Immediate Release: August 23, 2006
VESTAL, N.Y. - With the team's top three goal scorers back from a year ago, and a strong midfield unit anchored by a pair of all-conference players, Binghamton women's soccer should continue to be among the top teams in the America East Conference in 2006. Along the way, the team is poised to extend a rather impressive streak - the program has delivered 19 consecutive winning seasons. Ninth-year head coach Jeff Leightman sees no reason why his 2006 edition can't accomplish both goals.
"We fully expect to challenge for another America East crown (BU won the title in 2004)," Leightman said. "Every year we strive to bring our program one step further than the year before, and being eliminated on penalty kicks last season (in the semifinals) left a bitter taste in our mouths."
Getting back to the conference championship game will require a boost up front, where one goal often decides tightly-contested league contests. While outscoring opponents 25-16 last fall, BU fell silent in several crucial games, including shutout losses to eventual champion Boston and finalist Maine (albeit a 0-0 deadlock). In all, the Bearcats were blanked seven times in 2005.
"With the personnel we have, we feel we can present a number of new looks up front this season," Leightman said. "At times last season, we struggled finishing the ball. But this year we expect to be able to inject some more creativity into our attack and work on instilling more of a scoring mentality."
While Leightman is excited about a more creative attack, new defenders will have to play key roles if the team is going to maintain its trademark stingy back line. Binghamton ranked fourth in the nation in save percentage last season (87.6%) and held its last nine opponents to one goal or less, including three shutouts in the team's final four games. Graduation, however, has swept away all-conference center back Meghan Taylor and veteran wing back Vicky Vernicek.
"Any time you lose players like Meghan and Vicky, there is going to be an adjustment," Leightman said. "That being said, we are very excited about the personnel we have in the back. While it may take time, we can become a cohesive unit and hopefully build a trust back there that we won't be beat very often."
"Kristie continues to impress me every year," Leightman said. "She always seems to make the clutch save when we need her and her confidence is very high."
Junior Lorin Weidman has the intangibles to be a solid contributor in back, and possesses a long throw-in that is dangerous on the attack. Fellow upperclassmen junior Christina Butler also will continue to add depth after appearing in 13 games as a sophomore. Newcomer Erica Goldberg also figures to challenge for playing time.
all, the back line is young and unproven, but what it lost in
savvy it may have gained in athleticism and potential. How this
group blends together early on may determine what kind of momentum
the Bearcats can carry into conference play in late September.
"Tricia has grown into one of our leaders," Leightman said. "She has a great presence in the central midfield, and she is very skillful both on the attack and defensively."
Junior Kerry O'Shaughnessy returns to her familiar spot in the middle after playing in all 20 games a year ago. She'll be joined by promising recruit Amanda Casares, who has earned a starting role. Casares was a four-time New Jersey all-state selection and has a great work rate to compliment her creative playmaking. Another exciting recruit (BU ranked among the nation's top 100 in recruiting according to SoccerBuzz.com) set to open on the left is freshman Katie Eaton, who played her high school soccer at nearby Chenango Valley. Eaton was a two-time all-state forward who tallied 80 goals in her scholastic career.
is a fast, left-footed player who will provide great attack for
us from the left flank," Leightman said.
"Kim is a creative attacker with a dominating mindset," Leightman said. "She is a very tough competitor who can be a goal scorer or a playmaker."
Sophomore forward Kelly Haslinger added five points in a solid 19-game freshman season, and she should offer relief up front or in the midfield.
excited entering this year with a challenging schedule,"
Leightman said. "It presents us with the opportunity to
prepare ourselves even better for our America East games. I believe
that playing some of the top teams in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
regions will help cement our standing among the top echelon in
Things don't get much easier one week later when BU travels to Pittsburgh and Morgantown, W.Va. for back-to-back matches with Pitt and powerhouse West Virginia on September 1 and 3. The No. 19 Mountaineers went 11-5-3, including a perfect 7-0 record at home, and capped their season with a sixth straight NCAA tournament appearance.
The home opener is September 6 against Syracuse - a 1-0 loser to BU last fall. The Bearcats will also have a tough test on September 17 against an LIU team that went 13-6-1 and was runnerup in the Northeast Conference.
"This year's run in the America East could be one of the most exciting in recent years," Leightman said. "There is a great deal of parity in the conference. Looking at it now I feel that six teams could have a legitimate chance of winning the championship and representing the America East in the NCAA College Cup. It's likely to be an incredibly tight race and nobody can rest on previous success."
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