Outlook Bright For Bulldogs In 2005

Outlook Bright For Bulldogs In 2005

Aug. 29, 2005

There is little doubt that Yale has become one of the top women's soccer programs in the nation. The Bulldogs have received an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three years and have finished .500 or better in eight of the last nine years. In 2005, head coach Rudy Meredith's squad will get to test itself against several elite programs. Yale plays six teams that reached the NCAA Tournament last year, including North Carolina, which has won 18 national championships.

Meredith will field a team that has the talent and experience to meet that challenge. Seven starters, including two first team All-Ivy selections, return from last year's squad that tied the school record for overall wins (13), finished second in the Ivy League and made an appearance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Villanova. Yale, which opens play Friday against No. 12 Duke, received votes in the NSCAA preseason national poll.

Offensively, the Bulldogs welcome back every player that had a point last year. Senior Laurel Karnes is sixth in school history with 23 career goals and tied for the team lead last year with six goals. She has started every game since she arrived at Yale and was a first team All-Ivy and All-New England selection in 2004. Seniors Jamie Ortega and Lindsey Weening, who each had four goals last year, are also scoring threats. Ortega has started every game during her time at Yale, while Weening started a career-high 17 games in 2004.

Junior Mimi Macauley earned honorable mention All-Ivy recognition last fall after leading the Bulldogs in scoring with 18 points, which tied for seventh in the Ivy League. In addition, her six assists were the fifth most in the league. Senior Jessica Berggren was a key offensive contributor last year. All four of her points came in one-goal Ivy League victories. She scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Dartmouth and added assists in victories over Penn and Brown.

A pair of sophomores, Stefanie Delvecchio and Alicia Fujii, played well in their rookie years. Delvecchio scored Yale's goal against Villanova in the NCAA Tournament and was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after scoring against Columbia. Fujii appeared in 16 games off the bench and scored her first career goal in Yale's 2-0 win over Central Connecticut.

The return of senior Erin Ruck also should bolster the Bulldogs' attack. Ruck, who has been hampered by injuries throughout her career, is back after taking last season off.

Several newcomers will try to step in and make an immediate impact. Sophomore Mary Kuder joins the Bulldogs after transferring from the University of Portland, where she played in four games last year. She was named the 2003 Washington State Player of the Year after scoring 27 goals and adding 37 assists for Lakeside High School.

Four freshmen hope to add scoring depth. Kristen Anderson played for the British Columbia Provincial Select team for four years and was the leading goal scorer in 2004. Crysti Howser scored 30 goals and added 18 assists last year at New Trier Township High School. Maggie Westfal was the 2004 Connecticut Player of the Year at New Canaan High School. Emma Whitfield led Burlington-Edison High School in goals in each of her four seasons and shares the school record in career scoring.

Senior Eleni Benson, the team captain, and junior Christina Huang return to anchor a Yale defense that allowed only 15 goals and posted nine shutouts last year. Benson was an honorable mention All-Ivy selection last year after starting all 18 games. She returned to Yale after competing for the Greece national team in the 2004 Olympics. Huang, who tied for fourth on the team in scoring with eight points, has established herself as one of the top players in the Ivy League. She was named first team all-region by both the NSCAA and SoccerBuzz and was a first team All-Ivy selection.

Senior April Siuda has started all but one game in her career and was named to the SoccerBuzz Elite Team of the Week after scoring in Yale's victory over UConn. Senior Brianne Baker appeared in a career-high nine games last year and is a candidate for increased playing time. Sophomore Talia DiPanfilo made an immediate impact in her rookie year, starting all 18 games, but will miss the 2005 season because of injury.

Junior Trista Choksi appeared in 17 games last year, including making six starts, and contributed two assists. Three other juniors, Erin Gillespie, Emily Haddad and Sarah Milby, will vie for playing time. Sophomore Zaria Udeh, who appeared in three games last year, adds depth to the defense.

Three freshmen will try to make immediate contributions on defense. Natasha Mann was an all-state selection and the team most valuable player last fall at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. Her club team, Bethesda Excel under-18, played for the national championship this summer. Terri Williamson was the 2004 Friends League and Bucks Country Courier Player of the Year at George School. Hayley Zevenbergen was a two-time all-league, all-area and team MVP at Edmonds Woodway High School.

The biggest obstacle the Bulldogs face is replacing Sarah Walker in goal. Walker was a first team All-Ivy selection after starting all 18 games and posting a 0.90 goals against average. Junior Chloe Beizer and sophomore Susan Starr will compete for the starting job. Neither allowed a goal in limited action last year.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity