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For Immediate Release: August 27, 2009
Contact: John Hartrick (hartrick@binghamton.edu)
Phone: 607-777-6800

Influx of newcomers has BU women's soccer eying rise in ranks
Bearcats open season Friday night at Delaware

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WBNG "M-E Connection"

VESTAL, N.Y. - Second-year head coach Sarah McClellan quickly instilled a team unity and toughness that resulted in a turnaround season for Binghamton women’s soccer in 2008. Now, with eight starters back plus an eye-popping recruiting class, McClellan believes the 2009 Bearcats can make a strong push toward the top of the America East standings.

“The level of play in training is already higher than at any time since I’ve been here,” McClellan said. “Not only are the freshmen talented, but our returnees have come back ready to compete. This team’s commitment level is very high. I’m also very excited about the depth we have this season.”

After injuries took their toll on an already thin lineup last fall, McClellan hit the jackpot with a recruiting class of 13, many of whom will make an immediate impact with their talent and dedication.

“This (freshman) class will compete right away and won’t be satisfied with average,” McClellan said. “They will compliment our returnees and also challenge them to reach a new level. The freshmen have a great attitude and training habits and they want more than anything to make a positive
contribution to our team’s success. I think this class certainly helps to begin a new era at Binghamton.”

Just two years removed from a three-win campaign, BU is still in the midst of that building phase. But the Bearcats haven’t been without success, having advanced to the America East semifinals in back-to-back seasons. The 2009 team has veteran leadership in key positions and McClellan’s dynamic freshman class will lay the foundation for continued growth. The ‘09 Bearcats could showcase as many as seven underclassmen in the starting lineup with additional newcomers pushing for quality minutes.

GOALKEEPERS
McClellan has two very capable veterans in returning starter Jen McEachron and 2007 starter Erin Iman, and each is expected to see significant time.

McEachron, a senior, played every minute in ‘08, compiling seven shutouts and a 1.25 goals against average. She is an excellent 1-on-1 keeper and gained experience this past summer playing in the WPSL. Iman, a junior, sat out last season with a shoulder injury but is healthy and ready to contribute. She started 12 of 19 games in 2007, posted a 1.80 goals against average and is an excellent shot stopper. Sophomore Lindsay DeLap rounds out the group.

“Jen has really improved her vocal leadership and takes command of the box,” McClellan said. “Erin has a strong presence in the air and is good with the ball at her feet. Both players bring different strengths and I expect them both to see plenty of time in net.”

DEFENDERS
Several veterans anchor the back line in McClellan’s 4-3-3 alignment and this group figures to be steady and disciplined.

Junior Stefani Knopick and sophomore Jennifer Abbate are talented and versatile wing backs on the left and right, respectively. Knopick, an America East All-Rookie choice in ‘07, began to assert herself last season, contributing two goals and five points on the attack. An aggressive defender with excellent fitness, Knopick has started all 37 games in her young collegiate career. Abbate earned a starting role as a freshman and is a smart and tactical player who isn’t afraid to be physical.

“Stef has matured in her play and is more disciplined,” McClellan said of Knopick. “She is combative on the defensive side and is a dangerous threat on attack. I expect her to be an all-conference player this season.”

In the middle, senior Erica Goldberg will likely earn a significant role and potentially team up with freshman Alyssa Staubitz in the back line. Goldberg broke into the starting lineup last season and has become a consistent and highly competitive defender. Staubitz, an all-county defender from highly-regarded Massapequa High on Long Island, has impressed the coaching staff with her hard work and field sense.

Senior co-captain Nicole Montoya will see plenty of time, where her experience and leadership will be valuable to the newcomers. A soccer-smart defender with a calm demeanor, Montoya has started 45 collegiate games. Also back is talented sophomore Dani Raske — a second team America East all-star and all-rookie selection from a year ago. Raske, who led the team with seven goals and 19 points in 2008, will battle for time on the right side.

Freshman Meghan Campbell will push for time on the right flank as well as center midfield. Campbell has been one of the fittest athletes in camp and her speed and development have caught the attention of the coaching staff.

Also able to contribute on the outsides are junior Leora Kenney and freshmen Maureen DeAngles and Amanda Rittmeier.

MIDFIELDERS
Senior co-captain and all-region selection Amanda Casares remains the focal point of this unit as she begins her final collegiate season. Casares, a gifted playmaker, produced a team-high five assists in ‘08.

“Mandi is the driving force of our midfield,” McClellan said. “With the players we have around her, we are looking for her to build on her game this season.”

Redshirt freshman Brittany Walsh was expected to see a lot of time in center midfield last season before an injury ended her season after just four games. She has come back even stronger and is competing to play alongside Casares in the middle.

“Brittany is a capable player in the holding (defensive) center midfield slot, can direct the midfield and win challenges and also attack from a playmaking standpoint,” McClellan said.

