2012 Preview: Experienced Bulldogs Optimistic As Opener Approaches

Melissa Gavin (photo by Don Clark, Yale Sports Publicity)

Only One Starter From Last Year Lost To Graduation

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – If only a couple of moments had gone differently, 2011 could have been a very memorable season for the Yale women's soccer team. The Bulldogs lost only twice in Ivy League play, one when Harvard was awarded a questionable penalty kick in overtime and the second when a brief lapse allowed Penn to score twice in a five-minute stretch. Still, Yale won nine games and enjoyed another successful year.

A large majority of that team returns this fall. In fact, Yale lost only one starter to graduation – midfielder Enma Mullo '12. That, coupled with the addition of a talented freshman class, has long-time head coach Rudy Meredith quite optimistic as the Bulldogs prepare for the 2012 campaign, which begins with a game at Hartford this Friday.

Here is a closer look at the 2012 Bulldogs:

FORWARD

Mullo's loss may be felt most on offense. She led the team in goals (8) and points (20) a year ago. Fortunately, Yale still has some firepower returning, led by sophomore Melissa Gavin. She became just the fourth player in school history to be named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year after leading the team and tying for third in the league with seven assists. In addition, she scored six goals en route to earning first team All-Ivy and third team all-region honors.

A pair of seniors - Mary Kubiuk and Anne Song - also are experienced offensive threats. Kubiuk has scored four goals in each of the last two seasons and has scored 10 times in her career. When she scores, the results are usually positive for the Bulldogs.  All four of her goals a year ago came in Yale victories, and two of her four goals as a sophomore were game-winners. Song appeared in a career-high 13 games last fall and had a goal in the victory over Saint Peter's. She has played 34 games in her career and has six points.

Sophomore Georgiana Wagemann showed offensive potential in her rookie season. She appeared in all 17 games and scored her first career goal in a win over Marist.

Freshman Paula Hagopian (West Hartford, Conn.) will try and make an immediate impact up front. She was the Gatorade and NSCAA Connecticut Player of the Year as a senior at the Kingswood Oxford School.

MIDFIELD

The Bulldogs will feature a talented midfield. Sophomore Meredith Speck, who split time between forward and defense last fall, should see a majority of her time in the midfield this fall. Over the summer she trained with the United States Under-23 Women's National Team that travelled to Norway for a Three Nations Tournament. Last fall with the Bulldogs she was a first team All-Ivy selection and was named to the NEWISA All-New England first team.

Senior Kristen Forster is the most experienced player on the roster. She has appeared in 50 games during her career has scored nine goals and added 14 assists. Forster shared the league rookie of the year award in 2009 and was a second team all-league selection as a sophomore. Jenny Butwin, the team captain, also provides leadership in the midfield. She tallied her first career assist in the victory over Saint Peter's last year.

Sophomore Muriel Battaglia was one of seven players to start all 17 games last year and her main responsibility came on the defensive end. Junior Juliann Jeffrey and sophomore Frannie Coxe should see time in the midfield as well. Jeffrey started a career-high 11 games last fall and contributed two assists. Coxe played in all 17 games and scored her first career goal in the victory over Quinnipiac.

Meredith had hoped junior Jessica Schloth would return this fall, but she is still dealing with an injury.

Freshman Shannon Conneely (Weymouth, Mass.) was the Bay State League most valuable player as a senior at Weymouth High School and could earn playing time.

DEFENSE

Seniors Trish Berkanish, Torrey Leroy and Lauren Mathy have combined to start 91 games in their careers and anchor a deep and experienced back line. Junior Anna McCahon started 16 games last year and Meredith will welcome back fellow junior Shannon McSweeney, who missed all of last season with an injury. McSweeney started all 17 games as a freshman in 2010.

Junior Katie Underwood and sophomore Annie Hull provide the Bulldogs with plenty of depth on defense.

Three freshmen will compete to earn playing time. Christina Bradley (Wayne, Pa.) was an All-Central League selection as a senior at Conestoga High School. Ally Grossman (Germantown, Md.) was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year at St. John's College, while Ana Keusch (West Palm Beach, Fla.) had a standout career at the St. Andrew's School.

GOALKEEPER

Senior Adele Jackson-Gibson is back after seeing her junior season cut short by injury. Jackson-Gibson is one of the most athletic goalkeepers in the nation. Her four shutouts last year were second in the league. Sophomore Elise Wilcox took over after Jackson-Gibson's injury and posted three shutouts of her own. She finished fifth in the Ivy League in goals against average (1.04) and save percentage (.810).

Freshman Rachel Ames (Huntsville, AL) brings strong credentials to New Haven. She was the Alabama Player of the Year as a junior at Huntsville High School.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity