Systemized League Projection
*1. La Salle – 31
2. Dayton – 24
3. VCU – 17
4. UMass – 15
5. Duquesne – 13
6. Saint Bonaventure – 12
7. Rhode Island – 11
8. George Washington – 11
9. Saint Louis – 11
10. Richmond – 10
11. Saint Joseph’s – 10
12. Davidson – 10
13. George Mason – 10
14. Fordham – 7
* = Projected NCAA Tournament Qualifier
The A10 has done duopolies well in the past decade, first between Dayton and Charlotte and now between Dayton and La Salle. The Flyers ran away with the league title by five points last season but were then cruelly knocked out in the conference tournament final on penalties to their rivals from Philadelphia. Dayton now hasn’t their great rivals since 2010 and may face an uphill climb this season as well, with the Explorers looking loaded for another run at the NCAA Tournament. The two meet up at Dayton on October 17 in a match that may well decide the league title again.
Good luck picking out the other teams that will contend for a spot in the conference tournament. VCU and UMass appear to be best placed, but after that, it’s going to be an almighty scramble. As evidenced last season, when positions four through eleven were separated by just two points. Add in a newcomer in former SoCon side Davidson, and you’ve got a recipe for chaos…behind the top two.
La Salle has made great leaps forward over the past half-decade, but Paul Royal and co. will be eager to make the next big step forward and be a consistent contender to win NCAA Tournament games. While the Explorers couldn’t top the table in league play in 2013, they still managed to win the A10 Tournament on penalties against Dayton but ultimately fell short in the NCAA Tournament against Georgetown. Though the Explorers lose some big pieces from the past few seasons, there’s still plenty here for a title run in 2014. Perhaps somewhat against general perception, La Salle had a great defense last season, giving up just five goals in eight league games. However, the club has to replace Courtney Niemiec, a titan at the back for the Explorers for three seasons and a undrafted rookie signee for Portland of the NWSL this year. Towering center-back Kerri Aiken does return though and should help stabilize the backline, while Jessica Wiggins grew into the starting goalkeeper role and could go from strength to strength in 2014.
If the defense keeps it together, La Salle should roll, as the offense still has tons of weapons despite Renee Washington’s graduation. While Maryam Huseini’s thirteen assists return this year in midfield, the real firepower should be up front. Kelsey Haycook is set for a monster season after fifteen goals and eleven assists last season, though she’ll need other weapons to help relieve the scoring pressure. Those weapons should be there though. Norwegian youth international Kristin Haugstad arrives from the club’s European pipeline, while junior transfer Fia Jonsson comes after dominating the Big South for two seasons since arriving from Sweden. La Salle doesn’t have many huge chances for statement wins in non-conference play, but they might not need them in the end. If the defense holds fast, the attack should crush most A10 teams. And as always, such a team will be dangerous if given the right matchup in the NCAA Tournament.
Dayton have had the offseason to stew after winning the league last year but being knocked out on penalties by La Salle. The Flyers have had two fine seasons in a row but missed out on the NCAA Tournament, with a lack of creditable non-conference results last season doing them in. There are replacements that need to be made for lost talent, but the Flyers still look well placed to challenge for honors again. Twenty-one goals in eight league games spoke volumes, and the club returns eighteen goal scorer Ashley Campbell after a breakout season in 2013. A member of Canada’s U20 WWC squad, Campbell netted seven in six games down the stretch last season and looks to be continuing in the Flyers’ tradition of producing big ticket attacking talent. The supporting class needs replenishing though, as sixteen assist Juliana Libertin departs, as well as second leading scorer Stephanie Emery. The good news is the likes of Nicole Waters, who had seventeen assists, and rookies Nicolette Griesinger and Alexis Kiehl should help fill a little of the void. The bigger questions are probably on defense, where the team must overcome the losses of A10 Defensive Player of the Year Sarah Senoyuit, as well as defensive standout Meghan Scharer. Sophomore goalkeeper Elizabeth James showed promise as a rookie, but it could be “score one more than you concede” if the defense can’t coalesce in front of their netminder after those losses. There are a handful of opportunities for big non-conference wins, but this club is still plenty good to take the conventional route and win the league’s auto bid.
