It might be a case of “the king is dead, long live the king” in the America East as Boston University’s departure opens up a whole new world of possibilities for an underclass likely ecstatic to finally get out from under the boot of the Terriers’ tyranny for the past decade. Hartford looked like taking back their throne last year, but their spectacular failure in the postseason coupled with crippling attrition may mean the likes of defending auto-bid winner Stony Brook and prospect packed Maine will have their chance in the sun in 2013.
Stony Brook brought some of the feel good factor back to the NCAA Tournament last season after winning the America East Tournament as heavy underdogs to get head coach Sue Ryan to her first ever Big Dance. The Sea Wolves had come compose before then, losing two America East Tournament finals before finally hitting it big last season. It was a great bounce back year for Ryan and her side after 2011 had seen the club miss out on the postseason after four straight trips. SBU’s run came as a stunner, having tied for fourth in the league, forcing the Sea Wolves to win three games on the road to lift the trophy. The team even gave Maryland a hard time before bowing out in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in the end. With Boston University no longer around to beat everyone up, SBU’s actually got a reasonable shot at making a move for league supremacy now. Last year’s Sea Wolves were very much a club that won with offense, both scoring fourteen goals and conceding fourteen in an all-action league campaign. SBU will dearly miss the departed Sa’sha Kershaw though, after the central midfielder delivered her best performance yet in a fantastic career with the Sea Wolves. The MOP of the America East Tournament, Kershaw hit for six goals and three assists as the heartbeat of the Sea Wolves and will be dearly missed. The Seawolves aren’t going to be too toothless on offense though, returning forward duo Larissa Nysch and Raven Edwards. Nysch will forever be a heroine around these parts with her winner in the America East Tournament final against Hartford and has a chance to hit double digits this season after netting nine last year. Edwards had five goals of her own as a rookie and should combine with Nysch to form one of the league’s more imposing forward duos. Pulling the strings in midfield will be Tessa Devereaux, another in a great rookie class for SBU last season and the team leader in assists in 2013 with seven. More depth is added with the arrival of highly touted rookie Leah Yurko, and this could be one of the league’s best attacks. They’ll have to be on their game in all likelihood considering the defense was pretty fragile at times last year, giving up almost two goals a game in the league. It was also a pretty young unit, and with almost everyone set to come back for 2013, it could be a much improved one as well this year. The lynchpin is center-back Ahriel Fernandez, undersized for a central defender but still very effective at this level in two years as a starter. If her linemates can improve markedly from last season, SBU might be a side with few weaknesses. The Seawolves also add in rookie prospect Lauren Kovalchuk, a highly regarded newcomer to the backline corps. They should be good in goal as well, as senior Ashley Castanio returns after a solid season in 2012, her first as the club’s starter, doing well enough to be named to the America East All-Tournament Team. Stony Brook had to scrap for one of the last postseason spots in the America East, but don’t look for a similar fate this season. The attack should purr against overmatched league defenses, while the defense of SBU should be improved. The Seawolves are a threat to win the league and could give Ryan another trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Nowhere is a Canadian pipeline to DI soccer more prominent than at Maine, where the Black Bears will go into 2013 with as many players from the Great North as from the United States. Whether the strategy’s working out is debatable, as the club hasn’t been too terribly consistent in recent years after seasons of being the league’s almost team. The team missed out on the postseason in 2011 but rebounded to finish third last year but were then shocked in the opening round of the America East Tournament by Stony Brook. That disappointment might not last too long though, as the Black Bears look like a club capable of contending for a title this year. When you consider that with a starting lineup that often featured just one senior, Maine finished in third, you realize that this club has a lot of potential for the season ahead. The Black Bears had a pretty good offense last season, even though nobody scored more than five goals. Maine’s scattergun approach worked well, with eleven players scoring last year. Club boss Scott Atherley will be hoping for a big year from the reigning America East Rookie of the Year, Canadian Charlene Achille. The U17 international is a handful for anyone at this level, standing at 5’10″ and has nothing but upside, even if she was inconsistent in front of goal with two strikes and three assists. Fellow Canadian forward Nikki Misener will be looking to go out with a bang as a senior after leading the club with five goals and three assists and could form a formidable duo with Achille. The team also adds a weapon from closer to home in Bangor native Grace MacLean, who figures to make a potent offense more dangerous still. Another Canadian, the versatile Lisa Bijman can play in defense or midfield, though the former may be needed considering how offensive Maine’s defense was last year. The Black Bears gave up eighteen goals in eight league games, a league worst, and a mark that must get better if they’re to contend for honors. Sophomore Noelle Leon-Palmer, another Canadian, looks like this unit’s shining light after starting every game and doing relatively well as a rookie, but this group needs to get much, much better this year. They have a chance of it at least considering how young they were last time out. The real excitement for Maine might be in goal though. The addition of Canadian goalkeeper Claudia Dube-Trempe gave Maine my top rated recruiting class in the America East, and the Quebec native was recently recalled to the Canadian U20 team in July. She could be dominant at this level and could be all the difference for the defense this year. Maine figures to be more steady than spectacular but could be steady enough to contend for a title this year. The offense is in good hands, while the defense should be improved, especially if Dube-Trempe lives up to the hype. It might be time to shed the “almost team” tag in Orono, but it still promises to be a battle.
