August 28, 2013

2013 Washington and Lee Women's Soccer Preview

LEXINGTON, Va. -- The Washington and Lee women's soccer team will look to build upon the program's success from the 2012 season and make a run at both an Old Dominion Athletic Conference title and a bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2013. The Generals closed out last season with a 14-3-1 overall record, and went 10-1-1 in ODAC action.

Head Coach Neil Cunningham and his staff are integrating 10 new faces with their talented returning veterans. The Generals return 13 players from the squad that advanced to the ODAC quarterfinals last season, losing just two starters.

The Generals have compiled 13 or more wins in each of the last two seasons and are looking to secure their first ODAC championship since 2009.

"We expect to compete for a conference title as always," said Cunningham. "We have great leadership, a nice balance of returning players and incoming first-year talent, so hopefully it will all come together for us." 

The Generals' front line, which ranked fifth in the nation in scoring offense, returns three experienced players in juniors Katherine Rush (Cornelius, N.C. / Providence Day School) and Haley Ward (Federal Way, Wash. / Federal Way), and sophomore Becca Dunn (Houston, Texas / Memorial).

Rush, a First Team All-ODAC selection each of the last two seasons, led the team in goals scored (14), points (32) and game-winning goals (3) last year. Ward (19) and Dunn (18) finished the season ranked second and third in points and will look to add a spark to the W&L offense.

"We look forward to those three coming back and getting some goals and assists, " commented Cunningham on Rush, Dunn, and Ward. "We are expecting Rush to lead the line this year and score a lot of goals and give out assists to her teammates." 

First-year Tricia Jessee will also have the opportunity to compete for playing time. "Jessee will do a nice job for us in the forward line. She will score a lot of goals in the ODAC," said Cunningham. "When she figures out the speed of the college game, she will make a serious contribution for us this year."

W&L's midfield will provide the team with a diverse set of talents that will make them assets all over the field. The youthful group features three juniors, including First-Team All-ODAC honoree Katie Rossi (Wyoming, Del. / Caesar Rodney), and should be a strength for years to come.

Rossi registered five goals and six assists for 16 points in starting all 18 games last season. She also helped the defense record just a 0.59 goals-against average and 10 shutouts en route to collecting First Team All-Region laurels.

"Rossi was by far our most consistent player last year," explained Cunningham. "She had a great sophomore campaign and we will be looking for her to definitely continue to improve and push us forward this year, whether she plays midfield or as a forward." 

Joining Rossi in the midfield is 2011 ODAC Co-Rookie of the Year, Holley Beasley (Virginia Beach, Va. / Norfolk Academy). A junior, Beasley made an appearance in 10 games with seven starts last season, finishing the year ranked fifth on the team in points (14) with five goals and four assists.

Defensively, the Generals look to improve on a strong backline, which ranked second in the conference in goals-allowed (11) and third in goals-against average (0.59). Two players return with a great deal of experience. Senior Alexis Blight (Columbia, Md. / McDonogh) leads the group, along with sophomore Erin Harvey (Mission Hills, Kan. / Pembroke Hill). 

"Harvey and Blight are our main returning backs who I think will do a fine job for us," stated Cunningham.  "We are also going to be playing two first-years back there who will have to come in and play right away."

Blight had a stellar fall, and will look to anchor the defense again this season after starting all 18 games in 2012. As a defender, Blight finished the year scoring five goals en route to earning a Second Team All-ODAC selection.

After notching two goals and four assists and helping lead the defense to a national Top 25 ranking in goals-allowed and goals-against average in her rookie campaign, Harvey is poised to have another standout campaign with a year of experience under her belt.

The Generals' defense will add depth and talent to an already impressive group. First-years Ashley Hogan (North Chesterfield, Va. / Monacan), Hollis Tardy (Dallas, Texas / The Hockaday School), Katie Clemmons (Phoenix, Ariz. / Chaparral), and Kathryn Riley (Charlotte, N.C. / Myers Park) will look to vie for a position in the back line and immediately make an impact on defense.

Behind every good defense is a steady goalkeeper. Sophomore Addie Healy (Waterford, Va. / Woodgrove) is the incumbent at that position, starting 15 games as a first-year. She posted a 0.69 goals-against average, which ranked in the Top 50 in the nation, and pitched five shutouts while allowing only 10 goals.

"Being a sophomore, we are looking for her to improve and use her experience from last year to our advantage," noted Cunningham. 

She is not the only keeper on the roster with experience, however, as junior Kingsley Schroeder (Dayton, Ohio / Westminster School/Miami Valley) played in six games and made three starts as a sophomore. In her limited time, Schroeder compiled a 0.23 GAA with two shutouts, while earning three wins.

Picked to finish third in the ODAC by the league's coaches, Cunningham has put together a challenging schedule for the Generals in 2013. Cunningham hopes his tough non-conference slate will prepare his team for the always competitive and balanced ODAC schedule.

Washington and Lee's non-conference matchups include strong programs such as Dallas, Rowan, and Mary Washington. Each team registered at least 12 wins last season, with Rowan leading the way with an overall record of 13-4-1. The Profs made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament after beating Virginia Wesleyan, 1-0.

"We try to schedule teams that are always on top of their conferences, NCAA-caliber teams, so we can show our own players what that kind of level is throughout the season," explained Cunningham.

W&L's conference slate will begin after four non-conference tune-ups. The conference schedule will include league powers such as defending ODAC champions, No. 9 Lynchburg, in addition to trips to No. 25 Virginia Wesleyan and Bridgewater.

Discussing the possibilities of the 2013 season brings nothing but excitement to Coach Cunningham. "We would like to win an ODAC title and make it to the NCAA tournament and see how far we can go," he said. "It's still early, but this team has some key ingredients to do that."

Combined with a dynamic group of seasoned veterans and a slew of talented newcomers, one thing is certain -- W&L has the ability to take charge of its own postseason chances in 2013.

The Generals will open the season at home on August 30th against Greensboro before welcoming Dallas on the 31st. W&L opens the conference slate at Eastern Mennonite on September 14th.