VCU head coach Lindsey Vanderspiegel probably hoped for better for her debut season with the Rams in 2013 but had to settle for mid-table obscurity and a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Dayton in the A10 Tournament. The Rams look well positioned for a run up the table though thanks to what should be one of the league’s best defenses. The mountainous Casey Boyer is one of the league’s most imposing center-backs and should help anchor the backline again as a senior. Add in a top notch international addition in Swedish youth international Amanda Hallesjo, and the Rams have a group that could dominate most A10 offenses. Sophomore Emma Kruse is a quality netminder and should continue to excel after a solid rookie season, while the club has fine cover after adding promising rookie Audrey Sanderson. It’s all a matter of scoring goals. VCU managed just five in the league last season and loses joint leading scorer Courtney Conrad. Norway’s Maren Johansen does return but has never been a top option at this level. Bree Livingston or some of the other newcomers may need to shine for VCU to challenge for silverware. The non-conference schedule is well-balanced though, and should VCU get some offense, they may just sneak away with an A10 Tournament title.
UMass has fallen in the RPI two straight seasons and were stranded in the middle of the table and just about every stat category there is last year. The attack has to replace the club’s top scorer in Brittany Moore, who netted eight goals last season, as well as the three goals of joint second scorer Alyssa D’Arcy. Sophomore Megan Burke is the leading returning scorer, but considering she only scored three goals, the offense is a big worry. Signing JUCO star Stacie Murray could be a big coup if she can acclimate to this level quickly in the midfield. The good news is that the defense should be reasonably strong this year. Icelandic junior Rebekka Sverrisdottir should be one of the league’s best defenders and already looks to be a budding star. With the return of star keeper Danielle Kriscenski and the addition of solid rookie Cassidy Babin, the Minutewomen are spoilt for choice in goal as well. There’s probably not enough here for a title challenge, but UMass could enjoy their best season in a while if they can squeeze some offense together while the defense does its thing.
Duquesne were poor to say the least last season, finishing near the bottom of the table in a season where almost everyone was at least in contention for the postseason. The Dukes actually had a chance to grab a berth but lost their last three to finish next to last. With eight starters returning, it could finally be time for a move up this season. The club scored just five goals in eight league games and had nobody above three goals but does return those top two scorers in Maddie Layman and Maggie Mayo, who both showed upside. Add in a big infusion of midfield talent with the arrival of Samantha Ciulla, Linnea Faccenda, and Amber Fichter, and the Dukes could well double their league goal total from 2013. The defense wasn’t awful but lacks star power, meaning Duquesne will likely be riding offensive improvement to a move up the table. They’re miles away from a title challenge, but finally, the arrow looks pointed up.
Saint Bonaventure managed to advance in the postseason for the first time since 2011 last year, capping off a solid first season for Steve Brdarski. Consolidation looks likeliest this season though, with the club starting netminder Megan Junker, as well as top scorer Alyssa Lapp. Seven goal Molly Curry does return though, as the club’s third leading scorer in five-goal Lauren Hill. The goals better keep coming, because the defense was one of the league’s worst, conceding over a goal and a half in league games. Junior keeper Christina Sarokon started a handful of games in goal last season and shouldn’t be awed by taking over duties as #1. If the offense keeps going, SBU should at least qualify for the postseason again. But the club also looks thin on numbers, and that lack of depth could prove costly if the Bonnies get hit with injuries.
Michael Needham may be an alum at Rhode Island, but he’ll already be under severe scrutiny if his club underperforms again after a woeful 2013 that saw them rooted to the bottom of the table. His side couldn’t score and couldn’t defend, though a decent recruiting class and a solid set of returnees could boost them. Samantha Alves showed signs of becoming a capable defender, while the club adds Norwegian youth international Simone Hansen to the backline, likely at center-back. Stability in goal would help as well, as the club went through four keepers last season. Senior Reilly Lindsey and sophomore Katie Nickles look most likely to feature this year. Leading scorer Samantha Leyh returns after seven goals a season ago, but more eyes may be turned upon European imports Svana Hermannsdottir and Katrin Gylfadottir to see if they can breathe more life in the attack. Mid-table is a realistic possibility if those newcomers pan out.
George Washington were in the bizarre position of having scored the fewest goals in the league AND having conceded the fewest, with four in both categories. With the likes of top defender Alex Brothers and Mackenzie McIndoe returning to the backline this season with plenty of experience, the Colonials may be able to at least come close to last season’s defensive pace. Nicole Ulrick has to be replaced in goal, though junior transfer Ellen Conway could be an astute signing. It will matter little if the club can’t score though. Top scorer Jane Wallis is gone, but she still scored just four goals. The top returning scorers are sophomores Lina Proska and Mackenzie Cowley, who each netted three times last year. If they or junior Kristi Abbate can’t pick up the scoring pace though, GW won’t get out of mid-table.
