2012 Women’s Soccer Preview
August 31, 2012
By John Boccacino/Sports Information Director
For many Division III women’s soccer programs, finishing with a winning record, winning seventy-five percent of your league games and hosting a conference playoff game would be considered a successful season.
While head coach Jamie Burke, who enters her seventh season leading the Green and Gold, was satisfied with the progress her squad made over the course of last year, she knows the bar has been set high for her student-athletes after the tremendous amount of success Keuka has enjoyed recently.
After all, for the last 13 seasons, Keuka’s women’s soccer team has finished with a .500 record or better, bringing home numerous North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) championships while qualifying for the NCAA’s Division III tournament in three of the last four years.
Fresh off an 8-7-1 campaign in 2011 that included an 8-3-1 mark against North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) foes, Keuka opens the season with a challenging non-conference contest against Houghton College, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night at the Jephson Community Athletic Complex.
The Storm returns nine student-athletes from last year, led by senior Nicole Sharick (Corfu, NY/Pembroke), who ranks fourth all-time in school history in both points (90) and assists (22) and is sixth in goals scored (34), and junior defender Brooke Lovell (Arkport, NY/Arkport), a key cog in the Storm’s defense. Both Sharick and Lovell earned third-team All-NEAC honors last year.
“The key for our team is staying healthy; with what we have coming back, if our players can stay healthy and can continue to play physical, defensive soccer, we have the talent to compete,” said Burke, who sports a 61-40-6 career record at Keuka (.598 winning percentage) and who needs only four wins to become the winningest coach in school history.
“Last year, teams focused on taking Nicole out of the attack, and she didn’t get as many good looks as she has in the past, and we struggled to score goals,” Burke added of her attack, which scored only seven goals over its first nine games (3-5-1 record) before showing signs of improvement by closing with 19 goals over its final seven games.
“Our midfielders need to take some of the pressure off of Nicole, and we need to have other people step up and create good chances. I believe we have good players who can step up and score more this year.”
Among the newcomers on attack, junior Jessica Bandrowski (Center Moriches, NY/Center Moriches) should provide that spark when it comes to scoring. Bandrowski was an accomplished player in high school, but hasn’t played her first two years on campus. Burke expects her and sophomore Haley Jordan (Auburn, NY/Auburn) to quickly pick up the game and become a game-changer.
Besides Sharick and Lovell, Burke’s squad should receive solid contributions from senior midfielder Sarah Capek (Elmira, NY/Horseheads), senior defender/midfielder Sarah Hillman (Elmira, NY/Elmira Free Academy) and senior defender Shelby Seeley (Livonia, NY/Livonia).
Lovell is one of four juniors back in 2012, along with defender/forward Britni Burch (Almond, NY/Arkport), who scored three goals in 2011; defender Christine Dedes (Shortsville, NY/Red Jacket) and forward Stephanie Havens (Unadilla, NY/Unatego), who scored one goal with three assists during her sophomore season.
The defense, led by Lovell, Seeley and Dedes should be strong, and Burke is expecting solid contributions from freshman Nina Fusco (Mechanicville, NY/Mechanicville), who can play all four defensive positions.
“Defensively, Brooke is a big strength for us. As a sweeper, she sees the field very well and she has developed into a vocal leader for us in the back,” Burke said. “Center-midfielder should be a strength, too, with Nicole and Jess. With those three in the middle, that’s where our best talent is and they’re the fastest kids on the team, too.”
After losing last year’s starting goalie, Morgan Engelbert, Burke is optimistic that sophomore Marriah Gough (Oneida, NY/Stockbridge Valley) and freshman Maggie Tower (Waterville, NY/Home Schooled) can step in and steady the Storm in goal.
Sharick, Lovell, Capek and Hillman will captain the Storm in 2012.
Burke admits the season-opener against Houghton will be a “major challenge” for her squad, but she also said it will be a good opportunity to see what aspects Keuka needs to work on, and also how her team matches up with a perennial power such as the Highlanders.
The Highlanders went 17-4-1 last year, the 18th straight season with 13-plus victories, and advanced into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Soccer Championships before falling in the second round. This will be the first matchup between the schools since the 1993 season, with Keuka owning a 6-4-2 record all-time in the rivalry.
After facing Houghton, Burke’s squad hits the road for a 2 p.m. non-conference game at Medaille College on Sunday. The Mavericks (8-11) lost in the semifinals of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference’s (AMCC) postseason tournament.
Keuka opens NEAC play with a pair of home games, taking on Penn State-Abington at 1 p.m. on Sept. 8, followed by a 1 p.m. clash with Penn State-Berks on Sept. 9.
The Green and Gold saw its 2011 season end with a 1-0 home loss against Berks in the first round of the NEAC tournament. Abington won the NEAC’s postseason championship but didn’t earn the NEAC’s automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament, since the Nittany Lions weren’t a full NCAA member at the time of its championship game victory over Lancaster Bible.
The Storm then hits the road for three straight conference games, playing Wells College at noon on Sept. 15, Penn State-Harrisburg at noon on Sept. 22 and Gallaudet University at 1 p.m. on Sept. 23 before returning home for a pivotal five-game homestand.
Lancaster Bible, which captured the NEAC’s regular-season championship and represented the conference in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history, comes to campus for a 5 p.m. showdown on Friday night, Sept. 28 to kick off the homestand.
Keuka will also play Cazenovia College (4 p.m. on Oct. 2), SUNY Cobleskill (1 p.m. on Oct. 6), the College of St. Elizabeth (1 p.m. on Oct. 13) and Wilson College (1 p.m. on Oct. 14) during the homestand.
The Storm closes out the regular season with trips to Morrisville State (4 p.m. on Oct. 23) and SUNYIT (1 p.m. on Oct. 27) before participating in the NEAC tournament, which starts Oct. 31 and runs through Nov. 4. The winner earns the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA’s. Keuka last won the NEAC postseason tournament in 2010.
“If we can get healthy, than a top three or four finish in the NEAC is definitely reachable for us,” Burke said.