2010 Season Preview: Bulldogs Ready For Challenging Early-Season Schedule

(Photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)
(Photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)

Season Kicks Off Friday Against Penn State

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – One thing is certain as the Yale women's soccer team prepares for the 2010 season. When Ivy League play begins on Sept. 25 against Princeton, the Bulldogs will be battle tested. Four of their first five games are against teams that reached the NCAA College Cup last year, and the one exception was ranked as high as 11th in the nation at one point in the season. Head coach Rudy Meredith, who begins his 16th year at the helm, is confident his team will benefit from the experience.

"If you don't play quality opponents, you won't know your weaknesses," Meredith said. "Playing a difficult early season schedule will give us time to make adjustments."

It doesn't appear the Bulldogs have many flaws.  A majority of the starters return from last year's team that won 10 games and finished second in the Ivy League with a 5-2 mark.

"I really like the competitive nature of this group. Our chemistry is extremely good for this early in the season," Meredith said. "We're going to young in the back, but they are enthusiastic and willing to work. It may take a little bit of time, but the talent is there."

Team captain Becky Brown, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, will lead the offense. She enters her senior season with 25 career goals, 14 shy of Elizabeth Traver's school record. In addition, she is tied for fifth in career assists (17) and sixth in career points (67). Brown will have plenty of support up front. Kristen Forster was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year last fall, sharing the honor with Princeton's Alison Nabatoff. Forster's nine assists led the league and tied her with Crysti Howser for the Yale freshman record. Forster also contributed two goals, both of which were game-winners.

Junior Miyuki Hino was an honorable mention All-Ivy selection last fall after finishing second on the team in goals (4) and third in points (11). Senior Natalie Romine also is a scoring threat. An injury limited her to four games last year, but she was a regular on the front line in her first two seasons. Sophomores Mary Kubiuk and Anne Song also should contribute. Kubiuk scored the game-winning goal in back-to-back victories over Quinnipiac and Princeton last year and was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week. Song appeared in nine games off the bench and scored her first career goal in the victory over Sacred Heart.

Freshman Jessica Schloth (Fairfield, Conn.) brings strong credentials to New Haven. She earned NSCAA All-America recognition as both a junior and senior at St. Joseph High School.

Seniors Megan Ashforth and Kate Macauley are back to anchor an experienced midfield. The two have combined to start 75 games and both have earned All-Ivy recognition in their careers. Junior Enma Mullo started first nine games last year before suffering an injury. Sophomores Trish Berkanish, who appeared in 15 games off the bench last year, and Jenny Butwin should also contribute to the midfield.

Freshmen Juliann Jeffrey (Richardson, Texas) and Katie Underwood (Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.) hope to make an immediate impact. Jeffrey was a member of the U.S. Under -18 national team, while Underwood was an NSCAA East Region All-America selection as a senior at Briarcliff High School.

Graduation took the biggest toll on Yale's defense but there are a number players ready to help fill the void. Junior Alana Gebhart is the most experienced returning defender but an injury suffered in the preseason may limit her contributions. Senior Lizz Reeves also is dealing with an injury. Two sophomores – Lauren Mathy and Torrey Leroy – both gained valuable experience in their rookie years. Mathy started 15 games, the most of any newcomer, while Leroy appeared in 13 games.

Freshmen Anna McCahon (Malvern, Pa.) and Shannon McSweeney (Stow, Mass.) will both have an opportunity to earn playing time. McCahon was named an ESPN Rise High School Player to Watch as a senior at the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, while McSweeney was an all-state selection as a senior at The Rivers School.

Yale will feature a pair of talented goalkeepers. Senior Ayana Sumiyasu finished second in the Ivy League in goals against average (1.02) and save percentage (.824) a year ago. Sophomore Adele Jackson-Gibson showed off her outstanding athletic ability in three appearances in goal last year, including a sparkling six-save performance in the second half against Central Connecticut.

The Bulldogs open the 2010 season with a pair of home games this weekend – Friday against Penn State at 7 p.m. and Sunday at noon against Illinois.

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Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity