August 22, 2006

2006 Season Outlook

Aug. 22, 2006

2005 was a dream season for the Yale women's soccer team. The Bulldogs won a school-record 15 games, captured their first Ivy League title since 1992, advanced to the third round of the NCAA College Cup for the first time and finished the season ranked 13th in the final NSCAA/adidas national poll, the highest ranking in school history.

When head coach Rudy Meredith hit the recruiting trail after the season, he noticed a new-found respect for the Yale program.

"Players that are being recruited by schools like UCLA, North Carolina and Portland are also at least looking at Yale," Meredith said. "That hadn't happened much before last year."

With 12 letterwinners and eight starters returning, the Bulldogs should have an excellent opportunity to defend their league title in 2006 and earn a third straight berth in the NCAA College Cup. Six of last year's top seven scorers are back along with the majority of a defense that yielded just 16 goals.

"Team chemistry and how we deal with the higher expectations will be the keys to our success this year," Meredith said. "We have never started the season as the defending league champions. We must expect that every team will play their best against us. Our experience should be our strength."

Leading the team will be senior Christina Huang, the captain. Huang was selected as a second team NSCAA All-American last year, becoming the first Yale player since Jen Teti in 1993 to earn All-America recognition. She also was a first team All-Ivy and first team All-Region selection. She started all 20 games for the Bulldogs and was fourth on the team in points with nine (3 goals, 3 assists).

"I told Christina when I recruited her that we would win the Ivy League if she came to Yale," Meredith said. "She has an impact on every game that she plays and has helped to put Yale soccer on the map."

Offensively, the Bulldogs must overcome the graduation of Laurel Karnes, who started every game in her career and finished third all-time at Yale in points (77), fourth in goals (30) and fifth in assists (17). Fortunately, there are a number of strong candidates to fill her shoes. Sophomores Crysti Howser and Emma Whitfield shared the team lead in goals last year with eight. Howser became only the second player in school history to be named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, while Whitfield earned second team All-Ivy honors and was named to the SoccerBuzz Northeast Region All Freshman team.

Senior Mimi Macauley, who scored the game-winning goal in Yale's Ivy League title clinching win over Brown, has 12 career goals, the most of any returning player. Sophomore Maggie Westfal is also an offensive threat. She scored three goals last year, including the game-winner in the Bulldogs' victory over ACC power Maryland.

Sophomore Kristen Anderson is a candidate for increased playing time this fall. Her first career point was an assist in Yale's win over Cornell. The Bulldogs could also benefit from the return of junior Stefanie Delvecchio, who missed all of last year with an injury. She had eight points as a freshman in 2004.

A trio of freshmen hope to bolster the offense. Caitlin Collins (Raytown, MO) was a three-time all-state selection at Pembroke Hill High School. Jacqueline Gantes (Laguna Niguel, CA) led Dana Hills High School in assists as both a junior and senior. Leslie Perez (Weston, FL) scored 35 goals and added 27 assists as a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School.

Junior Mary Kuder and sophomore Hayley Zevenbergen both made an impact in the midfield in their first years in New Haven. Kuder, who transferred from the University of Portland, started 19 games and scored two goals. Zevenbergen also started 19 games and was named Yale's Defensive MVP at the season-opening Nike Carolina Classic. Seniors Emily Haddad, Erin Gillespie and Sarah Milby will also compete for playing time in the midfield.

Freshman Eliza Walper (San Marino, CA) hopes to make an immediate impact in the midfield. She finished her career at the Pasadena Polytechnic School with 85 goals and 40 assists.

On defense, Yale must replace Eleni Benson, a first team All-Ivy selection who started all 20 games last year. Assisting Huang in filling the void created by Benson's graduation will be sophomore Natasha Mann, who earned honorable mention All-Ivy recognition in her rookie year. She started all 20 games and scored a big goal in Yale's 2-1 victory over Duke in the second round of the NCAA College Cup.

Senior Trista Choksi has been a regular contributor throughout her career. Sophomore Terri Williamson appeared in four games last year and could play a greater role this fall, and junior Zaria Udeh adds depth to the backline.

Meredith welcomes four freshmen who hope to step in and make an immediate impact on defense. Ali Giusto (Davie, FL) was named the 2004 Broward County Player of the Year at American Heritage Plantation High School. Sophia Merrifield (Honolulu, HI) was a first team all-state selection in 2005 at the Punahou School. Hannah Smith (Bay Village, OH) was a three-time Cleveland Plain Dealer honorable mention selection at Magnificat High School. Andrea Bouchard (St. Louis Park, MN) was a four-time all-conference selection at St. Louis Park High School.

The Bulldogs have two returning goalkeepers who split the duties last year. Senior Chloe Beizer started all 20 games but was replaced at halftime by junior Susan Starr. Beizer was second in the Ivy League in goals against average (0.75), fourth in save percentage (.780) and sixth in saves (32). Starr finished third in the league in save percentage (.806), fourth in goals against average (0.84) and seventh in saves (29).

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity

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