Releases

For Immediate Release: August 26, 2004
Contact: John Hartrick (hartrick@binghamton.edu)
Phone: 607-777-6800

Season Preview
Binghamton women's soccer eager to climb hurdle, reach conference playoffs

Binghamton has certainly enjoyed its share of success as an NCAA Division I member, with two post-season appearances in its first three years. But for seventh-year head coach Jeff Leightman and a women’s soccer program that owns 17 straight winning campaigns, the last two have been bittersweet. A pair of otherwise pleasing nine-win seasons were tempered by exclusion from the America East Conference tournament. In fact, in each of the last two years, BU has missed out on a playoff berth by just one win, a fact not lost on Leightman.

“We have to have a better mindset about conference games,” Leightman acknowledged. “We have to learn that September doesn’t matter nearly as much as October (when the conference season begins). We haven’t produced the results we’ve wanted in conference games, but we’re eager to change that this season.”

Style change up front should help
Binghamton’s Achilles’ heel in conference play has been its offensive production (9 goals in 9 games in 2003), and despite graduating leading scorer and two-time all-conference pick Tracy Kasmarcik, Leightman feels his team’s attack may actually become more potent.

“We became a kick-and-run team up front, which was suited for Tracy’s speed, but was very one-dimensional,” he said. “This year we want to return to a much more connected attack, more designed to playing balls to feet and in front of the defense.”

The 2003 Bearcats’ offense was stifled by the league’s premier back lines. Against the top five teams in the standings, BU was outscored 11-1 and suffered four shutouts.

Team is still loaded with youth
Despite returning eight starters, the 2004 BU squad is light on collegiate experience. Leightman dresses just three seniors compared to 17 underclassmen. There will likely be at least five underclassmen, in the starting lineup, including three freshmen.

Versatile Mathelier may log minutes up front and in back
Leightman will need another strong season from senior all-conference player Tatiana Mathelier at both ends of the field. Mathelier, a gifted athlete, has been bounced from the front line to the back during her first three collegiate seasons, and the 2004 campaign will probably be no different. Leightman is counting on her speed and scoring prowess up front, yet also may need her steady defensive play in back. After scoring 14 goals in her first two seasons, Mathelier dropped back to defense last fall, and helped anchor a BU back line that secured seven shutouts, including three against America East foes.

“Tatiana is the most gifted athlete in our program,” Leightman said. “She had a great season in back last year, and we’re hoping she’ll provide some scoring production as well.”

Expected to start alongside Mathelier in Leightman’s 3-5-2 alignment is highly-touted freshman Kim Povill, who led her Massapequa High team to an undefeated season and New York State Class AA championship and a No. 6 national ranking last year.

Povill, the team’s captain and central midfielder, was the county playoff MVP, and a three-time all-conference selection. She also has six years of high-level experience with the Olympic Development Program.

“Kim is a very talented all-around player,” Leightman said. “She is sophisticated tactically as a forward, and will sell out for goals.”

Joining Povill is another highly-regarded freshman, 5-foot-10 forward Tricia Reed. A smart technical player who will also see time at center midfield, Reed scored 51 goals in her scholastic career for Oswego High. As a senior, she earned all-state recognition after leading her team to a sectional championship.

The team’s returning scoring leader is sophomore Danielle White, who netted five goals with a team-best five assists in her first collegiate season. White scored four goals in her first six games last fall before tailing off in October.

“Danielle gained more confidence over the summer, and has worked to become a more consistent threat up front,” Leightman said.

Freshman Betsy Harris and sophomore Courtney Craig can also run up front. Harris netted 46 goals in a standout career at Horace Greeley High. A first-team all-section honoree, Harris led her team to the state quarterfinals, and stands fourth on the school’s all-time points list. Craig is a good target up front, though she has been slowed by a preseason injury.

Co-captains lead midfield unit
Senior co-captains Caitlin O’Shaughnessy and Deli Plourde are back in pivotal roles in the attacking center midfield, and both players are in top form according to Leightman.

“Caitlin is our fittest player, and there is no better competitor on our team,” he said. “And Deli is playing the best soccer of her life right now.”

O’Shaughnessy pushed up front to contribute three goals and eight points in 2003. Plourde possesses excellent ball skills and raised her level of fitness as well.

The pair anchor a midfield that is both seasoned and deep, particularly on the flanks.

Sophomore Kelly Burnham is coming off a solid freshman season, and will occupy the starting role on the right side. In 2003, she produced three goals and three assists while providing a steady defensive presence. Leightman wants to see the hard-working Burnham more involved in the offense this fall.

