Women's Soccer 2013 Season Outlook

With the hurdle of winning the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Tournament Championship and reaching the NCAA Division II East Regional Tournament finally cleared, the sights are set even higher for the Wilmington University women’s soccer team in 2013 with the target firmly on the team’s back.

The Wildcats are coming off a 13-7-2 overall record in 2012, coming on strong down the stretch to finish the regular season 7-0-1 in CACC contests to capture the CACC Regular Season Championship and the CACC Tournament’s number one seed. Wilmington ended the season with a 10-1-1 CACC record. It is the second time in three seasons the team won the CACC Regular Season Championship, going 12-0-0 in 2010.

“Coming off our championship run last season has changed the culture and atmosphere this preseason,” head coach Josh Ruggiero, who enters his sixth season at the helm of the Wildcats, said. “Not only do we continue to hold high expectations, a championship is now considered a standard around here. The culture allows the returners to pass on the expectations to the newcomers and practice that standard every day.”

Once the CACC Tournament started, it was strictly business for the Wildcats. Hosting Felician in the Quarterfinals, the team received a goal from returning senior Jenna Quaranta in the 85th minute to win 2-1. In the Semifinals, it was all Wilmington as it took down Georgian Court, 4-0, to set up a rematch with the team that gave them the one loss in the conference, Philadelphia. Fellow returning senior Chelsea Grace tallied the only mark of the game in the 58th minute to capture the CACC crown.

The team welcomes back three assist coaches from last year as Derek Buckley, Tom Cislo, and Jeff Brown all return for their second seasons.

Ruggiero returns eight players who appeared in the NCAA Division II East Region match against St. Rose, including six players who started at least 10 games last year. The reigning CACC Coach of the Year also brought it a solid group of 14 newcomers to the program looking to build upon the success from last year.

Among the returners are Quaranta, Grace, Jordanne Hoesli-Atkins, Rachel Burley, Monica Weil, and Sarah Lindler, who make up the senior class and were all named captains for the 2013 campaign. Juniors Ashley Kroll and Victoria Vasapolli also return to the lineup after a successful 2012 season. Grace, Vasapolli, and Quaranta return as the top three goal scorers from a year ago and made up 69 of the team’s 145 points last year.

“It all starts with our core returners. I feel comfortable with all the newcomers because of that core,” Ruggiero continued. “They have seen and experienced both the lows and the highs of this program. That core and experience helps the newcomers get on the same page a lot quicker. We are going to have growing pains, for sure, but we just have to make sure we get through them quickly.”

Starting from the back, junior transfer Julia Brown will anchor the goal line and the defensive unit. “Traditionally, we have been strong in goal as a program and she fits the mold here at Wilmington,” Ruggiero said of his keeper. “It all starts with her in the back.”

The versatile back line will be anchored by Lindler in the middle with Weil and Burley playing both outside back and midfield positions. Junior transfers Kaitlyn Atmore, Rebecca Prenctice, and Cella Cerrato add depth in the middle while Kendall Parliament gives the team height and a physical presence on the outside. Kim Richer and Alexa Cover have the ability to contribute right away as a true freshman, giving Ruggiero a luxury at the bench he hasn’t had before.

The midfield will be anchored by senior captains Hoesli-Atkins and Quaranta in the middle to transition the ball forward. Vasapolli will split time between the midfield and the attacking third, giving the middle of field an offensive threat. Kroll gives the team speed on the outside and will be joined by newcomers Sara Eggert, Rebecca Sowers, Shelby Schneeweis, Krista Varnes, and Lauren Hunter, all of which have the ability to transition quickly and smoothly from the offensive third to the defensive third.

The attack third of the field will be held together by Grace, the lone returning All-CACC and All-Region performer from 2012. The senior led the team with 12 goals and seven assists last year, finishing third in the CACC with 31 points. Vasapolli (eight goals and three assists), as well as newcomers Schneeweis, Madison Davolos, and Blair LaJudice will join Grace atop the front line.

“Playing in the (NCAA Division II) National Tournament last year gave us an idea of what it takes to be successful outside of the conference,” Ruggiero concluded. “We, as coaches, have been able to add pieces to be able to compete and represent the CACC the way it needs to be represented in getting back to the NCAA’s and that with wins in the tournament.”

The Wildcats open the season on tis weekend while playing Southern New Hampshire and Franklin Pierce in a cross-conference tournament at Franklin Pierce. The first chance to catch the Wildcats at the WU Athletics Complex will be on September 14 against Felician at 12 p.m.