soccer looks to recharge offense
seasons removed from owning the fifth-highest scoring offense
in the nation, head coach Jeff Leightman will look to restore
that potent attack as the 2003 campaign opens. After witnessing
a 21-goal drop from his teams 2001 efficiency (55 goals)
and seeing the programs string of double-digit wins end
at 13 seasons, Leightman is counting on better fortunes up front
as his program enters its second season in the America East Conference.
Despite netting 34 goals last season, including 12 by senior
striker Tracy Kasmarcik, BUs offense sputtered in
conference games. The team managing just three goals in its final
seven America East contests, and that shortage led to three one-goal
defeats and subsequent omission from post-season just
the third time in the last 15 years that the Bearcats didnt
gain a post-season invitation.
Scoring is a mindset, Leightman said. In 2001
we knew we were going to score and had so much confidence.
Last year when we hit posts and crossbars, heads went down and
we just got to the point where we knew we werent
going to score. Success breads success, and failure breads failure.
When we played with a lead last year, we were 9-0, so that tells
you how crucial the first goal is. Hopefully we can build that
is loaded with youth
The off-season was a busy one for Leightman, who beefed up his
program with 13 newcomers all freshmen. How quickly those
rookies - including the programs lone goalkeepers - develop
will help determine the teams success in 2003. Sixteen
of BUs 23 roster spots are now filled by underclassmen,
and there could be as many as seven underclassmen in the starting
While that contingent lacks collegiate experience, it does provide
sheer athletic numbers a luxury Leightman ran short of
We were certainly hurt by our lack of depth last year,
carries load on offense
Leightman knows his team must capitalize on its aggressive attack
to move up the ranks in the America East Conference, and BUs
fortunes up front remain heavily weighted upon Kasmarcik,
a first-team All-America East pick who has led the team in scoring
all three collegiate seasons. The 5-foot-7 speedster was a second
team all-region pick by both the NSCAA and SoccerBuzz, and her
95 career points ranks fourth on BUs all-time list. Kasmarcik
tends to score in bunches (10 multiple-scoring games) but will
have to assert herself on a consistent basis against America
East foes, who held the 39-goal career scorer in check last season.
Tracy is a game-breaker, Leightman said. You
can keep her contained for 89 minutes but then shell score
two goals or set up two in a span of a minute. Shes one
of those special kind of players. Last year, she got a bit unlucky
with a scoring drought, but hopefully this season shell
be able to bury balls in the back of the net again. Tracy creates
chances that most others cant, and on any given day she
is the most dangerous player on the field.
Joining Kasmarcik at the top of Leightmans 3-5-2 alignment
is freshman Kelly Burnham who like Kasmarcik is
a homegrown talent from nearby Endicott, N.Y. Burnham was a two-time
all-state forward for Union-Endicott High School, and like her
senior linemate, has a knack for the goal, as witnessed by her
22 goals for U-E last season.
Kelly is very athletic and has a goal scorers mentality,
Leightman said. She works incredibly hard and has a nose
for the goal. She has a great collegiate career ahead of her.
We have just begun to see the tip of the iceberg with regard
to her skills.
Graduate student Irene Morales and freshman Danielle
White should see some time up front as well. Morales, a three-year
veteran, has an outstanding work rate, while White was an all-state
striker for Haddon Township in New Jersey, and has impressed
the coaching staff in pre-season.
In Leightmans five-player formation, this unit will be
expected to push forward and contribute at the offensive end.
All five projected starters are returnees, headed in the middle
by junior co-captains Deli Plourde and Caitlin OShaughnessy.
Both players were starters last season, with OShaughnessy
collecting six points and Plourde adding five. The diminutive
Plourde distributes the ball well, while OShaughnessy can
utilize her speed to join the attack. Both players will play
pivotal roles in Leightmans scheme.
Caitlin has had a great pre-season and is playing in top
form, Leightman said. She gives us an attacking presence
out of the center midfield, and were counting on her to
take over the role of (graduated) Amanda Norman. Deli is a very
skillful player who is also a great leader on and off the field.
Steady sophomore Lauren Massey returns to the middle,
in a primarily defensive role. The Ontario native earned America
East and SoccerBuzz All-Rookie honors last fall after tallying
six points and playing strong on-the-ball defense. She is a durable
athlete who Leightman will depend on as both a ball-winner and
Set to occupy the flanks are senior Danielle Kosecki and
sophomore Kelly Sanders. Kosecki is returning to form
after off-season back surgery an injury that limited her
role last season. The three-year letterwinner possesses outstanding
fitness, and could be primed for a strong campaign. Sanders meanwhile,
started 12 games as a freshman, and has impressed Leightman with
her improved speed and attacking ability.
line is teams strongest unit
This unit was solid in 2002, and should be an even bigger asset
in 2003. A year after injuries led to a nine-player rotation
in back, Leightman has four strong defenders, led in the middle
by all-conference selection Meghan Taylor. As a freshman,
Taylor started all 18 games in back, and registered five points
while anchoring a unit that held opponents to nearly one goal
a game (1.1) in 2002. Back to Taylors left is sophomore
Vicky Vernicek, who started six of eight games before
shin splints curtailed her freshman campaign. Both players elicit
strong praise from Leightman.
