Season Preview: Women's soccer loaded with experience, sets sights on conference playoffs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bumper crop of seniors hope to lead the Gallaudet University women's soccer program into the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) postseason for the first time in school history as the Bison kick-off their 2012 season.
The Bison have six seniors on this year's roster and three are four-year starters that started their career in the Capital Athletic Conference and have since transferred over to the NEAC.
Last season, the Bison went 2-15, 2-10 in conference, but were without the services of their all-conference goalie that was sidelined with an injury. Senior Kara Gulvas (Crown Point, Ind.) is back and will help set the tone of the games for the buff and blue.
Two years ago, when Gulvas was a sophomore the Bison posted a 7-11 overall record and 4-7 mark in their debut in the NEAC.
Here is a breakdown of the 2012 Bison women's soccer team.
Senior Johanna Arrigo (Ewing, N.J.) is back for her fourth and final year starting at forward for the Bison. Arrigo was second on the team with five points and two goals last season in 17 starts. Arrigo will use her experience and leadership to help freshman Louisenie Philostin (Orlando, Fla.) transition to playing at the collegiate level. Gallaudet head coach Sarah Gumina, who enters her sixth season at the helm, and third-year assistant coach Liza Offrenda are excited for the potential Philostin has to go with her strong right foot.
Senior Maddie Morgan (Hockessin, Del.) leads the midfield unit in her fourth year starting on the left side for the Bison. Morgan led the team last season with three goals and six points in 17 games, 16 starts, as she took 40 shots.
"Maddie provides a killer shot and cross from the left side," said Gumina. "We hope to use her more outside a little more this year. She is a true leader on the field as a four-year starter."
Sophomore Katie Benz (Stafford, Va.) burst onto the scene last year and was tied for second on the team in goals (two) and points (five) as she saw action in all 17 games and made 14 starts. She had one of the two game-winning goals for the Bison in 2011.
"Katie has grown a lot and is more confident in her abilities. She has stepped up into a leadership role as she gives direction through the midfield to help her teammates with assignments," said Gumina.
Junior Monique Balcarcel (Lansing, Mich.) will start in the middle alongside Benz this season. She spent the offseason training with the U.S. national deaf women's soccer team that helped to improve her game. She played in 16 games last season and started 10 games.
Freshman Sofia Lindevall (Stockholm, Sweden) is new to the squad this season and will line-up on the right side where she hopes to use her speed to her advantage. Lindevall was a member of Gallaudet's women's basketball team last winter and is ready to make her mark on the pitch this fall. Senior Maggie Hoyt (Edgecomb, Maine) is another veteran that has plenty of game experience and will provide help in the midfield throughout the season. Junior Katie Giles (Gaithersburg, Md.) is a new addition to the team in 2012.
The defense will start a lot of experience in front of Gulvas in net. Senior Connor Crawford (Palatka, Fla.) is a four-year starter for Gumina and will be lined up with fellow senior Shea Rasmus (Fremont, Calif.), sophomore Elena Ciccarelli (Whitesboro, N.Y.) and a newcomer in junior Katie Giles (Gaithersburg, Md.).
Crawford saw action in all 17 games last season and made 15 starts, Rasmus played in 14 games and started half of them while Ciccarelli had a nice freshman debut as see saw action in 12 games, started nine.
Gulvas back in goal is a welcome sight for the Bison women's soccer program after she missed last season due to an injury. Two years ago, Gulvas was a second team all-conference goalie. She finished third in total saves (159), fourth in shutouts (two), seventh in goals against average at 2.51 and eighth in save percentage (.787) in 2010. She played and started in every regular-season game but the last one because of injury. She logged 1,544 of a possible 1,639 minutes in net for the Bison. Gulvas finished the season with a 6-10 record.
"Kara is a difference maker for us," said Gumina. "We definitely missed her last year in goal. She is ready to be back and we are looking forward to her finishing out her last year strong for the Bison."
Hoyt or Calik will backup Gulvas in net this season.
The key to success for the Bison this season is to get out of the gate strong and perform well against several non-conference opponents before jumping into NEAC play. GU opens the season on the road with four games before returning to Hotchkiss Field for a key five-game homestand.
"The schedule is spaced out well between road trips and home games. The start of the season on the road allows the team to adjusting playing away from home and then after those four games we will be ready to play in front of our home fans," said Gumina.
The five-game homestand will contain three conference games including a showdown on Sept. 15 with Penn St.-Harrisburg. At the end of September the Bison hit the road once more on a five-game trip before returning home for three games during mid-October. Two NEAC games in Pennsylvania follow before a Homecoming game with Trinity (D.C.) on October 26 to close out the regular-season.
"The NEAC is hard to tell this season," said Gumina. "I feel like we have a great team that can finish in the top six this year in the NEAC and make the conference tournament."
With a strong start and a good performance at home the Bison have the chance to accomplish some of their team goals such as breaking a school record. Gallaudet wants a winning season, earn the most wins in a season and hopefully tally the most goals in a season for a Bison women's soccer team.
"The team goal is to break a school record this year. I think it is possible with what we have and the skill level we have," said Gumina. "I think personalities, chemistry and skill wise is all there. It is just a matter of putting it all together and showing up to our games ready to play hard."