YORK – With three straight regular season titles under its belt, Christopher Newport was again selected as the CAC women's soccer favorite entering the 2016 season. The Captains secured seven first-place votes and tallied 78 points to earn the top spot in a vote among the conference head coaches.
Salisbury (72 points, 2 first-place votes) and St. Mary's (62 points, 1 first-place) also garnered first-place votes, with Frostburg State (52 points), defending-champion York (50 points), and Mary Washington (49 points) completing the top six. Rounding out the preseason coaches' poll were Penn State Harrisburg (34 points), Wesley (22 points), Southern Virginia (18 points), and Marymount (13 points).
The 2015 CAC women's soccer postseason was one for the ages, as the two lowest seeds in the championship tournament - fifth-seeded Mary Washington and sixth-seeded York – squared off in the title game, marking the first time in CAC history, all sports included, that the #5 seed hosted the #6 seed in the title round. In the end, York outlasted Mary Washington 1-0 in double overtime to secure its third CAC title in program history and became the first #6 seed to take home a title in CAC women's soccer. York went on to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament, falling to eventual national runner-up Washington University in St. Louis, 4-0.
The new campaign begins on Sept. 1 for five CAC squads. CAC play begins Sept. 24 as the 10 teams battle for six conference playoff berths, leading to the championship game on Nov. 5.
Below is a brief team-by-team preview heading into 2016:
CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT is coming off three straight conference regular season titles, but missed the NCAA Tournament in 2015 for the first time under fourth-year head coach Dan Weiler. The Captains will look to bounce back and make a return trip to the postseason this year with a veteran crew that boasted a 14-win season a year ago. The offense will be led by one of the most productive attackers in program history, senior Victoria Perry, who was the 2014 CAC Player of the Year. She headlines a group of four returning All-Conference players for CNU.
FROSTBURG STATE head coach Brian Parker, who is entering his 15th season at the helm, is confident that the returning talent on this year's squad will overcome the loss of seven seniors from the 2015 season. Junior Melanie Bell is tasked with replacing four-time All-CAC performer Brooke Longo and Parker and his staff are expecting a breakout year from her. Parker will also rely on a defensive backline that returns three starters in juniors Alyssa Malanik, Kourtney McLain and Lia Kelly. On the attack, senior Jessi Martz and sophomore Haley Dalphon combined for four goals and two assists last fall.
MARY WASHINGTON will look for its third straight CAC Championship appearance this fall, with a strong group of returnees for head coach Corey Hewson. Sophomore Marisa Madaras, who scored 10 goals as a freshman in 2015, heads a veteran group on offense, which includes senior Maryfay Jackson and Christiana Meyers. On defense, the Eagles welcome back the entire goalkeeping corps, as well as defenders Allie Branum and Shannon Blackstone.
Head coach Gayle Wilson, in her 11th season with the program, guides MARYMOUNT into another competitive campaign in 2016. Graduating just two seniors last year, the Saints return a plethora of talent including a senior class of seven. The back line is headed by senior Rebekah Krasinski who hasn't missed a game in her career, while the offense looks to 2015 team leader in scoring, senior Kirsten Campbell, to guide the front line. MU adds 15 new faces to the squad to give the program more depth in positions that have been shorthanded in the previous years.
After missing playoff's last season by only one game, PENN STATE HARRISBURG will look to improve this fall thanks a large incoming freshman class and several key returners. The Lion's will depend on Eliza Grimm to hold down the back four, Alyssa Crowley to lead as center mid, and 2015 CAC Rookie of the Year Kristen Stark at forward. Penn State Harrisburg enters the 2016 season with high expectations for both conference and non-conference play.
ST. MARY'S third-year head coach Peter Krech and his 2016 Seahawks are ready to build upon last season's success when the team notched a school-record eight CAC wins, finished second in the conference race, and advanced to the CAC Tournament Semifinals. The Seahawks return seven starters from a year ago, including Gillian Sawyer, the reigning CAC Player of the Year, and All-CAC selection Claire Kostelnik. Sawyer will lead the offensive charge once again after scoring a league-leading 18 goals while Kostelnik will command the midfield and spark the offense following a CAC-leading 10 helpers in 2015. The defense is in good hands with all-conference goalkeeper Katie Flores in the back.
SALISBURY begins the 2016-17 campaign loaded with veteran leadership and a seasoned underclass. Offensively, the Sea Gulls return senior Erin McQuate, juniors Ruthie Lucas and Alex Pryor, and sophomore Jenna Taylor, who moves from the midfield to forward. This crew will combine to create a dynamic scoring threat this season. The senior laden midfield of Jayne Pinsky, Jenny Gavigan, and Lauren Minghenelli bring back loads of talent and experience to Salisbury's core. Senior Carli Dixon and Lindsey Andonian will be the defensive anchors at outside back while tested juniors Rachel Anderson and Jamie Tacka complete the defensive wall for the Sea Gulls. Senior goalkeeper Alesha Seifert (first-team All-CAC in 2015) who started in nine games and recorded 29 saves last year will command the Gulls this season.
MaKenzie Cox, who was recently named as SOUTHERN VIRGINIA's interim head coach, comes with high expectations to lead the team to a winning season. Backed by returning goal scorers Tatiana Monsen and Emily McFadyen and goalkeeper Rachel Miller, the Knights are poised for multiple conference wins and a shot in the postseason tournament.
WESLEY returns 12 athletes for the 2016 season including last year's leading scorer and 2015 All-Conference selection Janiah Moore. Kayla Ryan and Natalie Trujillo lead the defensive unit that returns three of four starters along the back line. The Wolverines will look to snap their three-year CAC playoff drought when they begin the season on Sept. 1.
YORK must replace a number of key players from last year's unexpected Capital Athletic Conference tournament championship run. The Spartans, who were the first sixth seed to win a women's soccer title, must replace three seniors who played an important role in the title run last year. Fortunately for head coach Vicki Sterner, she returns two All-CAC players in defenders Marisa Brisbane and Kirsten Good. York will turn to juniors Maxine Herman and Corie Elliot for offensive production while twins Caitlin and Alyssa Rankin give York another pair of players capable of big offensive seasons.
2016 CAC Women's Soccer Preseason Poll
|1. Christopher Newport (7 first-place votes)||78 points|
|2. Salisbury (2 first-place votes)||72 points|
|3. St. Mary's (1 first-place vote)||62 points|
|4. Frostburg State||52 points|
|5. York||50 points|
|6. Mary Washington||49 points|
|7. Penn State Harrisburg||34 points|
|8. Wesley||22 points|
|9. Southern Virginia||18 points|
|10. Marymount||13 points|