As defenders go, Meghan is as tough as they come,
he said. She is deceptively quick and doesnt get
beat very often. She has a great defenders mentality. And
Vicky has restored her fitness after her injury, and is quick
and confident. She is becoming the defender weve wanted
her to be.
The back line was bolstered with the addition of junior Tatiana
Mathelier - a gifted athlete who moves from forward to defense.
Mathelier, whose production was hampered by injuries, was nonetheless
BUs second leading scorer last season with five goals and
15 points. Leightman is banking on her speed and athleticism
in her new role on the back line.
Freshman Erica Eddy is another local recruit who will
play a key role in 2003. The former all-state scholastic midfielder
and five-year letterwinner for Norwich High is a very strong
defender who can also move up to midfield.
Overall, the defensive unit is a key strength, especially as
Leightman breaks in two freshmen keepers in 2003.
Our speed and athleticism is much better in back,
he said. We can become a cohesive unit and hopefully build
a trust back there that we wont be beat very often.
challenge for first-year goalkeepers
With the graduation of acrobatic all-conference keeper Lauren
Cherry, BU loses the luxury of a game-saving veteran. Two freshmen,
Kristie Bowers and Kristy Doerner, begin their
collegiate careers, with Bowers likely getting the starting nod.
A former all-state keeper for Greece Olympia High, Bowers captained
her team to the sectional quarterfinals last fall, recording
the most saves in school history.
Kristie has very good confidence for a freshman, and she
is very vocal, Leightman said. She takes charge of
the defense, and organizes us well.
Doerner, meanwhile, was a three-time all-conference keeper for
Shoreham-Wading River High. She set the schools shutout
record with seven during her junior season.
Any time you have two freshmen keepers with nobody to learn
from, there is a mystery there, Leightman said. We
need one of them to step up and mature very quickly, and Kristie
has done that. But only time will tell. Our defenders will have
to develop a trust, and work harder to protect our goal.
is most demanding in program history
The Bearcats have little room to breathe during an 18-game regular-season
(8 home, 10 away) that begins with an away encounter at Big East
member Syracuse, and also features six straight road games in
late September. In addition to the season-opener against the
Orangewomen, BU has a challenging non-conference slate which
also includes West Virginia, Navy, St. Johns and UMass.
In Morgantown, W.Va., the Bearcats will face a premier squad
that went 18-3-1 and advanced to the NCAA second round in 2002.
Navy lost just once in 21 games, while St. Johns won 11
games and captured the ECAC Championship.
In addition, the Bearcats will face a Niagara team that advanced
to the ECAC tournament, and St. Bonaventure and FDU teams that
won 10 and nine games, respectively, in 2002. In all, it is the
toughest schedule ever thrust upon a BU team, and Leightman hopes
that early-season experience will pay off in October, when the
Bearcats close out their season with eight-straight America East
I think the schedule is the most challenging weve
ever had, Leightman confessed. Well see a bunch
of regionally top-10 teams and a national top-5 program in West
Virginia. Weve got a lot of long road trips and six straight
away games in September. That should really prepare us for the
Bearcats need to zero-in on conference games
The shortcomings during a solid 9-7-2 season in 2002 were limited
to a handful of games against America East foes, when the Bearcats
werent as focused as their opponents. Not having played
conference games since 1999 hurt the team, which seemed to lack
the intensity needed for tight conference play. Leightman hopes
that learning curve will reap benefits during 2003 league matches.
I think we went into last season not realizing how important
America East games were. Now we know that these games in September
are to prepare us for October, and weve got to be peaking
in October and not necessarily now.
to post-season remains the primary goal
Having lost four starters and loaded with youth, BU was picked
to finish seventh in the 10-team America East Conference. With
the addition of Maryland, Baltimore County, the top six teams
will advance to the conference tournament in 2003. But despite
the frustration of back-to-back 1-0 conference defeats that ended
BUs 2002 post-season hopes, Leightman feels his team has
the ability to win every time out, as witnessed in BUs
1-0 upset of conference champion and pre-season pick Hartford
last October. In fact, the Bearcats margin of defeat in
four conference losses was a combined five goals meaning
the program isnt too far away from contending.
I think last year we showed other teams what Binghamton
soccer is all about from a performance standpoint,
Leightman said. But Im not sure we showed our ability
in terms of outcome. We want to get better every game and be
playing our best soccer in November and be playing in
the America East tournament.