Immediate Release: August 29, 2007
After 19 straight winning seasons, the 2006 squad struggled finding the net and the result was a 7-8-3 campaign that ended in the America East quarterfinals. With nine starters and 18 letterwinners back, plus a strong core of newcomers, Leightman is hoping to extend his team's stay at the conference tournament.
"We were disappointed in the results at the end of last season," he said. "We starting playing good soccer in the second half of the season though. Obviously we'll look to finish more of our chances this year and hopefully make a deeper run in the post-season."
With added depth and experience across the board, the Bearcats head to Akron, Ohio, to open their 2007 season at the Westfield Cup. Binghamton will face former conference foe Northeastern in the opener on Friday, August 31, before lining up against the host Zips two days later. Last year's team went winless for the first five games of the season - a trend Leightman does not want to repeat.
"The difference between this year's group and last year is night and day," he said. "We have a much deeper and more talented and experienced team this year. We expect a lot more from this year than we could last year. Injuries will play part though. Right now we are very injured, but once we get healthy, we could be very successful."
"We need to get more production from our forwards this year," Leightman said. "We are healthier up top so we'll have a full compliment of forwards. We'll also need our midfield to become credible goal-scoring threats."
Senior striker Kim Povill provides the determination and skill set to be a force up top. Though more of a playmaker than a natural goal scorer, Povill tallied three goals with a pair of assists in 2006 and is a physical presence throughout the field. Joining her up front is speedy senior Danielle White, who returns after missing most of the 2006 season with an injury. Two years ago, White exploded for a team-high nine goals.
Freshman Jenna Luvin and junior Kelly Haslinger should offer valuable minutes off the bench. Haslinger, who also can play center midfield, scored three goals last season. Juniors Jillian Fickbohm and Charlotte Foster also return.
"Tricia is very skilled and has a great attacking personality," he said. "She came into preseason playing fantastic and continues to be our leader on the field. She likes to push forward and take on defenders, and she is good in the air with her height."
Joining Reed in the middle of Leightman's 3-5-2 alignment is sophomore Amanda Casares, who played in 14 games as a freshman, and first-year talent Casey Pedersen. Casares is very quick and active all over the field, while the 5-foot-11 Pedersen is a good ball-winner who is tactically very sound.
"Those three (Reed, Casares, Pedersen) could be very good," Leightman said. "It's a great combination of different personalities."
Junior Kim Thomas will see a lot of time in the middle as well. Healthy and much improved, Thomas has impressed Leightman this pre-season.
"Kim is playing fantastic," he said. "She is smart, sprays balls around and is finding the open player and settling us down."
On the flanks, sophomore Katie Eaton and freshman Stefani Knopick have secured starting spots on the left and right, respectively. Eaton earned a starting berth in 2006, and when healthy, is a quick attacking player with speed. Knopick is one of the fittest players on the team, and is an excellent two-way player.
Senior Kerry O'Shaughnessy, a two-year starter, will move from the middle to the outside and rotate with Knopick on the right side.
In all, the group offers Leightman numerous combinations. "If they are healthy, the midfield could be the strongest we've ever had," he said. "
"If we could get healthy, we should be improved from last year," Leightman said.
Seniors Erica Eddy and Katie Kerrigan, who both played all 18 games a year ago, anchor the unit. Eddy, a captain, is a smart center back who is good in the air and organizes the team well. Kerrigan is a tough-minded wing back whose grit is unmatched. Rounding out the returning starting trio is sophomore Nicole Montoya, an America East all-rookie pick in 2006. Montoya came in fitter this pre-season, and is a very good 1-on-1 defender who is comfortable starting the attack.
That group spearheaded a BU defense that produced eight shutouts and a 0.96 goals against average last fall.
Freshmen Dani Raske and Leora Kenney are talented newcomers who are expected to see considerable time. Raske is a powerful back who is quick and versatile, though her status is in question with an injury. Kenney is a scrappy ball-winner who will have to learn the collegiate game "on the job" as she is been thrust into a key role.
Senior Lorin Weidman, a solid 1-on-1 defender who can produce a long throw-in, will see minutes off the bench. Senior Christina Butler and sophomore Erica Goldberg are both hard-working defenders who round out the unit.
"Erin will step in and do a great job," Leightman said. "Kristie's leadership will be hard to replace but Erin has all the tools to be a top notch Division I keeper. Collectively, our three goalies are strong."
"We're excited for the game on September 18 ... to fire up the lights and play in front of a big crowd," Leightman said of the inaugural game at the new facility. "We will be embarking ona new era of soccer at Binghamton.
"The non-conference schedule will be challenging," he said. "The Florida trip will push us at a high level. It's exciting to have an ACC school on our schedule for the first time. They are the top conference in the nation."
The Bearcats will face 2006 NCAA tournament teams in Niagara and LIU, and continue their regional rivalry with the Orange.
The America East schedule is an eight-game slate that leads into the post-season tournament. The top six teams advance, and Leightman knows the margin for error is slim.
"Everyone has gotten better in the conference," he said. "The days of a one-horse race are gone. There are no easy games and the difference between first place and sixth is usually a goal or two. Every game will be a battle and the team that finishes chances and gets hot at the end of October will be in the driver's seat."
"We've got a talented core and I'm confident this year will be an improvement over last year," Leightman said.
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