2013 Season Preview: Versatile Bulldogs Seek Successful Campaign

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

Yale Opens Season Friday At Home Against Stony Brook

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's soccer team has plenty of reason for optimism heading into the 2013 season. Long-time head coach Rudy Meredith has a deep and versatile roster. The Bulldogs have finished with a winning overall record in 10 of the last 11 years and there is no reason to believe that won't be the case again this fall. Yale also figures to be a serious player in the race for the Ivy League title.

The Bulldogs kick off the season by hosting Stony Brook on Friday at 7 p.m. at Reese Stadium.

Offensively, two of last year's top scorers return, juniors Melissa Gavin and Muriel Battaglia. Gavin was limited to 14 games due to injury last year but still shared the team lead with four assists and was second with 10 points. In her freshman season, Gavin was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and a first team All-Ivy selection. Battaglia has been a force on both ends of the field. As a freshman she played predominantly as a defender but last year tied for second on the team with three goals and tied for third with seven points.

Senior Juliann Jeffrey has been a regular in the lineup throughout her career. Last fall she contributed one goal and two assists in 16 games. Sophomores Paula Hagopian and Shannon Conneely both had strong rookie seasons. Hagopian tied for the team lead with four assists, while Conneely started 14 games and contributed one goal and two assists.

Juniors Frannie Coxe and Georgiana Wagemann are threats as well. Both have never missed a game in their Yale careers. Coxe tied for the team lead with four assists a year ago, while Wagemann started a career-high six games and scored in the 1-1 tie with Columbia.

A pair of freshmen hope to contribute offensively as well. Lillian Bitner was an all-state, all-region and all-conference selection at Fairview High School in Colorado. Geneva Decker was the Coastal League Player of the Year after leading the league in scoring as a senior at The Bishop's School in California. A third freshman, Karina Kovalcik, was expected to add scoring punch but she will miss the season with an injury. Kovalcik was a third team all-state selection at Council Rock North High School in Pennsylvania.

Meredith will need to replace a pair of defensive starters but fortunately there are a number of strong candidates. Shannon McSweeney, the team captain, is back to anchor the unit. She has been limited by injury in the last two years but begins the year healthy, which bodes well for a defense that posted five shutouts a year ago. Senior Anna McCahon has been a starter throughout her career, although an injury limited her to 12 games last fall.

Junior Meredith Speck may spend a majority of her time on defense as well. Speck, who has been a contributor on both ends of the field in her first two years, was limited to eight games last year because of injury but still shared the team lead with four assists. As a freshman, she was a first team All-Ivy selection and in the summer of 2012 was named to the United States Under-23 Women's National Team that travelled to Norway for a Three Nations Tournament that featured the hosts and Sweden.

Sophomore Christina Bradley made an immediate impact on defense in her rookie year, appearing in 16 games and starting 10.

Unfortunately for Meredith, injuries have already struck the defense. Sophomore Ally Grossman, who started 14 games a year ago, and Jessica Schloth, who was returning after missing the last two seasons, both suffered ailments during preseason.

Senior Katie Underwood, junior Annie Hull and sophomore Ana Keusch are each candidates for increased playing time as well.

Newcomers could have an impact on the defense. Sophomore Eliza Loring has transferred from Georgetown where she appeared in five games last fall. Three freshmen also will try to work their way into the lineup. Dani Temares earned all-state recognition as a senior at The Pingry School in New Jersey. Katie Fletcher helped lead Torrey Pines High School in California to a pair of CIF semi-final appearances, and Colleen McCormack was an all-state, All-Long Island and all-county selection at Jericho High School in New York.

The Bulldogs have a pair of experienced goalkeepers. Sophomore Rachel Ames finished third in the Ivy League in save percentage (.814) and saves per game (4.07) a year ago. She also earned a big honor this summer by being selected as the Women's Premier Soccer League's Southern Conference Goalkeeper of the Year. Junior Elise Wilcox had a strong year in goal as well last year. She appeared in eight games, had a 0.88 goals against average and didn't allow a goal in her final three appearances of the season.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity