HIRAM, OHIO — This fall, the Hiram College Women’s Soccer team will look for a combination of experience and youth in an effort to improve upon a year ago and compete with the top teams in the North Coast Athletic Conference.
“We did the work in recruiting to begin to replace what you really can’t replace,” said eighth-year Head Coach Bob Dean. “We have returning players that have already stepped up and our incoming class is one of the best and deepest ever. We could not be more excited.”
The Terriers will need to replace five impact players including the program’s all-time leading scorer three-time All-NCAC forward Claire Conner, four-time All-NCAC center back Madison Sepp, All-NCAC goalkeeper Emily Bristol, and four-year starters Kendra Dean and Melissa Sharpe. In 2010, Hiram ended the season with a 5-12-2 overall record and 1-6 in NCAC play. The season included five overtime matches in which Hiram came away with no victories and two draws.
The responsibility of replacing some of the lost attack falls to the experience of senior All-NCAC forward Caitlin Fortson (Ravenna) and junior Stephanie Takeuchi (Milton, Ontario/E.C. Drury). Takeuchi led all returning players in scoring in 2010 with five goals and one assist for 11 points while Fortson looks to regain her threatening efforts in her final season. The Terriers plan to get more from their experienced attacking midfielder junior Ernestina Zappa (Brooklyn/Laurel). Last season, she tallied two goals for four points and finished amongst the team leaders in shots taken with 14. In addition, expect senior Kristen Cooney (North Lewisburg/Triad), sophomores Vanessa Consolo (Ravenna/Rootstown) and Jazmine Morales (Lehigh Acres, Fla./Riverdale) to have a vital impact on the ability of the Terriers to finish this season.
“Caitlin and Stephanie are proven finishers for us,” said Dean. “We have to rely on them this season once again. And, we know we are going to get a spark not only from our other experienced returners but also from our newcomers because they come in with great club experience at a very high level.”
The midfield, in addition to Zappa and Marchewka, will be anchored by returning starters senior Maureen Carroll (Niagara Falls, N.Y./Mount St. Mary), junior Chelsea Ulmer (Toledo/Sylvania) and sophomore Megan Verel (Aurora). Sophomores Becca Simon (Mantua/Crestwood) and Stephanie Fisher (Aurora) will add depth to the position.
“Our midfield approach will take a very different look this year as we transition into a new style,” said Dean. “We can be dangerous on the flanks as well as having a presence in the middle of the park. We are no longer dependent upon one or two great players to run the show in the middle. Our depth and attack give us more options this year.”
It is in the back in which the Terriers return great experience and depth to provide stability and support. Anchoring the defensive squad in 2011 will be senior three-year letterwinner Kayla Durichko (Brunswick), juniors Olivia Dagg (Brampton, Ontario/Central Peel Academy), Lyndsay Witmer (Ashland/ Hillsdale) and Breann Mason (Mentor/Lake Catholic). Durichko started every match in her junior year and Dagg and Mason also got involved offensively last season scoring a goal each. Dagg and Witmer also have experience in the midfield role as well. Adding to the stability will be sophomore Maggie Picolo (Springfield/Greenon).
“Our experience and minutes played give us reason to be confident in the back even with the loss of a perennial all-conference player,” stated Dean. “And, our incoming class of defensemen adds great pace, high-level club experience, and a depth like we have not had in some time. It is exciting.”
At goalkeeper, the situation is wide open to be both competitive and deep at the same time. Junior Kate Valaitis (Lewis Center/Olentangy) is the only returning net minder from a year ago and was the number two keeper for two seasons behind Bristol. Last fall, she saw playing time in five matches and had a 1.59 goals against average, while making three saves in over 113 minutes.
“Kate has been admirable for us as a backup for two years,” said Dean. “Having this competitive depth at this position keeps all the players searching for the edge and gives us some great security.”
The 2011 schedule will feature 10 home matches for the Terriers with the first three scheduled to be played at the Hiram Soccer Complex. Hiram kicks off the 2011 campaign against Hilbert (N.Y) College in a non-conference matchup on Saturday, Sept. 3. The NCAC schedule begins on Saturday, Sept. 24 against conference newcomer DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.