Leslie Wray found out the hard way that there isn’t going to be any quick fixes at long-time strugglers UMBC following a dismal debut season as boss of the Retrievers in 2012. Hired to try and help resurrect a program which has seen a few talented coaches come and leave but with little lasting success, Wray inherited a side that had gone 0-14-3 in 2011, resulting in the dismissal of Alyssa Radu from the hot seat. A shock raw against VCU on the road showed a little of the club’s potential last year, but UMBC were little more than a side who knew how to make life difficult for opponents come league play. They were vaguely more competitive in America East action but still finished winless in the league, making it just two league wins in four seasons. But Retriever fans may well have something to cheer about this season, as UMBC is in position for their best season in a while. The club gets nine starters back, a number that’s significantly higher than many of their league rivals. For the club to lift themselves off the bottom of the league though, improvement is needed on both sides of the ball. On paper, the Retrievers look like being better in defense despite having conceded two goals a game in the league last year. It all starts in goal, where the club will once again depend on senior netminder Lauren Kadet. One of the few saving graces of these past few years, the Canadian Kadet has been called upon to make over three hundred saves in goal through three seasons and has turned into one of the league’s very best netminders. The backline in front of her has a fine prospect for the future as well in sophomore Amira Walcott. Walcott looks like a promising player for the Retrievers after a freshman season that saw her start every match at the heart of the defense for UMBC. Other than departed senior Aly Gazarek, the rest of the backline should return intact. Of greater concern is where the goals are going to come from for the Retrievers. The only player to even take more than eighteen shots was Rachel McKee, who graduates after a tough senior season. A healthy season out of senior Amy Savage, who has scored two goals in each of her three seasons before 2013 would help, as the veteran missed almost half the season through injury last year. Alexa Quaranta and her twin sister Preslie combined for five goals, though neither is an out and out striker and shouldn’t be depended on to carry the load offensively. Most of the new recruits look to be offensive ones, and the pick of the litter looks to be midfielder Meg Kowalski, a player with regional ODP experience who should at least be able to help provide service for whoever plays up top for UMBC. At the very least, the Retrievers should be a little bit better on defense, with Kadet back again and a very promising leader in Walcott. The club looks to have little punch offensively though, which might scuttle hopes. Continuity could be huge in a league with so much turnover this year, with just four clubs returning more than six starters. It might just be enough to make UMBC the America East’s surprise package this year.
