Women's Soccer Season Preview

August 20, 2010
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Aug. 20, 2010

NORFOLK, Va. - Old Dominion University women's soccer hosts Syracuse in the regular-season opener on Sunday, Aug. 22 at 1 p.m.

Below is a season outlook on the Lady Monarchs.

With seven starters and 14 letterwinners returning, along with a solid group of newcomers, the 2010 season looks promising for the Old Dominion University Lady Monarchs.

"I'm very optimistic, we have our entire front line and midfield returning," head coach Joe Pereira said. "Coming into camp the back was a question mark, but we feel really good about that now."

ODU returns its top two leading scorers in sophomore Ashlee Coutu and junior Victoria Johnson. Coutu led the 2009 squad with nine goals and 22 points, ranking sixth in the Colonial Athletic Association in points and fifth in goals, en route to earning CAA all-Rookie accolades. Johnson led the Lady Monarchs and was sixth in the CAA with six assists. She finished the season with eight points to give her 33 for her career, ranking her tied for 10th with Diane Baucom on the school's career points list.

"Victoria and Ashlee have had a very good preseason. We're going to be strong up front, we just have to improve on our quality from last year," Pereira said.

Johnson and Coutu will have help up front from a variety of different players. Freshman Kate Kelly has been impressive as well as returners Kelly Evans, Aubrie Ewell and senior Kelsey Williams. Ewell, Evans and Williams played in every game last season and will look to step up in 2010. Alyssa Pietrobono and Kaylee Scholl provide solid depth up front as do newcomers Sara Brock and Samantha Hinson.

The midfield appears to very strong, returning all-CAA performers in Ashley Kukura and Kirstin Walker, and two-year starter Jocelyn Weidner.

"This is the most experienced area of the team, they have been big pieces of the puzzle for the last few years," Pereira said. "We rely heavily on them, putting a lot of demands on them and they have responded beautifully."

Kukura is a four-year starter and two-time all-CAA performer, while Walker enjoyed a breakout season last year in her first season as a starter, finishing second on the team with three goals. Weidner has been a solid two year starter, scoring a goal and assisting on three more last season. Meghan Cozens adds solid depth to the trio as will freshman Julia Stejskal.

The back line took the hardest hit due to graduation, losing starters Saratu Dodo and Brittney Kortz, as well as key contributor Samantha Brennan. The Lady Monarchs return two of their starting defenders out of a group that held opponents to less than a goal per game in 2009, in juniors Lisa Bernardini and Rachael Carroll. Carroll was one of three Lady Monarchs to start every game last season, as well as Bernardini, who earned all-CAA accolades.

"It has been impressive to see how quickly we have grown back there," Pereira said. "Lisa and Rachael have gained experience the last two years and the newcomers have come together well.

Freshmen Amber Cook and Nikki Clarke have been solid in camp and have the edge to gain the two starting spots. Junior Tori Diersen and sophomore Taylor Mertz add depth to the position as well as freshman Kayla Hufford.

With a full season under their belts, sophomore goalkeepers Brianna Alvarado and Laura Bush will look to make it even more difficult for opponents in 2010. Alvarado started 17 games in goal, finishing third in the CAA with a 0.77 goals against average. She made 61 saves and broke the single-season school record for shutouts with six. Bush made three starts, making 10 stops and posting a 2.00 GAA.

"They both continue to grow from last year, we expect bigger and better things this year," Pereira said.

The Lady Monarchs play another tough schedule in 2010, starting the campaign against Big East foe Syracuse on August 22. ODU travels to VMI before returning home on Sept. 3 to square off against East Carolina. The squad heads to Radford before taking on Atlantic Coast Conference opponent North Carolina State on Sept. 17.

"It is a very demanding non-conference schedule, we have strong opponents that will help our RPI and prepare us for the tough CAA season," Pereira said.

ODU hits the road with four-consecutive road games, including the CAA opener at George Mason. The Lady Monarchs return to the friendly confines of the ODU Soccer Complex to host Georgia State in the CAA home opener. A trip to Delaware and Drexel is in between four-straight home games, beginning with Northeastern and ending with the home finale on Oct. 24 versus James Madison. The CAA Tournament will begin on Nov. 5, with the top four finishers qualifying, with the top two seeds hosting. The championship game will be held at the highest remaining seed on Nov. 7.

"Every conference game is extremely important, there are no easy games in the CAA."