Saint Louis had the defense to match the top clubs last year but couldn’t keep pace in front of goal, though they still finished joint second with La Salle. While the club loses just two starters, those two were the club’s best players. Jessie Jarrett was one of the A10′s top defenders, and her loss could be tough to overcome. Mary Wright’s a three-year starter though and will look to lead the line this year, while Hanna Benben returns in goal. The club’s top offensive threat, Jenny Hummert also departs, though the club’s leading scorer, Livi Logan-Wood returns with five goals on seventeen shots last year. Newcomer Danielle Manning should also compete for major minutes in attack. The Billikens probably won’t fall off a cliff, but they’ll probably be in a fight for the postseason lives with stars Hummert and Jarrett gone.
Richmond never recovered from Becca Wann’s career ending concussion early in 2013 and sagged to a lower mid-table finish as the underachieving Spiders failed to meet expectations again. Head coach Peter Albright knows he may be treading on thin ice after two poor seasons following 2011′s breakout campaign. Leading scorers Erin Layne and Jensen Smith both depart, though considering they both scored just three goals, it’s perhaps not as big a pair of losses and some might think. Newcomers will play a big role, and they don’t come much bigger for Richmond than Lexi Prillaman, a two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year from Delaware. The defense was middle of the road last season but does return the promising Hunter Rooney, already a key contributor in the back after just one season. With Devin O’Brien’s unexpected departure in goal, Emily Kelly should get the bulk of the minutes after she split time with O’Brien last season. Prillaman looks like a big get, but if she can’t crank it up right away, the Spiders look destined to struggle.
Perennial underachievers Saint Joseph’s suffered through another dismal year in 2013, finishing in the bottom half of the table, though they were also two points off a Top Five finish. There was little subtlety to the ills of SJU last season, as they finished with the league’s worst defense, giving up two goals a game in the league. With a defense that bad, you better be able to score, with the Hawks being decent but not great in front of goal. The club does lose Mo Hawkins though, the senior midfielder being one of the league’s best players for a few years. Her eight goals led the team, and sophomore Emily Gingrich has to pick up the slack, with nobody else returning having netted multiple goals. PDA product Lauren Dimes could help with the scoring if she lives up to the billing. Defense? Your guess is as good as mine, though they can’t be much worse than last season. The Hawks are tied for fewest returning starters, and given the loss of Hawkins, they may miss out on the postseason again.
We’ll find out what mid-table in the SoCon equates to in the A10 this year as Davidson makes the journey to a new conference for 2014. The Wildcats didn’t really sign off with a flourish either, winning just one of their last six. The offense just couldn’t keep up with the big guns of the league, while the defense was mediocre. While the Wildcats look set to return eight starters from last year’s squad, the arguable step in competition could catch them out. Becca Fisher’s struggles continued, the senior scoring just twice for a second disappointing season in a row after a strong rookie year. Hopes may instead rest with rookie Ashley Finke, who netted three goals despite starting just six times. The defense is a question mark given the step up in competition, especially with the loss of Lindsay Blum and Meg Sanborn from the backline. Head coach Greg Ashton will be hoping some of the newcomers can make the grade, Garrett Barnes on defense and UNC transfer Vicky Bruce on offense expected to impress. Still, Davidson weren’t great last year, and they probably won’t be much better this year with the A10 a tougher beast than the SoCon.
George Mason was one of the best of the rest last season but may struggle to match those heights this season given their fitful offense a season ago. It was a minor miracle GMU actually finished in the top five of the A10 considering they didn’t average a goal a game in the league. Where the goals are going to come from this season is anyone’s guess. Leading scorers Emma Starr and Liz Hodges combined for just seven goals all season and will need to up those totals lest they find their starting spots under threat, though it doesn’t appear head coach Diane Drake has added any big hitters. Defense is a double-edged sword in 2014. The club does return Sarah Hardison, a 6’0″ mountain in the center of defense who should be one of the league’s best defenders for a few years yet. Add in Abby Downey, the gem of this recruiting class, and GMU should be fine on the backline. But senior star goalkeeper Lyndse Hokanson departs, with junior Briana Kottler likely to get first chance at deputizing. If you can’t score in this league, you probably aren’t going to win too many games. With little offensive help over the horizon seemingly, GMU would do well to finish in the top half of the league again.
After years of stagnation in the A10, most felt Fordham was due for a change, and most felt that the Rams did well to sign up Boston University associate head coach Jessica Clinton. Clinton faces a daunting task in her maiden campaign with Fordham though, as the Rams look short on talent in a ruthless league. Nobody here scored more than four goals, though leading scorer Kelsey Dougherty Howard getting a fifth-year of eligibility can’t hurt. They’ll need more from her and joint second leading scorers Jessica Widmann and Maria Lorena Canicatti to contend though. The backline looks to be most hard hit by losses, which doesn’t bode well in a league full of scorers. Clinton’s a promising coach, but the side she inherits looks devoid of star power. A season of struggle looks likely, with the Rams in a battle to just make the postseason in the A10.