Three-year veteran Lauren Massey returns to her predominantly-defensive role in center midfield, where she has earned a reputation as a pure ball-winner. Freshman Tricia Reed could also drop back from the attack to spell Massey.

On the left, freshman Maria Krug has earned a starting role with her tenacious play. At Norwich High (Conn.), the left-footed Krug was a two-time all-state selection, and Leightman is excited about her ability to dominate from the left flank.

Junior Kelly Sanders will log a lot of minutes, as she did a year ago. The third-year New Jersey native has an excellent work rate.

Freshman Kerry O’Shaughnessy, the younger sister of senior captain, will see time on the right side. A solid all-around player with a competitive spirit, Kerry was a first-team all-county midfielder for North Rockland High in 2003.

Sophomore Bethany Katz and freshman Mackenzie Harris round out the midfield unit.

Back line needs to hold steady
As deep as the midfield pool is, the back line is thin, and avoiding injuries and breakdowns will be paramount to the team’s success in 2004.

Last season, BU lost starting center back Meghan Taylor for the first seven games, and the injury bug has claimed another starter — this time for the whole season. Sophomore Erica Eddy, who was a rock-solid wingback, suffered an early summer knee injury, and will be forced to sit out the entire 2004 campaign.

The 2003 defensive unit was prone to giving up goals in bunches — including four in a 21-minute span to conference champion Boston University, three in a 10-minute stretch against Syracuse and three in a 15-minute span at Northeastern.

Taylor, a potential all-conference back, is healthy and will hold down the middle spot. She is a strong all-around player who chipped in a pair of goals in 2003.

To her left is junior Vicky Vernicek, another gritty defender who started all 19 games last year.
Freshman Katie Kerrigan may get the start on the right side, unless Mathelier is dropped back from the attack. Kerrigan, an all-conference player and two-time team MVP for Pine Bush High, is a tough defender with good speed.

Freshman Christina Butler and Kerry O’Shaughnessy may also see time on the right. Butler was a sweeper for two-time sectional finalist Cornwall High, while O’Shaughnessy can rotate back from her midfield position if needed.

Bowers back between the pipes
Sophomore Kristie Bowers returns to a starting role in 2004, having gained invaluable experience from her freshman season.

“Kristie has good leadership skills and communication in back,” Leightman said. “We’re happy to have her back with a year under her belt.”

In 2003, Bowers maintained a 1.81 goals against average with six shutouts.

Classmate Kristy Doerner and freshman Liz Engle will vie for time in the backup role. Doerner saw action in three games last fall, allowing just three goals in 211 minutes. Engle was an all-county keeper for Centennial High in Maryland.

Home date with West Virginia highlights schedule
A 10-game non-conference slate features an October 10 rematch with powerful West Virginia, who advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 last season. The Mountaineers, who toppled BU 5-0 last year in Morgantown, are ranked No. 20 in SoccerBuzz’ preseason poll.

Other highlights include an early-season game at Big East member St. John’s (Sept. 5) and a September 14 date with fellow Central New York foe Cornell.

In all, BU will face teams from seven different conferences before the nine-game America East schedule begins. On the opening weekend, the Bearcats will hit the road for a tough two-game set at New Hampshire and Maine — teams that advanced to the conference semifinals and final, respectively, in 2003. If form holds from the past two seasons, playoff berths will come down to the final two regular-season games, when the Bearcats will host reigning champion Boston University (Oct. 28) and Northeastern (Oct. 30) in a three-day span.

With league standings offering three points for a win and just one for a tie, scoring remains at a premium. Binghamton knows full well the hazards of ties, as home draws with UMBC and New Hampshire cost the team crucial points and a subsequent berth in the six-team conference tournament.

Still searching for a measure of respect in the 10-team league, BU was tabbed eighth in the coaches’ preseason poll — a statement less about the program’s caliber of play than its lack of success on the scoreboard.

“The poll shows we haven’t proven ourselves in the conference the way we should have,” Leightman said. “You can talk all you want but you have to show your opponents. We have to prove we’re better and that we belong in the conference tournament.”

Leightman sees the conference race as wide open, though he concedes that most teams have improved from a year ago.

“I don’t think anyone will run away with the regular-season title this year,” he said. “There isn’t much separation between the teams. It depends on who plays the best on any given day.”

As for his team’s goals in 2004, Leightman paints a clear picture.

“We want to make the conference tournament and do well,” he said. “We can’t wait for things to happen, but need to take the game by the throat and guarantee a win. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but hopefully it will make it that much sweeter when we do get there.”

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