GW Women's Soccer Kicks Off 2013 Slate at American on Friday
Colonials Have Won 11-of-16 Over Eagles
Aug 22, 2013
WASHINGTON – George Washington women’s soccer opens its 2013 slate on Friday at District foe American with a 4 p.m. contest at the Eagles’ Reeves Field.
Friday’s match marks the fourth straight year that GW kicks off the season against a fellow District team. The Colonials take to the pitch under the direction of second-year Head Coach Sarah Barnes following exhibition shutout victories over VMI (4-0) and Delaware (2-0).
Having lost four players to graduation, GW welcomes back 22 letterwinners from the 2012 squad and will debut 11 newcomers on Friday.
The Colonials own an 11-4-1 advantage in the all-time series with the Eagles. Last season the squads battled to a 1-1 double overtime draw on GW’s home field.
American opens its season on Friday following a 2-0 exhibition loss at St. Francis (Pa.) on Aug. 16. The Eagles graduated their top two scorers from one season ago and return starting goalkeeper Charlene Belanger. AU is coached by first-year Head Coach Anabel Jimenez Hering.
Fans can follow season opening action via live video and live stats.
2013 GW WOMEN’S SOCCER SEASON PREVIEW
Taking to the pitch under second-year Head Coach Sarah Barnes with a roster full of depth and experience, GW looks to improve upon last season’s 5-12-1 mark.
Highlighting GW's returners from last season are Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team selection Kristi Abbate, who paced the Buff and Blue with three goals and two assists for eight points last year, in addition to senior Alex Neal, who tallied seven points on three goals and an assist. Following productive spring training and a notable fall preseason in which the Colonials earned two exhibition shutout victories at home over VMI (4-0) and Delaware (1-0), Barnes expects GW to continue to improve throughout the year.
“Our main goal is to be the better team in both boxes in every game we play,” said Barnes. “We are working on becoming more dynamic in the attack and putting the ball in the net. Defensively, we are focused on denying the ball and improving our goals against average. If we can do both of these things well it will translate to wins.”
With an eight-team, three-day Atlantic 10 Championship format, the Colonials look to qualify for postseason play for the first time since 2002.
“We are getting stronger every week. As a team we like to focus on smaller things and make steps gradually,” Barnes said. “If we continue to do that and improve every week, we are going to have a successful season.”
The duo of Abbate and Neal are poised to lead the front line this fall as the Colonials’ top scoring returners. Abbate, who took a team-high 34 shots one year ago, will serve as GW’s biggest scoring threat this fall. Neal, who has scored eight goals and recorded three assists over her career, is also expected to make a big impact on the attack.
“Kristi is a dynamic dribbler and can cover a lot of ground. She likes to take risks and put herself in scoring position in front of the goal,” said Barnes. “Alex offers the ability to strike with either foot and is comfortable playing on either side of the ball. They both have the ability to be threatening up top and we expect them to continue to develop and find the back of the net.”
With juniors Sydney Morris and Taylor Katz, along with sophomore Kyla Ridley, the Colonials’ attack possesses a tremendous amount of speed and efficiency, and has the ability to penetrate defenses and create scoring opportunities. Veterans Claire Haft, Becca Malizia and Meg Murphy, in addition to rookies Bri Byrne, MacKenzie Cowley and Cassidy Mercier, are also expected to contribute up top.
“We have a deep group of forwards who all bring different qualities to the field,” Barnes said. “They can work the press and put themselves in scoring position, and we are excited to see this group come together as a unit.”
Senior co-captain Jane Wallis, junior Nicole Belfonti and sophomore Amanda Gaggioli will anchor the midfield this season. Wallis, who moved up off the back line for her final campaign, provides GW with soccer savvy in the middle of the pitch, while Belfonti and Gaggioli will serve as offensive threats.
Joining the trio are sophomores Brooke Bean, Brooke Stoller and Chouassi Tshimanga, who will provide a competitive defensive presence across the field. Newcomer Kate Elson – who scored the gamewinner over Delaware in the Colonials’ final exhibition match during preseason – along with classmates Lina Proska and Ivana Szwejkowski, bring talent and depth to the midfield.
“Kate covers a lot of ground and does a great job making runs from deep positions so she can join the attack unmarked,” Barnes said. “Lina is a playmaker who has good vision and values each possession. We have a lot of depth in the midfield and a number of kids who can play in multiple positions which allows us to change things up depending on the opponent.”
Senior Melanie Keer has been a fixture in the back line throughout her career and will continue in that role this fall. Keer and junior Alex Brothers have proven to be dominant defenders with their vocal ability to organize the squad and patrol the back of the pitch.
Barnes expects juniors Elizabeth Casey and MacKenzie McIndoe to be solid contributors who will help push the ball forward and feed the attack. Madison Davis, who battled injuries her first two seasons, has fought back to become a physical presence.
“Melanie is a great 1v1 defender and will be a big help on both sides of the ball. She and Alex do a great job of communicating with and organizing the team,” said Barnes. “Elizabeth stepped into the backline this spring and has the ability to serve the ball over a distance. MacKenzie moved to outside back as a converted attacker she does a great job of getting the ball into the box."
Sophomore Emily Brown and junior Sarah Hayashi look to challenge the back line this season, while newcomers Erin Boudreau, Ellie DeCarlo, Camille Roberts and Kiara Robertson also look to contribute in their debut seasons.
GW is primed to be tough to penetrate with veteran Nicole Ulrick and freshman Miranda Horn in goal. A senior co-captain, Ulrick will patrol the net this year after suffering a season-ending injury in the 2012 opener.
“Nicole is extremely competitive and has trained and pushed herself very hard to prepare for this season,” said Barnes. “She is a good communicator and the team trusts her. She is great with high balls and has great reaction time.”
Horn will challenge Ulrick and push for playing time during her rookie campaign with the Colonials.
“Miranda is a very good keeper who has had a lot of great experience against high-level competition,” Barnes said. “She has great size and she’s good with her hands and her feet. We have a great combination in the net.”
GW will host three NCAA Tournament qualifiers as part of an 18-match schedule this fall. The Buff and Blue will host eight games at the GW Soccer Field on the Mount Vernon Campus and will travel to local Atlantic 10 newcomer George Mason for the first time as league foes.
Highlighting GW’s competitive schedule is a D.C. Invitational match on Aug. 30 against District rival Georgetown, which finished the 2012 season as the No. 17 team in the country after falling in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Following a four-game road swing the Colonials return home to host Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Champion and NCAA Tournament qualifier Loyola (Md.) on Sept. 24.
The Buff and Blue kick off Atlantic 10 action on Oct. 5 on the road at Rhode Island, then host A-10 Champion La Salle on Oct. 11. GW wraps regular-season road action onOct. 25 at nearby George Mason.
For a full release on the Colonials’ 2013 schedule, please click here.