|Women's Soccer Plays Home Opener Friday; Looking Forward to 2008 Season|
Stetson women's soccer (0-1-0) opens its home season Friday with a 7:00 p.m. game versus the University of Hartford Hawks (1-0-1) at the Stetson Soccer Complex.
Stetson women’s soccer team is looking for a return to the steady upward progress it had experienced prior to the 2007 campaign.
“Last year was very disappointing for our program. It was the first time we did not improve upon the previous season,” said Head Coach Julie Orlowski.
There is, however, a positive side to their disappointment. “To sit here and say we feel like we failed last year because we did not make it to the final, is much better than a few years ago when we were satisfied to just make it to the tournament,” she added.
The Hatters won 12 games and reached the Atlantic Sun championship game in 2006; there is no reason why they can’t do it again in 2008.
This year’s team may be the deepest team in Orlowski’s eight years as coach. The Hatters have impressive depth at each line on the field, giving them more options off the bench. Avoiding injuries will be the key factor in the level of success this team will enjoy.
“Over the past three years, we have had more than our share of injuries,” said Orlowski. “The result is that we now have a young but experienced team.”
“Most of our sophomores played a great deal last season, our redshirt freshmen had all of last year to adjust to the rigors of college life, and they gained some valuable experience on the field in the spring,”
Despite losing six seniors, including three four-year starters from last year’s team, Stetson enters 2008 with 15 players who have logged multiple starts in their career.
One of those players sophomore goalkeeper Andrea Garavaglia started all 19 games last season. She finished with 69 saves, a 1.60 goals against average and a trio of shutouts. Garavaglia also had a solid spring adding to her experience. Stetson’s depth starts between the posts as redshirt junior Sarah Turnbull returns to the field this season to challenge for time in goal. She is a talented keeper who sat out last year with a knee injury. Waiting in the wings, yet always ready to step in will be sophomores Caitlin Peterson and Rachel Allen. Peterson played in two games last season in a backup role.
Perhaps the biggest question mark as the season begins will be the back line. The Hatters will have to replace seniors Kelsey Kramer and Yvonne Davis who anchored that position last year. Kramer was twice an All-Conference defender. Taking the lead will be senior Bethany Kiedis and junior Elise Ketcham. Both are talented defenders who played in all 19 games last year. If Orlowski can plug the holes, she would like to see Kiedis spend some time at the midfield as well.
The remaining defensive spots are open to competition in the early season. Challenging for those openings will be several players including junior Jenny Agranoff and sophomore Kristen Higel. Agranoff had a solid spring and is completely healthy for the first time in her career. Freshmen Alexis Hermosa, Mary Salfer-Hobbs, Crossley Simmons, and DeLand High graduate Samantha Jones are all talented newcomers who will be in the running for playing time.
The early forecast for the strongest line is at midfield, where the Hatters return four starters from last year. The talented pair of junior Emily Yero and sophomore Tessa Gavilsky will fill the middle. Both players tied for second on the team with five goals last season. Gavilsky was named to the A-Sun All-Freshman Team for her efforts.
Senior Sarah Isley and junior Emily Ware are slated to patrol the pitch from the outside positions. Coming off the bench will be five players, any of which could see substantial playing time. Senior Rachel Sweeney, sophomore Kate Matthews and freshmen Samantha Snyder and Jennifer Rinaberger are included in that group. The wildcard will be Christina Lovejoy who played two seasons for Stetson before transferring to North Florida. She did not play soccer in Jacksonville last year and has returned as a redshirt junior who has proven she can play well coming off the bench.
Up front the Hatters will have to replace their top scorer from last season. Sarah Stock completed her career in 3rd place on Stetson’s all-time scoring list with 53 points. Sparkplug senior Stephanie Webb, along with junior Heather Berg and sophomore Katie Bitetto are the top contenders to lead the offense. All three played in all 19 games last year. Bitetto will be returning from the back line where she was forced to play last year due to injuries. Sophomore Natalie Simon, along with freshmen Courtney Jenista and Sarah Rodriguez should also challenge for their share of playing time.
Once Coach Orlowski has the lineup worked out she can focus on a very challenging list of opponents.
“Our 2008 schedule is a beast.” she said. “We are going to get right after it by playing the University of Miami for our home opener and it doesn’t get any easier as we go on to play four more NCAA tournament teams before the end of September.”
Then they get to play an always-tough Atlantic Sun Conference schedule. Overall, 14 of Stetson’s 18 opponents finished last year with a winning record. Orlowski knows that conference play is what will get the team to the next level.
“The conference has improved from top to bottom over the last two years,” she said. “There are no more easy wins. Our plan is to learn from each opponent early in the season and then apply what we learned in our conference games. Our success this year will be determined by one thing; a conference tournament title.”
Note: The team was short-handed Sunday when it dropped its season opener at Miami 3-0. The game was scheduled to be played in DeLand yet had to be moved due to Tropical Storm Fay.
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