A season that looked ripe for a coronation instead ended in tears for Hartford, who were shocked in the America East Tournament final by Stony Brook when they had come into the season as overwhelming favorites to win the league’s auto bid with Boston University banned from the conference tournament. Hartford had ruled over the league for much of the nineties, with the Hawks winning eight out of nine regular season titles and five of six conference tournament titles during the decade, including the double on five different occasions. Four trips to the Elite Eight and one to the College Cup in 1992 saw Hartford punching above its weight and left current boss John Natale big shoes to fill. The Hawks had finished second in the league in 2011 with a great season but had suffered more heartbreak in the postseason. Hartford stumbled more in the non-conference slate last year but repeated their second place league finish (despite being miles off winners Boston U) and looked prime for postseason success finally. But there’d be the shock in the final that left Hawks fans wondering if their club will ever make it back to the promised land of the NCAA Tournament. There may be a distinct sense that Hartford’s blown their chance, as the club is crushed by attrition, losing seven starters. Most worrying is the loss of Portuguese attacking starlet Amelia Pereira, who devastated defenses to the tune of thirteen goals and seven assists, though her slump with just one goal in the team’s final five really hurt the offense. The club also loses the services of Caitlin Alves, who couldn’t quite match 2011′s ten goals but still had three goals and four assists, and English midfielder Caroline Dixon, who finished second on the team with four goals. Add it all up, and three of the four players that netted more than two goals for Hartford last year are gone going into 2013. Much will depend on the form of sophomore Elise Galipo, who really heated up down the stretch with two goals in the club’s final three despite only starting four games. She’s the only returnee with multiple goals, meaning she, and four assist returnee Arielle Aikens really need to step up this season. Another of last year’s rookies, Sidney Spremullo may be the best hope in midfield, though her offensive impact was limited last year, with just one goal and two assists to her name. The Hawks have really profited from international recruits in seasons past and will look to do so again this season, especially in attack. England youth international Tori Tripp comes over from Watford Ladies FC and will get every chance to shine up top, while Bulgarian youth international midfielder Viktoria Mihaylova will try to break some new ground of her own as one of the few from her country to try her hand at this level after being a standout with her nation’s U19 team. The losses in defense aren’t quite as eye-catching but are still no less important. Three-year starter Shealagh Begley finished her career as one of the league’s best defenders, even netting a few goals in the bargain. Natale can only hope that junior Morgan Berry can continue her promising rise up the ladder after cracking the starting lineup last year and sticking as a valuable member of the backline. The other spots are likely up for grabs, with returning sophomore Emma Donnelly, New Zealand youth international and rookie Caitlin Smallfield, and Syracuse transfer Amanda Hamilton all in the mix. Hartford also has to find a new starting keeper after the departure of Erin Quinlan, herself a Syracuse transfer, who ended up a star for the Hawks over the past two seasons, winning America East Goalkeeper of the Year honors last year. Kaskaskia College transfer Alison Koerkenmeier has college experience at least but will battle returning sophomore Carolyn Schwarts, Dutch rookie Jessica Jurg, and domestic freshmen Gabby Arruda and Bryanna Montalvo in a wide open race. Hartford’s always been able to attract excellent talent for this level, but even so, it’s hard to imagine them contending for a title right away after so many big losses in the offseason. All the intriguing newcomers will take a while to gel, meaning the Hawks may be better off aiming for a conference tournament run instead of a league title.
Progress can be a little difficult to measure at the mid-major level at times. Case in point, Vermont, who went backwards a bit in the RPI and in the overall win column but still ended up making a few steps forward by advancing to the America East Tournament semi-finals in the process. Head coach Kristi Lefebvre is the latest coach tasked with trying to raise the Catamounts to the level of contender in the America East after a revolving door of coaches have failed for the better part of a decade and a half. Vermont hasn’t won the league since 1996 and has eaten coaches alive after, with Lefebvre the latest to take up the hot seat after the failed run of Kwame Lloyd. Her debut season was reasonably impressive, with the club jumping forty-five places in the uRPI and reaching the postseason for the first time in half a decade. Last year, they’d finish in a tie for fourth in the league and advanced for the first time ever in the postseason, showing at least some signs of progress. Entering into year three of Lefebvre’s reign, Catamounts supporters will probably now be a little more eager for more than just baby steps forward. Postseason advancement and slight gains in the RPI are nice, but trophies have to be the aim for Vermont as they head into 2013. There are no guarantees though, as the Catamounts lose six starters from last year’s squad. Few in the league are more talented than senior defender Haley Marks, one of the conference’s very best defenders and the centerpiece