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Women’s soccer 2012 Preview

Bearcats return 23 letterwinners, seven starters from semifinal team

August 16, 2012

Women’s soccer 2012 Preview

Contact: John Hartrick (

VESTAL, N.Y. – Binghamton women’s soccer becomes the school’s first team to compete in 2012-13 when the Bearcats head to Lewisburg, Pa. on Friday afternoon to face Bucknell . Fifth-year head coach Sarah McClellan’s squad is playing on the first allowable NCAA date and the 4 p.m. Bucknell match is the first of three straight on the road to start the season.

“Our team has taken steps forward in preseason but we still have a lot of work to do,” McClellan said. “We are working our way through the usual grind of preseason bumps and bruises but our work rate is good and we are building a strong mentality. These first three road games will harden us right from the get-go.”

A big senior class of 12 gives McClellan’s 2012 team a veteran presence and she is hoping that experience will pay off as the season progresses.

“We have a ton of seniors and returning players (23) who will help keep the team focused on each game,” she said. “They understand the timing of our peak for conference play and ultimately for postseason.”

Advancing to the America East tournament remains a primary goal and Binghamton has done it seven times in the last eight years. The Bearcats have also reached the tournament semifinals six times in that span and are only two years removed from a title-game appearance. Despite being picked to finish second-last in a peculiar vote by opposing conference coaches, McClellan remains firm in her focus.

“We have players who are gifted technically and are capable of moving the ball quickly,” she said. “We will look to find good rhythm on the field in the first half of the season, gain experience with a number of players and develop a strong mentality in our competitiveness. It should be a very tight race in the conference but we are planning to extend our season come tournament time.”

For the Bearcats, it all starts in back, where an historically stingy defense will look to put the squeeze on opposing attacks. Last year’s squad allowed just 15 goals in 18 games and only two teams (Boston and New Hampshire) scored more than one goal against Binghamton all season long.

Junior Carrie Martin, a two-year starter, posted seven shutouts and a 0.82 goals against average in 2011 but will likely split time with classmate Stephanie Speirs, whose development gives McClellan some flexibility between the pipes.

“Both players progressed very well in the spring and looked very strong coming into camp,” McClellan said. “They both are going to be strong shot blockers and will be capable of making big-time saves for us.”

Three of four starters return to the back line, which is anchored in the middle by talented sophomore Connie Gormley, an America East All-Rookie selection in 2011. Gormley, a former all-state scholastic player, made a seamless transition to the college game and her attributes are aplenty.

“Connie is a fit, athletic player with a high soccer IQ,” McClellan said. “Having already earned all-rookie honors in the conference, I have no doubt she will take her game to the next level with added experience. Her technical comfort on the ball is so impressive. She can also penetrate and join the attack from center back, which is unique.” 

Joining Gormley on a very solid starting back line are senior Meghan McCarty in the middle, senior Meghan Campbell on the right and sophomore Emily Nuss on the left. Expected to see plenty of minutes are junior Liz Cusato and promising freshman Alyssa Vallar.

“Emily (Nuss) learned the outside back position last year and is much more comfortable and confident this fall,” McClellan said. “Meghan (Campbell) is tenacious on the outside and Liz (Cusato) worked hard this summer and looks like a good fit in back. Our defenders want to lower that 15 goals against number from last season and I think we have the talent and cohesiveness to do it.”

Four-year veteran Alyssa Staubitz, returning to form after an injury, and senior Elena Solazzo, will also add to the unit.

The midfield corps will begin the season shorthanded as returning junior starter Kaitlyn Cook (injury) and highly-touted freshman Katie Corcoran (Illness) are expected to miss the first three games.

Seniors Brittany Walsh and Emily Pape are locked into returning starter roles and they will be joined by emerging talent Emma Kurth, who has impressed McClellan with her development.

“Emma moves and covers a lot of ground,” McClellan said. “She has good size, takes care of the ball and thinks tactically, which is important for organizing our shape in the midfield. We are ecstatic about how well Emma has prepared for this season and she will be a critical piece of our midfield.”

Freshman Rebecca Raber, a first team all-state scholastic player for Bayport-Blue Point High, is expected to earn increased minutes as she makes the transition to the college game.

Cook, one of three local players, has logged 34 collegiate games and her speed and tenacity are crucial to BU’s attack. Corcoran was an all-state selection and the leading scorer at Kings Park High last fall.

Veteran Amanda Rittmeier rounds out the unit as she enters her fourth year with the program.

