| Season Preview - Women's Soccer|
BU riding offensive wave into first America East season
Head coach Jeff Leightman has always put a premium on offense, and his Binghamton teams have responded with some eye-opening numbers against Division I opponents in each of the last two seasons. Last season’s average of 2.9 goals per game ranked fifth in the entire nation, and lifted the Bearcats to a 12-5-2 record and post-season berth in the team’s first season as a Division I member.
Leightman’s 2002 squad will likely need all of that firepower, again, as they meet a stiffer challenge in the program’s first year in the America East Conference.
“Our attacking ability certainly remains our biggest asset,” Leightman said. “Goals will be harder to come by this year, but we will need to maintain that scoring production.”
Kasmarcik leads an explosive attack
Leading the way up front is junior Tracy Kasmarcik, who has netted 27 goals in her first two collegiate seasons. Her 15-goal, seven-assist performance last fall was one of the best offensive outputs in program history – especially given the high level of competition. Kasmarcik knocked in three game-winning goals and earned second team NSCAA All-Northeast honors. During BU’s 10-game unbeaten string to end the regular-season, she scored eight goals, and during the course of the 19-game season, Kasmarcik never went more than two games without scoring a goal.
“Tracy is truly a prolific striker with great one-on-one attacking ability,” Leightman said. “She combines that with speed and a knack for finding the back of the net.”
Joining Kasmarcik on the attack is sophomore Tatiana Mathelier, who scored nine goals in eight starts despite nursing knee and ankle injuries throughout the season. A former first team all-state scholastic standout in New Jersey, Mathelier scored twice in her collegiate debut, netted goals in five consecutive games mid-season, and added two game-winners in 16 contests.
“Tatiana was hampered by injuries her entire freshman season,” Leightman said. “She is a dynamic striker with great speed, and we expect her to play a bigger role this season.”
All-time assists leader Sarah Young has graduated, leaving a spot open if Leightman should return to a 3-4-3 alignment in 2002. Senior all-purpose player Rosey Mustafa and sophomore Emily Moore are the most likely candidates to move up front.
Mustafa, a tri-captain, has played everywhere except keeper in her collegiate career, and has five goals and 14 points in her last two seasons. Moore is a skillful midfielder who can attack from the flank. She scored twice and added three assists in her freshman season.
Midfield unit awaiting freshman phenom
Veterans Amanda Norman and Danielle Kosecki return to anchor a midfield corps that attacks aggressively down the flanks. Kosecki, a junior tri-captain, is back on the left side, where she can run for 90 minutes. In 18 games last season, she collected two goals and three assists, and her work rate is crucial to BU’s offensive mindset.
Norman will again patrol the middle of the field, where despite an off-season, she tallied a team-high seven assists with three goals in 2001.
“Amanda returned to form in the spring, and still remains our most creative player,” Leightman said. “She has wonderful technical ability, and we will look to her to be our field general this fall.”
Sophomore tri-captain Deli Plourde will again see plenty of time at midfield after a solid freshman campaign. She played in all 19 games and contributed seven points.
“At 5-foot-2, Deli is small but incredibly dangerous,” Leightman said. “She is one of the most gifted technical players on the team, and is good at finding the seams to penetrate defenses.”
The right side might be handled by committee, with sophomores Caitlin O’Shaughnessy and Moore, and Mustafa all in the mix.
O’Shaughnessy earned praise from Leightman for her spring season, and has the inside track on the starting role. She played in 15 games as a freshman, collecting three points.
Highly-touted freshman Lauren Massey will move into the central midfield position, and will immediately play a key role in the team’s success. Massey, from Burlington, Ontario, played on the Ontario Provincial team that won the Canadian national championship, and has outstanding skills.
“Lauren is a strong central midfielder who will give us a presence in the middle,” Leightman said. “She is a great distributor, and will be a link between defending and springing an attack.” Massey could also be used in the back if needed.
Anderson heads revamped back line
This group took a hit in the off-season, but is a talented, albeit lean unit. Two-thirds of the starting trio must be replaced, most notably stellar center back Alyson Cammann, who stabilized the line.
Senior wing back Tracey Anderson, the lone returning starter, will move from the right to the left side. Anderson, a hard-nosed defender with good long-ball service, helped secure six shutouts last season.
