Gettysburg women's soccer preview
After coming so close to a conference title and the NCAA Tournament a year ago, the Gettysburg women’s soccer team is poised to continue to raise its game in 2012.
It’s been eight years since the Bullets won the Centennial Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, its longest drought on both counts since the program’s first varsity season in 1988. The team came close to its goals in 2011, finishing runner-up in the conference finals.
The team lost several key starters, including All-CC First Team midfielder Sara Montague, but the roster is as deep as ever for coach Matt Garrett. Nineteen letterwinners return to the pitch and will be joined by 10 newcomers.
“We’ve got a lot of good freshmen and a lot of good players,” noted Garrett, who has posted a record of 46-37-9 through his first five seasons at Gettysburg. “As with every team at this stage, we’re dealing with a lot of injuries so we’re trying to get everyone healthy. We’re very happy with where we are at.”
Gettysburg won a dozen matches for the second consecutive year in 2011, and it recorded its best regular-season finish in the CC since 2004 with an 8-2 record. The team was denied a championship by Johns Hopkins University with a 2-0 setback in the conference finals.
“We take a lot of pride in getting better every year and we are working very hard to do that again,” said Garrett. “We are a very hungry team from doing well last year, but we have a real belief we could have done much better.”
There will be no shortage of experience for Garrett to rely on, led by three all-conference performers returning in senior Casey Attanasio (Newtown, Pa./Council Rock North), junior Rachel West (Carlisle, Pa./Carlisle), and sophomore Molly Phillips (Yardley, Pa./Pennsbury).
A two-time All-CC selection, Attanasio led the Bullets with seven goals last fall and her career total of 20 ranks ninth in school history. West has garnered all-conference accolades in each of her first two campaigns and owns 31 career points. Phillips was one of the top first-years in the Centennial a year ago, garnering All-CC Second Team recognition after playing key roles for both the offensive and defensive units.
There are a number of capable players with starting experience aside from the all-conference trio. Seniors Lindsey Lyons (Hatfield, Pa./Pennridge) and Suzy Englot (Fayetteville, N.Y./Manlius Pebble Hill) have been mainstays in the starting lineup in the midfield and backfield, respectively, while classmate Sarah Alesio (West Windsor, N.J./West Windsor-Plainsboro) was a key contributor on the defensive side of the ball in her first year with the team last fall.
Juniors Tobi Goss (Sandy Spring, Md./Sandy Spring Friends School), Becca Kent (East Brunswick, N.J./East Brunswick), and Mallory Sheer (South Orange, N.J./Columbia) are all versatile players that will impact both ends of the field. Sophomore Meg Castranova (Pennington, N.J./Pennington School) is another returning starter for the defense and was a key element on corner kicks, picking up four assists in her debut season.
The lone position on the field without a ton of experience will be in the cage where two sophomores and a pair of freshmen will compete for the starting job. Sophomore Paige Della Badia (Scotch Plains, N.J./Scotch Plains-Fanwood) logged the most minutes in net last fall, allowing just one goal and making six saves in 93:22.
Gettysburg was a bubble team for the national playoffs a season ago, but a 4-5 record in the non-conference schedule likely hurt the team’s resume. The Bullets often dominated those contests, but just couldn’t quite find a way to close out a win. In close losses to St. Mary’s (Md.) College and Frostburg State University, the Bullets out-shot their opponents by a combined 42-17.
“We really need to transfer our possession and our style of play into winning games,” said Garrett. “Last year, we dominated a lot of teams without winning the games. That’s going to be the next stage of our success.”
Gettysburg’s schedule will once again be challenging. The team will play an assortment of strong non-conference squads, including Denison and TCNJ. Picked No. 2 in the conference preseason poll, the Bullets will need to stay focused during its 10-match conference slate. Five of the team’s conference wins came by just one goal in 2011. The regular-season schedule will wrap up with a showdown with Johns Hopkins on Oct. 27.
The Bullets will open the season with the Gettysburg Cup at Clark Field on Aug. 31-Sept. 1. Gettysburg will face Lebanon Valley on Friday at 7 p.m. before taking on Stevenson University at the same time on Saturday.