This year, the Rowan University women’s soccer team is looking for another successful season. In 2009, the Profs had a 17-3-1 overall record and they were undefeated (9-0) in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) for the regular season title. The 17 victories tied the school record for most wins in a season. Rowan received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament and advanced to the third round for the first time in the program’s 15-year history. The women’s soccer team has made five straight appearances in the national tournament and six overall.
Rowan is ranked second in the NJAC Preseason Poll by the conference coaches. The Profs received four of the 10 first place votes. In addition, the women’s soccer team is 17th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Division III Preseason Rankings.
“We are excited for the season,” stated head coach Scott Leacott. “It will be an interesting year. We graduated our goalkeeper (Sarah Volkomer) who was one of the best in the country. She would have been an All-American last year if she did not get hurt. The good thing is that we return six of the top seven scorers.”
“Every year we take another step closer to making the final four,” Leacott continued. “We start the season with two tournaments and we want to win both of them. We would love to win the conference and make a stronger run in the NCAA tournament.”
This is the final season for forward Jess Babice (sr. Groveville, NJ/Steinert) who was the Profs’ leading scorer last year. Babice totaled 50 points with 22 goals and six assists. She was selected to the NSCAA All-America third team and the Atlantic All-Region first team. Babice was chosen the NJAC and Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Metro Region Offensive Player of the Year. In addition, she was a member of the NJAC All-Conference and ECAC All-Star first teams.
Babice is joined on the frontline by Veronica Rhea (jr. Pennsauken, NJ/Paul VI). Rhea was second in scoring with 42 points. She was the team’s assist leader with 16 and she totaled 13 goals. Her honors included NJAC All-Conference first team, ECAC Metro All-Star second team and Atlantic All-Region third team.
“The frontline is the strongest part of our team,” commented Leacott. “Starters Jess and Veronica compliment each other very well. It will be difficult for other teams to key in on one of them. Both players have looked fantastic in training camp.”
In her rookie season, Melanie Wittenberger (so. Tabernacle, NJ/Seneca) finished third in scoring with 18 points, eight goals and two assists. Midfielder Evynn Wright (jr. Marlton, NJ/Eastern Reg.) contributed with six goals and two assists for 14 points.
“Most of the players this year are interchangeable,” said Leacott. “We have forwards and midfielders that will see time at both positions and there are midfielders and backs that can play either position. Melanie will see more playing time in the midfield and some at forward. Evynn is looking really good in the preseason.”
Christie Fink (jr. Hamilton, NJ/Steinert) is Rowan’s mainstay in the midfield. Last year was her first season on the team and she compiled six assists. Fink earned NJAC All-Conference first team honors. This year, Holly Bundy (sr. Toms River, NJ/Toms River E.) has been moved up to the midfield.
“Christie is the team’s playmaker,” Leacott praised. “Her job is to get the ball to the forwards. She has played with Jess all of her life and has experience playing with Veronica from last season. We should score more goals this year. Holly has extremely good skills and she will patrol the center. Her play is similar to Christie.”
Leacott has also switched Leah Carney (jr. Mickleton, NJ/Kingsway Reg.) from back to the midfield. On the outside, he expects to do a lot subbing with veterans Michele Ercolano (so. Emerson, NJ/Paramus Catholic), Audrey Gagnon (so. South Amboy, NJ/South Amboy) and Wittenberger.
They are joined by Kate Bower (so. Farmingdale, NJ/Colts Neck) who missed most of last season with an injury. In her first year, Ercolano saw playing time in 17 games. Gagnon added two goals in four appearances.
The mix in the midfield will also consist of returnee Marina Mangano (so. Cape May Court House, NJ/Middle Twp.) and newcomers Miranda Donnian (fr. Sewell, NJ/Clearview Reg.) and Pam Capasso (jr. Woodbury Heights, NJ/Gateway Reg.). At Clearview Regional High School, Donnian received All-South Jersey and Tri-County All-Conference honors. A transfer, Capasso earned All-Conference honors in high school.
The Profs’ defense is anchored by back Christine Foy (jr. Hamilton, NJ/Steinert). Last season, Foy was selected the NJAC Defensive Player of the Year. She was a member of the NJAC All-Conference and ECAC Metro Region first teams. Foy was named to the Atlantic All-Region third team. A two-year starter, she assisted on three goals. The backfield includes returning starter Linda Sierra (jr. Marlton, NJ/Cherokee).
“Christine has two years in the system,” Leacott stated. “She is the key on how we run defensively. She has good instincts and is a smart player. Linda has the best work rate on the team. She is very difficult to get around. Linda gets up for us out of the back and on attack.”
The defense will also consist of veterans Ashley Walsky (so. Coral Springs, FL/Stoneman Douglas), Leah Mascitti (so. Glassboro, NJ/Glassboro) and Bower. The freshman class includes Deandra Turchi (fr. Turnersville, NJ/Paul VI), Dayna Sakalsky (fr. Long Valley, NJ/West Morris Central) and Donnian.
“We are high on our backs,” said Leacott. “Deandra and Dayna are very similar players. Both are very smart. Miranda is very good in the air and she gets up on offense.”
Rowan is without its three-year starting goalkeeper Sarah Volkomer. Last season, she saw time in only 10 games because of an injury. She stopped 32 shots for an 84.2 save percentage. Volkomer had a 0.63 goals against average and recorded five shutouts. Jillian Brannan (jr. Saddle Brook, NJ/Saddle Brook) was in goal for eight games. She posted an 86.7 save percentage, a 0.55 goals against average and two shutouts.
Brannan is challenged by rookies Deana Wood (fr. Voorhees, NJ/Eastern Reg.) and Lauren McElroy (fr. Brick, NJ/Brick Twp.). Her senior year, Wood was named to the Olympic All-Conference first team and she received All-State honors.
“All of the goalkeepers have the opportunity to play,” explained Leacott. “We evaluate them everyday and the decision will be made the night before each game.”
Rowan starts the season at home against Arcadia University on Wednesday, September 1. The Profs are at the Richard Stockton Classic on Saturday and Sunday, September 4 and 5. The women’s soccer team will play New York University and Wilkes University. The next weekend, Rowan travels to Fredericksburg, VA for the University of Mary Washington Soccer Classic. Rowan will face Mary Washington and Emory University. The women’s soccer team returns home on Saturday, September 18 against Montclair State University in the first conference game.
“Six out of the nine conference games are away this season, which is tough,” Leacott commented. “When I started coaching, there were teams that were in the bottom half of the conference. Now with more conference teams having full-time coaches, anyone can beat anyone on a given day.”
“This is our toughest non-conference schedule,” Leacott said. “We open the season against Arcadia who only lost two games last year and they were to the national champion (Messiah). The first weekend we play NYU and Wilkes. The following week we have Mary Washington, a NCAA tournament team, and Emory who is a top team in a strong conference. The schedule also includes games against Salisbury and Moravian who are traditionally strong teams.”
“It will be tough,” continued Leacott. “We will be challenged every time we step on the field.”