Releases

For Immediate Release: August 23, 2006
Contact: John Hartrick (hartrick@binghamton.edu)
Phone: 607-777-6800

BU women's soccer hoping offensive boost will carry team to conference title
Bearcats open season Friday against Georgetown; picked third in preseason poll

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."

GOALKEEPING
Anchoring the defensive unit again will be senior keeper Kristie Bowers, who has turned into a dependable if not spectacular collegiate goalie. Bowers posted a 0.73 goals against average in 2005, with nine shutouts. She was named to the America East honorable mention all-conference squad.

"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."

Backing her up is capable senior tri-captain Kristy Doerner and a pair of freshmen - Jen McEachron and Katrina Burkgren. Doerner had a 1.09 goals against average in three games last season.

BACK LINE
Looking to take over the reigns at center back is junior tri-captain Erica Eddy, an excellent ball-winner who has emerged as a vocal leader in back. Returning starter Katie Kerrigan is a lock on the right side, where she started 19 games as a sophomore. Kerrigan is a fierce defender who pushed up to score three goals in 2005. Earning the starting role on the left is freshman Nicole Montoya - a talented recruit from Long Beach, California. Montoya is very skilled and composed for a young player, and Leightman believes she can also be a weapon as the team pushes forward.

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.

In 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.

MIDFIELD
Senior Kelly Burnham and junior tri-captain Tricia Reed - both second team all-conference selections in 2005 - keep this year's unit a strong one. Burnham is a run-all-day player on the right flank, and she produced five goals and one assist a year ago. Reed occupies one of the middle spots in Leightman's 3-5-2 alignment, and her ball skills and leadership were apparent as a sophomore. Reed also chipped in two game-winning goals and an assist.

"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.

"Katie is a fast, left-footed player who will provide great attack for us from the left flank," Leightman said.

Adding yet more experience to the midfield ranks are
sophomores Kim Thomas and Charlotte Foster and the junior sister duo of Betsy and Mackenzie Harris. This fall, the Bearcats will also welcome freshmen newcomers Jillian Fickbohm and Talitha Wood to the fold.

FORWARD
Up front, BU will turn to veteran strikers in senior Danielle White and junior Kim Povill. White led the team with nine goals in 2005 - including five in eight conference games. Four of her nine tallies were game-winners. After a seven-goal, 22-point freshman season, Povill was limited to two tallies in 2005, but she remains a dangerous threat at all times.

"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.

SCHEDULE
The Bearcats will play a 17-game slate with eight home dates. The team will begin its schedule with the nine non-conference games before embarking on the eight-game America East portion, which Leightman hopes will conclude with a conference tournament berth.

"We're 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 the region."

Binghamton plays its first four games on the road, beginning with two games at the Navy Tournament on August 25 and 27. The Bearcats will face Georgetown in the season opener in Annapolis before taking on the host Midshipmen two days later. Georgetown won 12 games and reached the Big East quarterfinals and Navy won 10 games playing out of the Patriot League.

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.

AMERICA EAST
The marquee matchups in America East play will be home dates with defending champion Boston University (October 8) and a rematch with 2005 runnerup Maine (October 15). The Terriers advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last fall while the Black Bears ended Binghamton's season on penalty kicks in the America East semifinals.

"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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