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Coast Guard (9-7-4 overall, 3-3-1 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference) is coming off a semifinal appearance in the conference tournament a season ago and, despite graduating five starters, returns nearly 60 percent of its scoring for 13th-year coach Chris Parsons.
The Bears' biggest strength should be their defense, with the return of four starting backs and two-time first team All-NEWMAC selection and tri-captain Richie Burns in goal. The defense of senior tri-captain John Tarzian, senior Jonathan Ray, junior Jasen Kingsley and sophomore Kyle Phillips helped Burns post the league's best save total (101) and goals against average (0.93) last season.
The back line will also see a lift with the emergence of rising sophomores Brad McNell and Caelan Harshaw.
Coast Guard lost three starters up front, but Parsons thinks the team could be solid offensively if some of the Bears' returnees with experience can fill the void.
The two players who will likely be called upon are juniors Ricky Davies and Lukas Benedetto. Seniors Conor Regan and Tradd Lovern should also see time on the forward line and an offensive-minded midfield will help.
Midfielder Alex Lane returns to play an attacking central midfield role, while being supported by seniors Trey Chamberlain and tri-captain and 2012 second team All-NEWMAC selection Matthew Bogdan.
Freshmen that could have an impact include back Austin Read (Takoma Park, Md.) and midfielders Ryan Dandan (Trophy Club, Texas) and Luke Telang (Providence).
The Bears will kick off the season Friday when they take on Salve Regina University at 3:30 p.m. as part of the season-opening University of Southern Maine Invitational.
The Coast Guard women's soccer team will have a similar look to last year's, as nine of 11 starters return from a team which finished 6-11-2 and qualified for the NEWMAC tournament for the first time since 2003.
Coach Susan Grant, in her eighth season, will see the team return its top three scorers and five of its top six from a season ago. Junior Sarah Hills is the top returnee on offense, scoring 13 points (6 goals, 1 assist) last season, and will team with senior Liz Runci to serve as the Bears' top strikers.
Sophomore Terry Netusil will add to the offensive presence following an outstanding freshman season which she finished with four goals and four assists, and the team returns three other multi-goal scorers in senior Lindsay Duplessis (3 goals, 1 assist), junior Caroline Eastman (2 goals) and senior Julia Mundy (2 goals).
The Bears' strength, though, may be their defense, which returns two full-time starting backs in senior Avery Ayres and junior Hanna Jansson and senior goalkeeper Holly Moore. Ayres and Jansson helped limit opponents to just 31 goals last season and will be joined on defense by sophomore Katie Clark, who makes the transition from striker.
Moore, who has been impressive in preseason workouts, according to Grant, saw full-time action in goal for the first time last season, posting a 1.62 goals against average with three shutouts and a save percentage of .771.
"She's standing out in camp after coming back fit and has looked great in training," Grant said of the Bears' goalie. "She appears determined and focused to lead the team to great heights."
Coast Guard welcomes three freshmen in Gabrielle Auzenbergs (Shrewsbury, Mass.), Ellie Donnelly (Fort Belvoir, Va.), and Melissa Zakrewski (Gasport, N.Y.).
The Bears will open the season Friday at Anna Maria before hosting Mitchell College on Wednesday, Sept. 3.
Coast Guard, which finished 22-9 overall last season and 5-5 in the NEWMAC, reaching the semifinals of the league tournament, returns a trio of starters while also welcoming seven freshmen.
The Bears, who don't have a senior on the roster, must replace a pair of first team all-conference performers in Kelsey DePorto and Samantha Marmolejo.
"We are going to have a lot of players contribute this season," said Coast Guard coach Aylene Ilkson, in her second season. "We have healthy competition at every spot on the court this season and anyone could play on any given day."
Middle blockers sophomore Susan West and junior Ashley Dumont will anchor the Coast Guard offense. West returns after an outstanding freshman season in which she registered 254 kills, 180 digs, 41 blocks and 31 aces, while Dumont led the team with a .280 hitting percentage last year.
Junior setter Maggie Hine, who led the team with 1,036 assists to go with 70 kills, is also back to direct the Bears offense. Hine will not only serve as setter but play an important role becoming a mentor for freshman setter Michelle Hernandez as she adjusts to the speed and aggressive play of the Coast Guard offense.
A pair of freshmen, Kiera Foster and Summer Adams, will start at outside hitters for the Bears. They both bring solid blocking and steady play that will help balance the offense.
Freshman defensive specialist Michelle McGill is expected to see plenty of time, while junior Emily Gilland and sophomores Michaela McKeown and Miranda Brumbaugh will battle for time defensively.
“This team has fantastic group chemistry and they are very supportive of each other. We are young, promising and highly motivated to prove something within the NEWMAC and New England volleyball," Ilkson said. "They know what it takes to win, but they also realize that it may take some time to develop."