Corey Sobotka/Staff Photographer

After falling just short of the NESCAC women’s soccer championship game for the second straight year, the 2013 women’s soccer team hopes to improve on last season’s playoff success to bring a title to Middletown. After knocking off top-seeded Middlebury in the first round of last year’s tournament—something only two other teams were able to do all year—the Cardinals fell to eventual NESCAC champion Williams in the semifinals.

The team returns 18 players— three seniors, eight juniors, and seven sophomores—and will bring in six freshman and two transfers to their roster after losing only four players to graduation.

“I think that the depth of talent is different from any other team I’ve had,” said Head Coach Eva Meredith. “I have a good starting eleven, but I also have another five, six, or seven kids equally as talented, who can come and keep the level of play high.”

Last year, the team finished with a 7-8-1 record overall and a 3-7 record in conference play. While 2012 NESCAC Player of the Year Laura Kurash ’13 may be impossible to replace, the team will look to a number of players to step up as offensive threats this year.

“We will look for more of a collective effort [on the offensive end] this year,” said Coach Meredith. “Someone like Isabel Clements [’16] will be able to step up and be a goal scorer for us. But I hope it can come from different players because that makes us more versatile.”

Meredith also noted that Victoria Mathews ’16, a midyear transfer from Bucknell University, and tri-captain Hannah Knudsen ’14 would also be important pieces on the offense this coming year.

That said, defense was the strongest part of last year’s squad, as the team allowed one goal or less in 11 of its 26 games last year. Tri-captain Brynn Hansson ’15 will anchor the team’s defense along with Katy Hardt ’15 and Hannah Stone ’15, who are both returning starters. In a defense-minded move, tri-captain Kerry Doyle ’14 has been moved from an attacking position to center-back.

“With [Doyle’s] speed, it’s going to be so hard for opponents to beat us,” said Coach Meredith. “I made the decision to strengthen the defense, and then sort of go from there. I believe that if it all clicks and that if we can all play together, we will have a very strong defense, better than in the past.”

The team also returns both goalkeepers from last year in Jessica Tollman ’15 and Rachel Hobart ’16. Last year, the two combined for five shutouts, including one against Middlebury in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Tollman is injured right now and has missed almost all of the preseason. Luckily for the Cardinals, Hobart gives the team a very strong secondary option. Coach Meredith also said that the team plans to split time between the two keepers, similar to last year’s plan.

Coach Meredith was also clear about, more generally, what her team needed to do this year in order to win.

“The big thing for us is going to be consistency,” said Coach Meredith. “Can we consistently perform in practice and in games day in and day out? If we can do that, then we’ll be a team to watch out for.”

The Cardinals open up their season at Bowdoin on Saturday, Sept. 7 in what looks to be a matchup of a couple of the conference’s top teams. Last year, the Polar Bears took the season opener against Wesleyan in a very tightly contested 1-0 match.

“We are so disappointed in the way last year’s opening game went down because we’re better than that,” said Coach Meredith. “I don’t need to make it any bigger for [the team] than it already is in their minds. They are hungry for revenge.”

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