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Lady Monarchs Host Hartford in Season Opener on Friday

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: August 17, 2011
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Aug. 17, 2011

ODU hosts Hartford in its season opener on Friday at 7 p.m. at the ODU Soccer Stadium. Below is a season preview.

NORFOLK, Va. - Old Dominion University women's soccer returns its top-eight scorers from last years squad as well as nine starters. With a solid nucleus returning and a solid crop of newcomers, ODU expects to improve on last seasons 4-12-1 mark.

"You can't coach experience and with nine starters returning, there is a whole new sense of commitment that has been put in place since the spring season and has continued over the summer," head coach Joe Pereira said. "We're looking forward to that experience and leadership being a massive piece to chase this title."

ODU opens its season on Friday when they host Hartford at 7 p.m. and take on East Carolina on Sunday at 2 p.m.

"We are positioned nicely for the season, the exhibition match versus George Washington was very telling," Pereira said. "If we use that as a starting point, stay focused, stay in the moment, we should do really well. I'm looking forward to the season."

The Lady Monarchs scored 23 goals last season with all but two of those goals coming from returning players. Senior Victoria Johnson leads the attack up front, leading the team with four goals and two assists in 2010. Kelly Evans and Ashlee Coutu are back for their junior campaigns while sophomore Kate Kelly returns after scoring three goals as a freshman. The pair combined for three goals and six assists last season while Coutu was the teams leading scorer in 2009. Senior Kaylee Scholl and junior Aubrie Ewell will see playing team as well, with freshmen Taylor Smith, Jessie Klamut and Heather Schnake adding depth to the position as well as sophomores Sara Brock and Samantha Hinson.

"We are looking at different things, we need to do more, were tweaking shapes and personnel a little bit to try and find the right combination," Pereira said. "We like what we look like going forward, and are hoping for a massive improvement from last year."

The midfield took the biggest hit due to graduation, losing starters Kirstin Walker and all-CAA performer Ashley Kukura. They do return three-year starter Jocelyn Weidner and a host of players that will look for increased playing time. Junior Meghan Cozens appeared in 15 games last year, recording two goals and an assist while Hallie Rogers returns after redshirting last season. Freshmen Charley Martin, Tiffany Reed and Alexis Thomas along with Klamut will add depth to the midfield.

"We've changed the shape there which lends itself better to the personnel that we have there now and the shape were in, we like it a lot," Pereira said. "With the change in shape we feel like were much stronger than we were last year."

ODU returns all four members of its starting back line in seniors Lisa Bernardini and Rachael Carroll, and sophomores Nikki Clarke and Amber Cook. Bernardini started all 14 games she played in and was the leading scorer for the ODU lacrosse team in the spring, while Carroll tied for the team lead in assists with five. Cook and Clarke gained valuable experience last season as did fellow sophomore Kayla Hufford, who started the season finale at William and Mary. Senior Tori Diersen saw action in 12 games last year while junior Taylor Mertz appeared in 16 games, starting in five. Freshman Leighanne Gerstbrein brings added depth as well.

"Taylor Mertz has really emerged, she is playing really well and has had a strong preseason," Pereira said. "Victoria Johnson is coming back off an injury and we're looking at her back there as well. She brings all kinds of physicality and speed that is needed back there."

The Lady Monarchs return both goalkeepers for the second-straight season, as Brianna Alvarado and Laura Bush return for their junior campaigns. Alvarado started 16 games last season, recording 69 saves while Bush earned one start, making nine stops.

"We have it again, thats two years of experience, all the minutes that we've had the last two years has been done by these two, so we return that kind of confidence, that can be a big difference and we are hoping that they can be a strong part of our team."

ODU brought in seven newcomers this season, including six from the state of Virginia. Pereira is looking for a few to help out right away.

"We've attacked them pretty hard, all of them at some point will be great factors, we have three right now that are ready," Pereira said. "Jessie Klamut, Taylor Smith and Charley Martin are going to be immediately in the fold."

The Lady Monarchs once again have a tough schedule, headlined with a home date with Arizona State and away tilt at NC State, and an always tough CAA slate.

"We know what we have to do, the schedule is very challenging, the out of conference schedule is tough with Arizona State, going to NC State, ECU coming in, it will be difficult, which is good," Pereira said. " We know the animal in the conference, its a battle game in and game out, it is extremely balanced from top to bottom."

This weekend's games against Hartford and East Carolina will be streamed live on ODUSports.com.

Click on the link below for a video on senior Lisa Bernardini

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