hooymans and Emily Marks will start along with sophomore Avery Ayres.
Sophomores Holly Moore, who missed six games last season, and Lindsey Duplessis, who played mostly in the midfield last season, are back and will start at the forward spots while a pair of freshmen, Caroline Eastman and Shelia Dutt will also see playing time up front for the Bears.
The team opens the season today at Albertus Magnus.
Upon first look, Coast Guard enters the 2012 season with a roster that many would consider young, with only three seniors. However, the Bears return 20 players from 2011, including seven starters from a team that went 6-9-1 overall and 1-4-1 in the NEWMAC.
"We have a strong desire to get back to the NEWMAC tournament and just as importantly get back above .500," said coach Chris Parsons, in his 11th season. "In order to accomplish this, we will have to improve our defending, get consistent goalkeeping, and find a way to replace the 10 goals scored by Brett Godiksen,"
The Bears will be led on defense by senior co-captain Greg Kennerley (4 goals), who was a captain and second team all-NEWMAC performer last season.
Junior Kyle Grell will start at back for the second straight season. Sophomore John Tarzian will likely start next to Kennerley at the other centerback spot. Junior Andrew Jaeger and sophomores John Ray and Ethan Beard will see time at the other wing back positions.
In goal, the Bears return three players who saw playing time in 2011. Competition will be tight between senior Will Leffler, junior Carlos Gonzalez and sophomore Richie Burns.
In the midfield, the Bears return a number of quality players. Junior co-captain Jake Rendon will start in the attacking center midfield spot, while junior Andrew Heaney and sophomores Matt Bogdan and Trey Chamberlain will see time at the holding center midfield role.
Three juniors who started last season, Matt Epperly, Joe Bodzewski and Robert Copeland will be counted on to carry the load at attack. Sophomore Tradd Lovern has looked strong in preseason as well.
"This is the third year the core of this team has been together and know each other well, have excellent chemistry and a strong desire to compete," said Parsons, who also has seven freshmen.