2012 Emory Women’s Soccer Season Preview
Returning the majority of a team that notched a record-setting campaign in 2011, the Emory University women's soccer team will enter 2012 with high expectations, as the squad will aim for its program-best third-straight trip to the NCAA Sectionals and beyond.
In 2011, the Emory women's soccer team became the first team in the history of the Emory Athletics program to record an undefeated regular season, heading into the NCAA Tournament with a 15-0-2 record, and finishing in the round of 16 of the NCAA Championships with a 17-1-2 record. Back by one of the top defenses in Division III throughout the campaign, the Eagles claimed the sixth University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship in the program's history with a 6-0-1 record in conference play, becoming the first women's team to go undefeated in the UAA since 2006.
The Eagles will be returning a total of 23 players from the 2011 team, including 12 players who appeared in at least 18 games during the season, and nine players who made at least 12 starts. Included in that group is a two-time All-American and the reigning UAA Most Valuable Player in junior center back Lauren Gorodetsky, all-South Region selections in junior center midfielder Clare Mullins, senior goalkeeper Kaele Leonard, and senior forward Merrill Bachouros, and all-UAA honorees in senior midfielder Lee Bachouros, sophomore forward Charlotte Butker, and sophomore defender Sarah Kuehl.
"We are an experienced team," said Emory head coach Sue Patberg. "And, with that of course, you have expectations. While last year was a stellar year, we can only hope to replicate that, and then go further in the NCAA Tournament… We really want to break through past that round of eight, and get into the final four."
Emory will begin the year as the season as the sixth-ranked team in the NSCAA Division III rankings, the second-highest preseason rank in the program's history.
With one of the more potent offensive attacks in the South Atlantic Region in 2011, Emory is looking to be even more effective scoring the ball this season, with another year of experience and some new attacking additions to a squad that averaged 2.4 goals per game last season, ranking the team 80th among NCAA Division III squads. Emory's returning players accounted for 38 of the team's 48 goals last season, as the 2012 squad will feature each of the team's top-four goal scorers from last year, and six of the top seven scorers overall. Merrill Bachouros led all Eagles with eight goals during the 2011 season, and added on four assists to tie with rising sophomore Emily Feldman (seven goals, six assists) for the team lead with 20 points. Feldman finished tied for the team lead in assists as well, along with Butker (five goals and six assists for 16 points), junior midfielder Kelly Costopoulos (four goals and six assists for 14 points) and Lee Bachouros (one goal and six assists for eight points). Mullins finished third on the team with six goals during the season, adding three assists as well for 15 points during the year, while junior Veronica Romero, and sophomores Jennifer Grant and Jessica Hirst each scored during the year as well.
Returning senior Katy Kruse, juniors Kyle Remy and Samantha Bleiweis, and sophomore Claudia Rowe will all add experience and depth to the Eagles' offense. Two Division I transfers – sophomore forward Karina Rodriguez (UNC Greensboro) and junior midfielder Greta Jochmann (Middle Tennessee State) – along with freshman Jordan Morell will look to make immediate impacts with the team as well in 2012.
The defense was the key to the Eagles' success in 2011, limiting opponents to just 6.4 shots per game and 2.6 shots on goal per game during the year. Emory was third among all Division III teams with a 0.242 goals-against average and 0.80 shutout percentage last season, setting a school-record with 16 shutouts, including 10-straight at one point. Emory's backline allowed just five goals last year.
"We're returning so much experience in that group," said Patberg. "We should be solid. Hopefully we won't give up any soft goals, and be as strong as we were last year."
Gorodetsky, who also contributed on the offensive end with four goals, will look to anchor the back line again from the middle of the field. She will be flanked by senior outside back Ashley Kaiser, and junior outside back Lauren Drosick, with returners in Kuehl, sophomore Meredith Doherty, junior Caitlin Clark and sophomore Kaelyn Lucas expected to play a role on the backline as well. Lee Bachouros will look to secure the first line of defense at the defensive center midfield position, a role that earned her all-UAA recognition in 2011. New additions in freshmen Ally Peterson, Morika Hensley and Ariana Robin will look to bolster the defense during their inaugural campaigns with the team.
With two of the stronger goalkeepers in Division III last season, Emory utilized an unorthodox strategy of starting Erica Stein in all 20 contests, and bringing in Leonard for the second half of each game. The move paid dividends for the Eagles in 2011, with the duo combining for the fifth-best save percentage in Division III (.904), and the team will look to take advantage of the same game plan in 2012. Stein finished the season with an 11-0-1 record and a school-record 0.20 goals-against average, while Leonard was 6-1-1 during the season, ranking third in Division III with a 0.288 goals against average and sixth with a .909 save percentage. Leonard ranks first in school history with a career .920 save percentage and a 0.31 goals-against average, while Stein is fifth with a 0.51 goals-against average and 20 wins.
"With both Kaele and Erica in goal, as rising seniors, they've seen it all, so that's terrific," said Patberg.
The Eagles will also feature increased depth at the goalkeeper position this season. Sophomore Gabrielle Pelura will return after recording 23 shutout minutes in one appearance last season. Freshmen Kristin Temple and Liz Arnold will round out a strong, young corps of keepers for Emory.
"We are very deep in the goalkeeper position… With [Gabrielle], Kristin and Liz, they'll get some great training, hopefully in some games, and when Kaele and Erica leave they'll have a leg up in terms of experience."
Patberg will begin her eighth year as the Eagles' head coach just five wins shy of 100 with the team, going 95-22-18 with Emory, including a 33-3-6 record over the last two years. She has led Emory to the NCAA Division III Championships in five of her seven previous years, reaching the round of 16 on three occasions and the NCAA Quarterfinals in 2010. Joining Patberg is Associate Coach Rachel Moreland, now in her fifth season with the squad, and goalkeeper coach Mike Wentzler, in his second year with Emory.
The Eagles, tough schedule will be a story throughout the year, but particularly during the early-going of the campaign, when Emory will open-up against top-ranked (and reigning NCAA Division III Champion) Messiah College on September 1st, followed by a September 7th meeting against third-ranked Johns Hopkins University as part of the Meredith College Invitational. Emory will begin a season-long six game home stand with a September 15th match against the University of the South, the squad's first game at the Woodruff P.E. Center in 2012.
"We figured that if you're going get into the final four, you're going to have to beat the likes of a Messiah or a Johns Hopkins," said Patberg. "We need to see what that looks like, and we need to play them."
University Athletic Association (UAA) play will open for Emory on September 29th at home against the University of Chicago, which received votes in the NSCAA Preseason Poll. The Eagles will face two team ranked in the preseason poll during the course of conference action, playing at ninth-ranked Washington University (Mo.) on October 7th and hosting 17th-ranked Case Western Reserve University on October 12th. Emory's final home game of the regular season will be on Thursday, October 18th, as the Eagles will play host to Lee University, ranked first in the NAIA and the reigning NAIA champions.