After graduating the most accomplished class in the program's history following last season, there would be reason to expect a drop off from the team's success in recent years. However, with a strong veteran core returning and an infusion of one of the deepest freshmen classes in the team's history, Head Coach Sue Patberg believes the 2014 campaign will be one of reloading, rather than rebuilding, for the 11th-ranked Eagles.
"Winning is always a big expectation for our program," said Patberg. "We want to compete for a UAA Championship every single year, and get into the NCAA Tournament, and at that point, anything can happen. We're a bit of an unknown, because we did just graduate a talented class, and we have a large freshman class, so it will be fun to figure things out as we go and see what we can become. To me, it's really limitless."
A Look Back at 2013
Emory ended the 2013 season with an overall record of 16-4-1, finishing second in the University Athletic Association (UAA) and advancing to the NCAA Division III Championships for the fourth-straight season, matching the longest streak in the program's history. The Eagles also advanced through the first weekend of the tournament for the fourth-straight season, before eventually falling in double-overtime in the Round of 16 to Wheaton College (Ill.).
Emory ranked 20th in Division III with a .557 goals-against average in 2013, while limiting opponents to 8.95 shots and 3.3 shots on goal per game. Offensively, a program-record eight players scored at least 10 points for the Eagles, with the team averaging 2.29 goals per game, the 90th-best mark among 447 ranked Division III squads.
Despite losing seven players from last year's squad to graduation, the Eagles will be returning 16 letter winners from the team, including six who started at least 10 games, and 10 who played in at least 15 contests.
"We graduated that really talented class," said Patberg. "It's been really fun to see this group of eight seniors have a voice and find their leadership and roles in terms of bringing together a huge freshman class and leading the other younger players."
Emory will be returning its top two-scorers from last season in seniors Karina Rodriguez (six goals and seven assists) and Charlotte Butker (five goals and six assists). Butker, an all-UAA Second Team selection, will begin her senior season tied for sixth in school history with 22 career assists, and tied for 16th with 52 points. Senior Emily Feldman will be back as well for the Eagles, after scoring five goals (including the first postseason 'hat trick' in the team's history against Piedmont) and assisting on two others during an injury shortened season that saw her appear in just seven games off the bench.
Adding depth at the forward position will be junior Jordan Morell and sophomore Cristina Ramirez, who each tallied five goals and two assists for the Eagles last season, while senior co-captain Meredith Doherty (two goals and four assists) and senior Jennifer Grant (three goals and three assists) will aid the Emory attack from the midfield.
"We feel great with Jen [Grant] and Meredith [Doherty] in the midfield. And, of course, [Emily] Feldman, Karina [Rodriguez], Charlotte [Butker] and Jordan [Morell] up top," said Patberg. "I feel like we really are returning quite a few kids with some significant experience in some really big games, and that's big for us moving forward."
The Eagles' back line will have to overcome the loss of four-time all-America center back Lauren Gorodetsky and all-UAA First Team selection Lauren Drosick. The baton at center back will be passed to rising sophomore and co-captain Hannah Meyer, the 2013 UAA Rookie of the Year, who was second on the team with 1,530 minutes played last year, appearing in all 21 games and making 16 starts. Joining Meyer in the middle of the defense will be fellow sophomore Bailey Plummer, while on the outside, the Eagles will have an experienced pairing with junior Ally Peterson and senior Kaelyn Lucas expected to start. Freshman Anna Gurney saw time in the defensive midfielder during the preseason.
"We're returning Hannah Meyer, who was freshman of the year in the UAA," said Patberg. "And, we're returning Kaeyln Lucas and Ally Peterson, and Bailey Plummer has really stepped up in the back. We've brought in quite a few very talented defenders as well… I feel like we're bringing back a lot of talent in those areas, and a lot of experience."
After spending her freshman year backing up the goalkeeping tandem of Erica Stein and Kaele Leonard, Liz Arnold emerged as the Eagles' every day starter between the posts in 2013, quickly becoming one of the strongest keepers in Division III. She earned an all-UAA Honorable Mention last season after finishing the year 15th among D-III keepers with a 0.464 goals-against average and 43rd with a 0.857 save percentage, while notching a record of 15-3-1 with six individual shutouts. Arnold will be backed up by junior Kristin Temple, who appeared in one game last season.
"We're returning Liz Arnold, who started for us last year, and Kristin Temple, who has just improved remarkably."
Patberg will begin her 10th season at Emory in 2014, entering the campaign with a record of 126-28-26 with the team, good for a .772 winning percentage. The 2012 D3Soccer.com Coach of the Year has accumulated a mark of 272-116-44 during her 21-year career, which includes stints at NCAA Division I programs Georgia and Minnesota. She has led her squads to the NCAA Tournament in 15 of her 21 seasons as a head coach, including seven of nine seasons with Emory.
Patberg is aided by Associate Coach Rachel Moreland, who is starting her seventh season with the team, and Goalkeeper Coach Mike Wentzler, who has been with the squad for the last four years.
Emory will open its season on August 29th and 30th at the Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists Classic, hosted by Virginia Wesleyan College in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with games against a pair of regional opponents in Christopher Newport University and Virginia Wesleyan. The Eagles will then return to Atlanta to begin a five-game home stand at the Woodruff Physical Education Center, which will include contests against second-ranked Trinity University (Texas) on September 5th and 14th-ranked Capital University on September 21st.
The Eagles will open conference play in the always-competitive UAA at Washington University (Mo.), the fourth-ranked Division III squad in the NSCAA's preseason poll, on October 5th. Emory will have home conference games this season against the University of Chicago on October 11th, the University of Rochester on October 31st and Case Western Reserve University on November 2nd.
This Weekend's Opponents
The Eagles will play their season-opening game against Christopher Newport University on Friday, August 29th at 5:00 PM against Christopher Newport, followed by an 8:00 PM game against Virginia Wesleyan on Saturday, August 30th. There will be a video webcast (http://firstteambroadcasting.com/organization/virginia-wesleyan-college) of both games during the weekend.
The Eagles are 21-4-3 all-time in season-opening games, including wins in each of their last four season openers and victories in their last eight season openers against Division III opposition. Emory is also 6-0-0 all-time in games played during the month of August.
Christopher Newport finished the 2013 season with an overall record of 14-4-2 and won the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Tournament before falling in the first round of the NCAA Championships to Bowdoin College. The Captains were selected to win the conference once again in the 2014 CAC coaches' preseason poll, returning All-Region midfielder Joy Piirto and CAC Rookie of the Year Sam Rabinek. Friday's game will be the first-ever meeting between Emory and Christopher Newport.
Virginia Wesleyan narrowly missed an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships in 2013, finishing the year with a 12-5-2 record, but falling in the first round of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Tournament. The team was picked to finish third in the conference in the upcoming season, and is slated to return junior midfielder and All-South Region selection Kerry Knauss, and All-ODAC defender Allie Ketzler. Emory is 1-1-0 all-time against Virginia Wesleyan, defeating the Marlins 5-0 at home during the 1996 season, and falling 3-2 on the road in 2004.