of a defense that was firmly middle of the road in the America East last season. A player versatile enough to play either up top or in the backline, Marks has also shown a flair for the dramatic, as five of her nine career goals have been match winners. Who surrounds her will be in a bit of doubt, as the club loses senior defenders Jill Dellipriscoli and Megan Rozumalski to graduation. he club should also be in safe hands in between the pipes after the emergence of the impressive Ally Ramos. Ramos split time for much of the non-conference schedule but took over as full-time #1 in mid-September and hardly looked back. Catamount opponents will likely be under threat from a one-two punch up front that returns for their third year together. Juniors Bre Pletnick and Alexandra Dezenzo combined for eleven goals last year and will again be the focus of the attack in 2013. Pletnick’s rise was a shock considering she hadn’t scored as a rookie, but she hit the target in the club’s first three games in 2012 and finished with seven goals to her name. Dezenzo went backwards a little, scoring just four times last year, including just one goal in the club’s final nine games, though the potential for much more is certainly there. The midfield could be a big weakness for the Catamounts though, with the graduation of Lily Feldman and the unexpected loss of Irish youth international Kerry Glynn, one of last year’s best players. The club adds in a new wave of recruits, the pick of which is FC DELCO’s Paige Phillips, a former regional ODP selection capable of serving as a ball winner in midfielder or on the backline. Vermont has to deal with some heavy losses, but the Catamounts still look well placed to challenge for a spot in upper mid-table nonetheless. The defense looks poised to be one of the league’s best units, while the offense should be just good enough to avoid being a liability. They’re probably a little bit away from challenging for a league title, but these Catamounts could still provide a shock come the America East Tournament.
Change came in the offseason for New Hampshire, who saw long-time boss Michael Jackson step down following a 2012 season that saw the Wildcats nestled firmly in mid-table in the America East once again. Truthfully though, it’s hard to think a change hadn’t been coming, as the program had suffered through three of its five worst seasons in club history over the past four years. The Wildcats have usually been just good enough to stay above the real strugglers in the league but have often failed to make any kind of impression in the race for league or conference tournament titles. An exception was in 2007, when the club lifted a share of the league title but couldn’t get past league juggernaut Boston University in the conference tournament. It’s been less inspiring since, and the club entered 2012 having not won a game in the postseason in four years and exited it the same way after a late season collapse. Newly in charge is former Providence assistant Sam Lopes, who also has moonlighted as an assistant with the Boston Breakers during their WPS days. Highly thought of by the likes of Tony DiCicco among others, Lopes nonetheless faces numerous challenges in getting the Wildcats in contention for league titles in the America East. UNH made their way into mid-table with a crushing defense, topped only by league leaders Boston University and Hartford, but they suffered form a toothless offense, netting just six goals in eight league matches. That was second worst in the league, only ahead of cellar dwelling UMBC. Perhaps then it’s not so great a sign that last year’s leading scorer and once a potential cornerstone of the club’s future, Kirstyn Corder, transferred to Creighton in the offseason. Corder dazzled on her debut at this level, netting five goals and three assists, and her loss is a big one to overcome for the Wildcats. UNH also takes a pretty big loss with senior Monique Lamotte’s departure. Lamotte had been one of the league’s best midfielders in 2011 but had arguably her worst season at this level as a senior, leading the club in shots but seeing her only point of the season coming from three assists. Junior Meghan Ledwith is this year’s leading returning scorer and likely the club’s best hope for offense going into 2013. She netted four goals as a sophomore, including three in the league but also didn’t register a point in the club’s final four games of 2012. Midfielder Tara Fraprie was impressive last year in the club’s America East Tournament defeat and is the only other returnee with more than one goal. Given the worries on offense, UNH will likely have to lean on defense, but it’s not going to be a slam dunk though, as the club loses, arguably, it’s best player last year in Elizabeth Curry. Senior Kelsi O’Neil, along with junior Hannah Blondin and sophomore Cassandra Prario all saw major minutes last season and should be favored for starting roles again this year. San Diego State transfer Kirsten O’Neil, Kelsi’s sister, also joins up and could emerge as a contender for a starting role in defense as well. Senior Erica Correa has been a constant in goal the past three seasons after a star turn as a rookie and will almost assuredly monopolize the minutes this season as well. Even with the coaching change, it’s probably going to be more of the same this year for New Hampshire. The defense should be good, even without Curry leading it, but the offense is again problematic. Corder’s loss was a big hammer blow for the club, and unless Ledwith or some other newcomer steps up in a big way, UNH will likely struggle for goals again. With that in mind, it’ll probably mid-table again at the end of the day in Lopes’ first season in charge in Durham.
