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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Women's soccer team exhibits depth and versatility

As the Tufts women's soccer team begins its year, it looks to build on a long line of successful seasons. In the past, the Jumbos have put together consistently strong campaigns, boasting winning records in 19 of their 20 seasons, an overall winning percentage of 62.9, and 17 postseason appearances. With this year's roster, as usual, strong from front to back, the 2000 successes should be no different.

Coach Martha Whiting is starting her second season at the helm, after serving as assistant coach under current athletic director Bill Gehling for seven years. Whiting was impressive in her debut season, leading the Jumbos to a 9-5-1 record and their fourth consecutive post-season berth, but sees room for improvement.

"I know myself, and last year I was nervous," she said. "I'm still nervous, but I feel a little more confident with everything. Having gone through everything once makes it easier to do the second time. I think that I have a better feel for the role of head coach, and that's going to make my job easier."

One of the major obstacles the Jumbos must overcome will be the tougher competition they face this season. Tufts will take the field against all nine other schools in the NESCAC (up from seven in previous years), a traditionally strong conference that dominates the New England top ten rankings year after year.

"We've added two more NESCAC teams, Middlebury and Wesleyan, so now we're playing nine NESCACs and five non-conference games, which are not easy games. This year will also be a little tougher because it's a week shorter. We have our work cut out for us for sure."

The shorter season comes as a result of the newly-created NESCAC tournament, which will determine the sole team representing the NESCAC in the NCAA Tournament. While, in the past, NESCAC teams have received at-large bids to the tournament, NESCAC schools passed a regulation in February 1999 that prohibits more than one NESCAC team, in any sport, from appearing in NCAA postseason competition.

The Jumbos must also overcome the loss to graduation of seven players, including a large majority of Tufts' offensive power. Whiting, however, is not concerned about her team's ability to put the ball in the net. She said that both the returning players and her first class of recruits are up to the challenge.

"Up front we have some dangerous strikers - kids who can really put the ball in the net," Whiting said. "We had five strikers playing [in a recent scrimmage] and each of them scored a goal. We have good players and depth all over the place. If someone gets tired, there's someone right there to go in for them. Our depth is a lot better than it was last year. I feel like I could put any one off them in.

"I purposefully went out and tried to recruit kids to play up top. I think we'll be stronger in that area than we were last year because we went out and looked for these kids and we got them."

Most of the offensive responsibility, though, will fall on the skilled shoulders of junior forward Lynn Cooper, who has led the Jumbos in scoring in each of the last two years. Cooper ended her sophomore season with a total of 48 points so far in her Tufts career, including 19 goals and ten assists.

Also contributing in the scoring department will be senior tri-captain Sara Yeatman, whose career ten goals and eight assists give her 28 points, second overall out of active players. Starting in the other forward spot will be freshman Jess Trombly, while freshman forward/midfielder Becca Doigan, sophomore Cara Glassanos, who plays both forward and defensive back, and sophomore Alle Sharlip, who saw limited time last year at the center midfield position, will fill in with extra firepower when the starters need a rest.

The Jumbos are also in better shape defensively than they were in '99. Last season, the team, which uses a flat-back four alignment (four defenders lined up straight across the field), had only three true defensive backs and was forced to rotate other players into the remaining slot. This year, however, the Jumbos have a lot more depth in the backfield. Senior tri-captain Carmen Mikacenic, junior Katie Ruddy, and sophomore Brenna O'Rourke return to their familiar positions, and will be joined by newcomers freshmen Abby Herzberg and Jesse Lovitz, in addition to Glassanos.

"We have three new defenders who are really going to shore up that front," Whiting said. "Last year we had three defenders and then we had to put a couple kids who didn't really play in the back in there. This year we have kids who are comfortable playing there. I feel like we're going to be very strong in the back."

Tufts' midfield is also stacked with talent. In addition to Yeatman, who will spend most of her time at the attacking center-mid spot, the Jumbos have juniors Katie Kehrberger, Becky Mann, and Sara Standish, and sophomores Elizabeth Tooley and Adi Sherwood, who all combined for five goals and four assists last season. Freshmen Doigan and Lindsay Spielberg will provide extra depth to an already strong midfield.

The three seniors, Yeatman, Mikacenic, and goalkeeper Randee McArdle, will lead the team as captains on the field. Each has received her share of honors over the past three years, including All-New England, All-NESCAC, and Academic All-NESCAC team nominations. Mikacenic has been consistently strong in the back for the Jumbos, solidifying a defense that has at times been one of the best in the NESCAC. McArdle was phenomenal in her first two years in the net, compiling 15 shutouts in 31 starts, while putting together a miniscule .63 goals against average and a save percentage of 86 percent.

"We have great leadership," Whiting said of her three captains. "We have three seniors on the team, and they're all captains, and they all play all the time. Right up the center of the field, we have some great leadership."

Backing up McArdle is an equally-capable goalie in junior Mara Schanfield, who, in filling in for the senior, has put together a .41 GAA, saving 83.3 percent of the opposition's shots on goal.

The key to the success of this year's team will be the ability of the players to work hard, work together, and stay focused against the tough competition.

"Team chemistry is really good," Whiting said. "The returning players are extremely tight, and I think that already the new players are fitting in. They really get along well, they work together well, and they push each other, which is important. If we can make it to the NESCAC tournament, I think that we have as good a shot as anyone in the conference at winning that and going on to NCAAs. It's just a matter of people staying healthy, working hard, and keeping up our intensity."

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