Sophomores Mary DeWitte and Taylor Kucharski return in key roles in the midfield. DeWitte played a steady defensive midfield after returning from an early season injury last fall and added two goals in the team’s final four games. She is a solid ball-winner who McClellan sees as a potential all-conference player this year.

Kucharski is an excellent athlete who competed hard in 16 starts as a freshman. She has improved her speed of play and could also see some time up front.

Freshmen Emily Pape, Nicole Borner and Taylor McCavanagh give McClellan plenty of options at midfield. Pape is a very intuitive and competitive player who will push for a starting spot in the middle. Borner and McCavanagh are aggressive, defensive-minded players each with great upside.

“We will have a highly competitive midfield,” McClellan said of the entire unit. They will cover a lot of ground and we expect them to maintain a good shape and lend creativity to our attack.”

FORWARDS
This group has seen the most turnover from ‘08 and three freshmen have the inside track on starting spots this fall. Highlighting the group is local recruit Jamie Holliday, a first team Class A all-state selection from nearby Maine-Endwell High. Holliday pumped in 30 goals for an M-E team that captured its record fourth-straight sectional title last season. Also boasting strong scholastic pedigrees are freshmen Candice Rowland and Kerry Sullivan. Rowland is a speedy attacker and two-time sectional all-star from P.V. Moore High School. Sullivan is a former captain and four-year standout from Massapequa High — one of three newcomers from that perennial state power.

“This is where our strength lies, compared to last year’s team,” McClellan said. “We have new talent and with that, a strong threat on the attack, speed, and excellent 1-on-1 skills. This group can play as targets and at all cost, get the ball into the opposing box.”

Sullivan has amped up her intensity in preseason and will line up in the middle, where good size and strength will make her dangerous. McClellan sees her as a potential all-conference player right out of the gate. Holliday will utilize her speed and fitness on the right side where she can threaten a back line with a run or pass. Rowland, a good 1-on-1 player who can service the ball and finish around the net, will set up on the left.

Sophomore Annmarie Rizzi and senior Emily Cirillo as well as freshmen Carly Kirschner, Lisa Campbell and Mollie Bold will also compete for time up front. Rizzi scored two goals in seven early-season starts last fall before an injury curtailed her production. The veteran Cirillo is an excellent team leader who has sharpened her skills considerably. Waiting in the wings is talented transfer Sarah Furminger, who was an All-American at nearby Broome Community College and will be eligible for the 2010 season.

SCHEDULE
The Bearcats open the 2009 schedule at Delaware on August 28. The team will play five of its first six games on the road and has just six home games on the 16-game slate.

Binghamton will face non-conference opponents from the BIG EAST, Ivy League, Atlantic 10, MAC and MAAC before embarking on the traditional eight-game America East schedule.

"We will hit the ground running with this schedule," McClellan said. "Opening at Delaware will be a strong test for us right away. We will have to play with full effort and commitment given our road-heavy schedule. We will be asking our players to develop a performance maturity and professionalism very early on. It's important that we learn and improve in our non-conference competitions to be fully prepared for the America East."

After the season-opening match at CAA member Delaware, BU plays at A-10 member St. Joseph's (Aug. 30) and Cornell (Sept. 4) before welcoming BIG EAST foe Syracuse to the Bearcats Sports Complex on September 6. Binghamton averaged nearly 400 fans per game at the state-of-the-art complex in '08 and pushed the Orange to overtime in the facility's inaugural game in 2007.

A road trip to Western New York will produce games at MAAC member Niagara (Sept. 11) and Mid-American foe Buffalo (Sept. 13). The Purple Eagles went 12-5-1 last season. Binghamton will then host first-time opponent Temple on September 18. The team's final non-conference game is at Ivy League power Penn on October 14. The Quakers won the Ivy title in 2007 and advanced to the NCAA College Cup.

“We have a lot of games on the road and will need a strong focus to play to our potential,” McClellan said.

The conference slate begins with a tough test on the road against defending champion Boston on Sept. 27. Of the eight league games, BU will host Stony Brook (Oct. 4), Hartford (Oct. 8), UMBC (Oct. 18) and Vermont (Oct. 22). The top six teams advance to the conference championship, which begins with quarterfinal games on October 29. The Bearcats have advanced to the postseason five consecutive seasons.

OUTLOOK
Binghamton is accumulating the firepower to match up with the elite teams in the America East but how quickly the young players mature and adjust to the speed and grind of the college season remains to be seen. The Bearcats were saddled with injuries throughout the ‘08 season but barring a repeat of that circumstance, McClellan believes her team is poised to surprise some folks, particularly other conference coaches who voted BU fifth in the preseason poll.

“Our conference opponents will notice a different Binghamton team this year,” she said. “Our goal is to improve last year’s America East record and continue to qualify for the conference tournament. Within the conference, anyone can win on any given day. We know we have the talent and athleticism to compete in every game.”

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