Finding consistent scoring will be paramount for the Bearcats, who saw their 2011 defensive prowess neutralized by tallying less than a goal per game themselves. The Bearcats were blanked in eight games last year and thus, suffered seven 1-0 defeats that kept them from enjoying an elite season. But McClellan is optimistic that a stronger, more fit group is ready to change their fortunes in 2012.

“We have a very deep forward unit and the returnees have each taken their game to the next nevel,” McClellan said. “We saw tons of progress this spring and we are looking for this group of players to be the difference makers this season.”

First among the weapons up top is 5-foot-9 senior Kerry Sullivan, who will operate out of the middle. She has played in 35 career games and has the size and strength to be an impact player in her final season.

“Kerry is fit, focused and is looking very confident on the ball,” McClellan said. “She has a power shot and will draw a lot of attention. She is a very strong leader for us up top.”

Joining Sullivan are returning veterans and fellow seniors Jamie Holliday and Sarah Furminger. Holliday has seven career goals and her pressure down the left flank is dangerous. Furminger is a speedy threat with strong 1-on-1 skills on the right side. She led the team in scoring two years ago and was a junior college All-American at nearby Broome Community College.

“We are looking to Jamie for high energy and ground coverage,” McClellan said. “She can set an example with her high work rate. Sarah is a dynamic player who can utilize her speed to get her opponent off-balance.”

Another speedster, junior Kaitlyn Martin, and classmate Conor O’Brien are viable options off the bench and McClellan expects each to earn considerable minutes.

Adding to the forward depth are senior Candice Rowland, junior Sophia Sylla and freshmen Samantha Crane and Stephani Church

The opening game against the Patriot-League member Bison kicks off a nine-game non-conference slate that features contests against teams from five different conferences. After Bucknell, BU continues its three-game road swing with games at 2011 MAAC regular-season runnerup Niagara (Aug. 21) and Atlantic-10 member St. Joseph’s (Aug. 24).

Being on the road early will force the Bearcats to quickly gel.

“Traveling for our first three games will be a difficult test,” McClellan said. “The players have to manage the travel but also manage their emotions and their energy level to make sure we are ready to perform at our highest level … and sometimes that’s challenging.”

Binghamton welcomes Patriot League member Lehigh to the Bearcats Sports Complex for its home opener on September 2 – the first of four straight at home.

In that two-week stretch, BU will also host MAAC member Siena (Sept. 7), Ivy League-resident Cornell (Sept. 12) and Atlantic-10 member St. Bonaventure (Sept. 14). The Bearcats will look to reverse their fortunes against all four teams, who each posted 1-0 wins over BU last fall. The Bonnies won nine games and finished fifth (out of 14) in the A-10 and along the way, posted an overtime win over Binghamton in Olean – one of three extra-time defeats for McClellan’s young 2011 squad.

After a road game at FDU on September 16, the Bearcats face a tough test in their non-conference finale when they head to Poughkeepsie to battle reigning MAAC champion and NCAA entry Marist on September 21. The Red Foxes won 13 games and were 7-1-1 in league play. 

The eight-game America East slate begins with a challenging September 23 road game against a Hartford team that won 13 games and finished second in the standings last fall. Binghamton plays home games against conference foes New Hampshire (Sept. 27), Albany (Oct. 4), Maine (Oct. 7) and Boston University (Oct. 14) with the Homecoming game against the five-time defending champion Terriers capping a string of four out of five games at the Complex. The Bearcats met Boston in the America East semifinals last year, pushing the 14th-ranked Terriers in a narrow 2-1 defeat. Boston isn’t eligible for the America East postseason in 2012, creating a new dynamic and ensuring that a new conference champion will carry the league’s banner into the NCAA tournament.

Because of a strong freshman class, the Bearcats will be deeper than in recent years, and McClellan believes that will pay off come November.

“We have many options at several positions on the field,” she said. “We have high expectations for our freshman class and think they all will develop very quickly this season.”

Reversing the team’s fortunes in one-goal games will be crucial to BU’s success in 2012. 

“With our 12 seniors leading the way, this team has a better understanding of how one moment in a game can be the difference,” McClellan said. “We saw that last season and it’s an area we’ve really emphasized this year.”

Binghamton will again receive strong support from the local community and McClellan believes home patrons will enjoy what they see on the field.

“Our team style is fun and exciting,” she said. “We keep the ball on the floor and use combinations to move it quickly. We like to get numbers forward and maintain confident possession and an orientated attack.”

If the defense duplicates its sturdy form and a veteran front line finds the back of the net, Binghamton could find itself in the mix for postseason glory in 2012. 

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