Progress has a price, as Albany discovered at the end of May, with long-time boss Mary-Frances Monroe departing for Miami (FL)’s head coaching role. Monroe had brought some blessed stability, and even a little bit of success, to the Great Danes after a revolving door of coaches had seen little success for the better part of two decades. Monroe finally was able to lift the club off the basement and into the postseason in 2009 before the club finished over .500 for the first time in over two decades in 2010! After a third place finish and America East Tournament final appearance in 2011, excitement was likely at an all-time high for the Great Danes going into the new season, and the club drew with Syracuse on opening day but faded late, finishing a a tie for fourth in the final league table before bowing out on penalties in the opening round of the America East Tournament. Considering the excitement of a season before and a subsequent drop of nearly a hundred places in the uRPI, you could argue that Monroe flew the coop a season too late. Despite a disappointing 2012, credit still has to be given to the UCLA alum for helping breathe life into a dead program. Albany took their sweet time in hiring a replacement, and the new boss seems like an appointment made with frugality in mind more than anything else. Caitlin Colfer only graduated in 2009 from Ohio State and had just one uninspiring season as a head coach at tiny The Sage Colleges before taking the helm at Albany this Summer. She won’t have it easy, as Albany loses five starters from last year’s squad, in addition to the club’s top two players. The Great Danes’ calling card in 2012 was their crushing attack, which tied for the most goals scored in the league, with fourteen tallies in eight games. Shayla Bergeron had it all to prove last year after sinking to three goals as a junior following a nine goal debut following a transfer from Duquesne. She did more than enough to refurbish her reputation, with eleven goals and six assists, including two hat tricks and five strikes in the league en route to All-America East First Team honors. Her partner in crime Chelsea DeVerna had a revelatory season of her own, netting seven goals as a senior, including five in the league to help power the Great Danes’ powerful attack. With the departure of both, Albany’s in search of a new lead gun for the attack. They’ll need another supply line for the forwards as well, as the club loses leading assister Despina Psomopoulos, who had a shocking seven assists after having not logged a point in two prior seasons. Adding to the worries are the losses of DeVerna’s sister Maggie, who netted five goals last year, and Regina Nowicki, a spot starter who netted three herself. It all means that the club loses players who scored twenty-nine of the team’s thirty-five goals last year. The only returnee with more than one is sophomore Allison Carhart, who scored four times, mostly as a reserve last year. The club adds in a whole lot of rookies to try and fill the gaps, with one of the most intriguing additions being Alexa Schneider, impressive in ECNL action but also more of a box-to-box midfielder than an out and out scoring threat. If Albany’s going to contend for a postseason spot, it’s going to have to be through their defense, which had some real yips last season, though some of that’s understandable given their youth. That youth also means the entire back four and starting netminder should return for 2013. Jess Baccaglini is the relative veteran of the bunch as the only likely senior starter in defense, and she’ll be flanked by other youngsters who were thrown right into the fire last year. Sophomore Alana Brennan figures to be the club’s starting netminder this year after taking over the job early in 2012. It’s hard to think Albany’s window hasn’t closed for the time being after last season’s somewhat disappointing campaign. It was a sight better than the club’s struggles before Monroe’s arrival, but the time to strike was then, with the offense getting ravaged by graduation going into 2013. Unless the offense surprises with some newcomers and big breakthroughs, it’ll be up to the defense to seriously tighten things up. In all likelihood though, the Great Danes will be battling just to make it into the postseason.