In the middle, Leightman is counting on talented freshman Meghan Taylor to step in and seize the role. Taylor played five years for Washingtonville High (N.Y.), earning NSCAA/Adidas All-East Region honors as a senior. A three-time team MVP, Taylor was also invited to attend National Pool Training Camp in San Diego.
“Meghan is a tremendous ball-winner and an outstanding leader,” Leightman said. “We look for her to anchor the back line.”
Another newcomer — freshman Vicky Vernicek — is slated to start on the right side. Vernicek is a versatile player who can defend and attack out of the back. She was twice named first team all-state for Randolph High, which happens to be Leightman’s hometown in New Jersey.
The back line is low on numbers, meaning Mustafa will be Leightman’s insurance policy.
Cherry back between the pipes again
Two-year starter Lauren Cherry is back for her senior season. Last fall, Cherry posted a 1.51 goals against average and earned six shutouts. She possesses great mobility and a propensity for the big save — as witnessed by her penalty kick saves against UMass and Niagara last year.
“Lauren is the prototypical keeper,” Leightman said. “She has size and great mobility. She has become a force in net for us.”
America East slate highlights schedule
The 18-game schedule will present a much different look to BU fans, who will see only five holdover teams from the 2001 slate — St. John’s, Howard, St. Bonaventure, FDU and Albany. The biggest change is the addition of the eight-game America East Conference slate, which will dominate the final five weeks of the season. The Bearcats will see two perennial top-25 teams in two-time reigning conference champion Boston University and eight-time America East champion Hartford. Both teams advanced to the NCAA tournament last fall, and both will visit the West Gym field for back-to-back marquis games on October 20 (Boston) and October 24 (Hartford).
“The America East is a very good conference that is probably a bit underrated,” Leightman said. “You have two traditionally strong programs at Boston and Hartford, plus some up-and-coming teams who have shown promise in recent years. It’s a great honor to join these teams. We’re excited to battle in this league.”
Highlighting the non-conference slate are games with 2001 NCAA tournament team Syracuse, a rematch with BIG EAST member St. John’s, and dates with solid Colgate and Buffalo programs.
Binghamton will open the season with four straight home games, beginning with a first-ever matchup against Lafayette on August 30. Syracuse comes to town on September 8, and two days later, BU will head to Queens to face a St. John’s team that will be looking for revenge. The Bearcats toppled the Red Storm 1-0 in double overtime last season.
A four-games-in-10-days stretch will likely determine BU’s fate in the nine-team conference. Beginning on October 17, BU will face Stony Brook, Boston, Hartford and Northeastern (Oct. 27).
The top four teams will advance to the America East Championship on November 8 and 10, and Leightman is hopeful his young squad can work its way into a playoff position.
“We want to build on what we achieved at the end of last season,” Leightman said. “Our goal is to make an impact in the conference. We have to play consistent and stay injury-free.”
Small roster means key roles for many
At the break of pre-season camp, BU was down to just 16 players — a number that concerns Leightman.
In particular, BU can’t afford to be depleted on a back line already limited to three primary defenders — or up front, where Kasmarcik and Mathelier accounted for 44% of the team’s offense last season. In fact, of the team’s scoring production from a year ago, that duo accounted for 44%, and another 35% has graduated.
Continuing the team’s offensive production will be crucial, given the added pressure the young defense will be under. That defense will try to reverse a 2001 trend of giving up goals in bunches — a stat that was apparent in BU’s five defeats last year. In four of the five losses, opponents bunched two goals within a five-minute span.
“Team defense is a concern for us,” Leightman acknowledged. “We have to be more disciplined and defend as a cohesive unit and not individually. Last year, when we made mistakes, we usually paid for them.”
Bearcats will again push forward
Binghamton’s aggressive attack no doubt opens the door for some counterattacks, but Leightman feels the trade-off is worth it. “We throw numbers forward and play an entertaining and unpredictable style. The way I see it, the more pressure we put on another team, the less pressure we will see ourselves.”
As for his team’s reliance on freshmen in key roles, Leightman is straight to the point. “I’m excited about our strong incoming class. We need to get a lot from them.”
While extending the program’s 16-year string of winning seasons is the first priority, Leightman always has his eye, and his team’s focus, on a bigger goal. And rarely have his teams disappointed.
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