HOBOKEN, N.J. (August 28, 2012) – As another fall quickly approaches the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology, the women’s soccer team, ranked 18th in the NSCAA preseason poll, begins their preparations for another run at the Empire 8 Conference title for the third consecutive season in 2012. The Ducks ran through last year’s conference schedule with a 6-0-1 record (first time since 2006) and a 14-3-4 overall mark en route to a First Round appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament, running the program’s consecutive post-season streak to 11 seasons. Stevens also earned another NSCAA Team Academic Award in 2011, the eighth time since 2002.
The No. 18 ranking is one of the highest ever that Stevens has received to kick off a season, but head coach Jeff Parker stressed that “the only ranking that matters is the one at the end, but if there’s a list made up of the best teams, we want to be on it.”
Parker, fresh off earning the Empire 8 Coaching Staff of the Year award, will be on the sidelines for his 13th season and believes that the depth and in-game experience that the returning Ducks possess will be a contributing factor to the success of the upcoming season. He reiterated his team first, get better today motto by stating “we want to be a better team tomorrow than we were today. That’s our job as coaches to create that type of environment. We hold each other to a high standard each day and will work hard as a group to make that happen and that’s our focus throughout the year.”
Joining Parker’s staff this season will be two new faces. Kevin Leacock, formerly an assistant at Rutgers University, and Katie Gebhard, a recent graduate of DIII Lynchburg College, will mentor the Ducks this season. The new staff maintains a wealth of knowledge that will aid in another run at an Empire 8 title and a trip back to the NCAA Tournament.
Stevens will need to fill the void of three all-conference performers and four starters from last year’s team who graduated, but with the starting game experience of 16 returning student-athletes and 11 of the 13 point scorers, the learning curve should be minimal.
The Ducks will have two strong goalkeepers to choose from in senior Teegan Kelly (Charlton, N.Y.) and junior Catherine Keough (Barnegat, N.J.). Last season, Kelly logged 315 minutes in six games with two starts and surrendered just one goal for a 0.29 goals-against average and a 1-1 record. She also posted a shutout and made 15 saves. Keough started two matches and played in a third with a 1-0-1 mark in 200 minutes played. Keough held a 0.90 GAA and stopped 10 shots for a .833 save percentage.
Stevens will be led offensively by the two previous Empire 8 Rookie of the Year recipients, junior Bridgette Barden (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and sophomore Ann Heine (Sammamish, Wash.). Barden is a two-time first-team honoree in the Empire 8 and also garnered All-East Region and Academic All-District recognition after tallying six goals (three game-winners) and two assists for 14 points in 19 contests last season. Heine, a second-team selection in the Empire 8, was also named the ECAC Upstate Rookie of the Year after starting and playing in all 20 matches for the Ducks. She ranked second on the team in goals (eight), assists (four) and points (20) in her rookie campaign.
Senior Paige Allen (Manalapan, N.J.) is back on the pitch for her final season after earning a first-team all-conference nod, her second Empire 8 selection in as many years, and All-East Region honors. Allen notched a goal and four assists in 19 matches last season.
Fellow senior Brittany Odgers (Roseland, N.J.) and junior Lindsay Stoll (Bellevue, Wash.) combined to play in 38 matches with 37 starts in 2011 with 19 points. Odgers registered three goals and three assists, while Stoll added three goals and four assists to add to the offensive firepower for the Ducks this season.
Defensively, the Ducks return two members that started in every contest last year in juniors Becky Wos (Mukwonago, Wis.) andCaitlyn Labonte (Northbridge, Mass.). The duo will anchor the midfield and defensive backfield that surrendered just 14 goals in and a 0.65 GAA in over 1,900 minutes of action in 2011.
The Ducks also welcome back upperclassmen leadership with the return of Gia Gonzales (Encitas, Calif.) and Jessie Wos (Mukwonago, Wis.) who were sidelined in 2011 due to injury. Before missing a majority of last season, Gonzales and Wos combined to play in 33 contests in 2010.
Adding to the depth and experience for this year’s club are senior Nicole Serino (Parsippany, N.J.), junior Kyle Stephens (Lansing, Mich.) and sophomores Mariah Cleveland (Los Gatos, Calif.), Georgia Johnson (Freehold, N.J.) and Stephanie Basile (Macungie, Pa.). Each of these five student-athletes started at least one match last season and saw action in more than 14 games.
This talented group of returners will look to display their experience against a challenging schedule throughout the upcoming season and try to maintain the team’s current 13-game unbeaten streak. Competing in the New York Region, arguably one of the toughest in DIII, the Ducks have 18 games slated on their schedule (10 home contests) with 12 opponents reaching postseason play in 2011.
Stevens will square off against three non-conference opponents that reached the NCAA Tournament last season in No. 21 The College of New Jersey, Eastern University and Farmingdale State College. The Ducks entertain Eastern and Farmingdale on September 5 and 18, respectively, and travel to TCNJ on October 17.
The Ducks open up the season on the road at New York University on August 31 and then return home for the Eastern match on the 5th before hosting the Ninth Annual Engineering Cup on September 8 and 9. NYU, Ursinus College and Kean University will take part in this year’s Cup, which also happens to be Family Weekend and a Wounded Warrior Project will take place over the two days.
Vassar College visits Castle Point on September 12 for the team’s Duck Country event, while Drew University hosts the Ducks on September 26 for an in-state rival matchup in Madison. Non-conference play concludes with a short trip to Montclair State University on October 2 and Western Connecticut State University steps foot on De Baun on October 24.
Over the past two seasons, the Empire 8 has been a multi-bid league into the NCAA Tournament and 2012 looks to be no different. Stevens hosts all three counterparts from last season’s Empire 8 Championship in Ithaca College, Nazareth College and St. John Fisher College. Nazareth, who fell to the Ducks in the E8 Final last year, makes the trip to Hoboken on September 22. Ithaca reached the Final Four last season after earning at-large bid and will be on campus on September 29, while Fisher will be part of Senior Day on October 20.
The remainder of the Empire 8 schedule rounds out as follows: at Hartwick College (September 15), at newcomer Houghton College (October 6) and at Alfred University on the 7th for the regularly schedule Columbus Day road trip. And finally, at Elmira College on October 27.
If the Ducks reach postseason play for the 12th-straight season, the Empire 8 Conference Tournament will be held on November 3 and 4 which was hosted by Stevens in 2011.