It was a bittersweet campaign for Binghamton in 2012. While the Bearcats managed to get back to .500 for the first time since 2009, it came at the expense of their league form. When all was said and done, Binghamton found themselves out of the postseason and all the way down in eighth place. It was a result that called head coach Sarah McClellan’s long-term future with the club into question, with the boss having taken over from Jeff Leightman, who had brought trophies to the club but had also presided over a program that had begun to grow stale. The club had bounced back to a certain extent with a fifth place finish in 2011 but had squandered a good non-conference run with an insipid league season last year. The news isn’t good going into 2013. McClellan may have been very lucky indeed to avoid the chop at the end of last season, as the club was a veteran laden side that loses seven starters going into the new season. The Bearcats’ defense actually held up pretty well all things considered, conceding just over a goal a game, which was good enough to leave them in the upper half of the goals conceded table in league games in the America East. Offensively though, the club, as has been the case often here, couldn’t find much in the way of goals, not managing a goal a game in the league. It’s a situation that could get dramatically worse this season, as players who accounted for thirteen of the club’s twenty goals last year depart, including the team’s two leading scorers, Sarah Furminger and Brittany Walsh. A former JUCO All-American, Furminger was by far the club’s most dangerous player in attack last year netting six goals, twice as much as any of her teammates managed. Her slump during league play, in which she only netted one goal, all but doomed the club, underlining her importance to the offense. The only player returning that managed two goals is senior Conor O’Brien, a reserve utility player who scored in the first and last games for the Bearcats last year. How much help is going to come from the newcomers is questionable, as it’s a pretty undistinguished group on paper. Tops of the newcomers is Katie O’Neill, a regional ODP selection a few years back, but she seems more like a midfielder at this level. The defense is likely going to have to perform miracles if Binghamton are to sniff the postseason, which might might be tough as they have to replace two starters on that unit as well. Graduated seniors Meghan McCarty and Meghan Campbell were full-time starters the last two years and leave more big holes for the Bearcats to fill this year. Connie Gormley is arguably the club’s best returning player, and she’ll have to be one of the leaders on defense after starting for the past two seasons here, while senior Liz Cusato should also start after fourteen starts last year following her missing almost all of 2011. In goal, the Bearcats will probably be able to breathe a sigh of relief, as the club returns both of last year’s top options in Carrie Martin and Stephanie Speirs. The senior duo will probably reprise their role from last year’s team, with Martin starting games before Speirs finishes them. The Bearcats will be hoping to bounce back into the postseason, but the signs don’t look good, with a relative vacuum in talent and experience likely to scuttle those hopes. BU looks like one of the league’s weakest teams and may have to struggle just to avoid the basement in the America East this year.
Now’s a good a time as any to join the America East in all likelihood given Boston University’s departure, and UMass-Lowell will look to make a smooth transition from Division II, as they jump a classification in 2013. They certainly could do with some more momentum though, as the Riverhawks enter DI coming off a rather disappointing season under the helm of longtime boss Elie Monteiro. It took a while for Lowell to to really start firing under Monteiro, but the program broke through in 2005 with the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid. Hopes had been high going into 2012 after a 2011 that had seen the club advance into the third round of the Big Dance via a couple of shootout wins. 2012 ended up being a big disappointment though, with the Riverhawks missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2003. It’s hard to be too bullish about the Riverhawks’ prospects this season either. While the leap from DII to DI in the America East probably isn’t as steep as it could be in other conferences, Lowell loses half seven starters from a club that had its worst season in a long while. The biggest hit comes from the loss of highly decorated senior Taylor Hartmann, who was the club’s only All-Conference First Team selection a season after winning All-Region honors during the Riverhawks’ superb 2011 campaign. Given all the woes regarding Lowell’s leaky defense last year, it should be noted that the club wasn’t all that hot offensively either, scoring just fifteen goals in seventeen matches. If that wasn’t a bit frightening, then the reality of the club losing its top two scorers, Keanna Santos and Jenna Costa, should leave fans a bit weary. The club’s only other player to score multiple goals, Julia Donigian, also departs, leaving you wondering where the goals are going to come from exactly. With that in mind, it’s perhaps a good thing that both goalkeepers who saw extensive starting time last year, Jane Hatzikonstantis and Jill Carlson, both look set to return. Icelandic sophomore Selja Snorradottir won plaudits as a rookie and looks to be one of the few proven players returning to the fore for the Riverhawks this year. The midfielder will have to continue to excel if the club is to have any chance of success this season. The Riverhawks will have to wait a while for postseason eligibility as a transitioning club, but that looked a big ask this season at any rate. They might be able to pick off a win or two in league play, but all in all, you’d expect a season of struggle for Monteiro’s club this year.
Projected Order of Finish
*1. Stony Brook
6. New Hampshire
* = Projected Auto-Bid Winner
^ = UMass-Lowell is ineligible for the postseason as transitioning program.