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Junior Stephani Church is the leading returning scorer for the Bearcats. She scored five goals in 2013, including four game-winners.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Women’s soccer preview: Bearcats poised for breakout year
August 27, 2014Tweet
With depth in back, skilled players up the middle and an influx of newcomers ready to contribute right away, it’s easy to see why Binghamton women’s soccer coach Sarah McClellan is eager to start the 2014 season. McClellan returns seven starters and 19 letterwinners from last fall’s team that pushed its way into the postseason.
Now with an incoming class of eight freshmen fighting for time, the seventh-year mentor has plenty of options up and down the roster and isn’t shy about expressing her optimism.
“We’re really excited about this group. … This is going to be a special team for us – we figured that out in the first couple days of preseason,” McClellan said. “The new girls are playing like they’ve been here for a long time and our returners came in ready to play. The sky is the limit for this group.”
Ten non-conference and eight America East encounters await the Bearcats, who open with four of five at home.
Tri-captains Gold, Gormley and Raber form key nucleus up middle
Senior center back Connie Gormley, an all-conference selection and four-year starter, anchors the back line as she’s done since her arrival on campus. Behind her, senior keeper Gaby Gold is back after posting a 1.00 goals against average in 2013. Relentless midfielder Rebecca Raber is coming off a sophomore season that saw her earn first team all-conference honors. Raber will control the middle of the field and direct the team’s attack. The trio will play a pivotal role in the team’s success, both from an operational standpoint on the field but equally important, a leadership role with the underclassmen.
Gold is the team’s returning starter and her presence between the pipes will settle the Bearcats. She played in 13 games last season, splitting time with Carrie Martin, who has now graduated. McClellan will likely keep her in-game tandem rotation, as freshman Katie Hatziyianis has quickly emerged as a viable shot stopper.
Hatziyianis was a first team all-state goalie who led her Massapequa High team to the state championship last fall. She is a fluid athlete who can make big saves and much like former Bearcat standout and current assistant Kristie Bowers ’07, Hatziyianis may be the four-year stalwart keeper McClellan has been coveting.
Redshirt freshman Haley Downin has good size and strength and is emerging as she comes off a redshirt 2013 season. Downin’s development gives the Bearcats three keepers who are game-ready and will push each other in training every day.
Despite injuries, senior Alyssa Gutierrez and walk-on freshman Lili Ruland are high quality contributors.
Returning to join Gormley in back is sophomore Allison Mack, who will start on the left side of Binghamton’s 4-3-3 alignment. Mack started 14 games as a freshman, both at outside back and center midfield, and she’s a capable defender who has added more confidence and composure on the ball.
Junior Alyssa Vallar, who played in 12 games last year, is competing for a starting spot in the middle. She reads the game well, came into camp with good foot speed and can also play on the outside.
Sophomore Kasey Brida has made big strides since her freshman season and is in the mix for significant time on the outside. She played in nine games last fall but has impressed the coaching staff this August with increased precision, communication and consistency.
Another sophomore who has shown significant improvement is Kelly Corrado, the team’s biggest back at 5-foot-11. Corrado had a strong spring before playing at a high level in the WPSL this summer. She has earned ample minutes at center and outside back.
A trio of freshmen – Emma Maslin, Katherine Millet and Hannah Shankman – will push for time in back. Maslin is working through pre-season injuries but offers a big upside at center back. A local recruit with five years of experience under McClellan’s coaching, Maslin is very fit with sound technique. Millet has a can-do attitude and is rapidly building confidence. Shankman is a versatile player who can attack from the back. Another first-year player, Valerie McNamara, a four-year ODP member from the Buffalo area, can play in back or at midfield.
All-Rookie selection O’Neill helps solidify central midfield
The Bearcats have always produced strong central midfielders and this year’s unit is no exception. It begins with Raber, a dynamic player who can score from any range and is a fierce competitor. With the graduation of veteran leader Emma Kurth, sophomore Katie O’Neill moves up to midfield from the back line, where she earned America East All-Rookie honors after starting 17 games as a freshman. O’Neill is dangerous on the attack with either foot, has speed and a competitive fire.
Senior Emily Nuss is back in a starting role for her final collegiate campaign. She can play the attacking or holding center positions and her experience will be vital to the unit.
Sophomore Aly Falinski offers a high work rate and good service with either foot. Her role will expand as she continues to return to form from an injury.
Multiple attacking weapons could boost production
Many times great play and time of possession don’t yield goals in college soccer. The Bearcats fell victim to this reality in 2013 when they were held to one goal or less in 13 (of 18) games. The margin is ever so slight, especially in conference play, and two seems to be the magic number. Binghamton was 5-0 when striking twice in a game and 1-7 when surrendering two or more goals.
But in 2014, McClellan is most excited about her attacking unit.
“We have a lot of dangerous options,” she said. “We can play 6-7 forwards during a game and not have a drop-off.”
Chief among those weapons is junior Stephani Church, the team’s leading returning scorer. Church netted five goals in 2013, including four game-winners. She came into camp in great shape and with speed and a comfort level with the system, Church could jump that goal-scoring number up higher.
Junior Katherine Corcoran is one of the most underrated players on the team. She is dangerous with the ball on either foot and is a very technical player who will draw attention and create havoc for defenders. She tallied seven points in 17 starts last season and McClellan expects that output to grow.
Another third-year player with speed and ball skills is Samantha Crane, who played in all 18 games last season with eight starts.
Two freshmen who will turn some heads up top are Jocelyn Acor and Patricia Hanley. Acor is a speedster who scored 35 goals for Hornell High last year. Aside from her finishing skills, Acor can dribble and apply heavy pressure tracking on defense. Hanley has impressed the coaches in preseason with her attacking runs and work rate. Both players are expected to receive quality minutes in the forward rotation, as should redshirt freshman Jacque Rice, a physical player who has an unpredictable attack.
Sophomore Leighann Bennett, who played in nine games last year, and junior Jacqueline Ehrenreich, round out the unit. Sophomore Michele Galvin, who netted three goals in 2013, will sit out the season with an injury.
McClellan high on team’s attitude, communication
Talent can take a team only so far and McClellan believes in addition to the collective skillset on the field, her 2014 edition has a great attitude and a heightened sense of responsibility for training and performance.
“We’re working together very well,” she said. “The players have shown a willingness to embrace our challenge of communication and they understand that process and preparation are imperative to achieving results.”
Not lost on any player or coach in the program is the fact that this year is the 10-year anniversary of the historic run to the NCAA tournament made by the 2004 Bearcats, who will be honored at Homecoming on Oct. 19. Duplicating that team’s sweep of the America East regular season and tournament titles – the first in the program’s Division I tenure – would be special.
“We’ve set very high goals for this year, which takes a lot of courage,” McClellan said. “This team is capable of making a splash in conference play and extending it into a long season. But for now we’ll focus on improving each game and build positives. The America East is very even and wide open and you have to be ready every single time you take the field. The players are invested in taking this season to the next level and we’re excited to get under way.”