Aug 14, 2013
After winning 19 games in its 20th season of varsity play last fall, the Navy women's soccer team is poised to continue its recent run of success in 2013. Head coach Carin Gabarra returns eight starters from a team that captured the Patriot League Regular Season championship with an unbeaten conference mark of 6-0-1.
With its top four scorers and six all-conference players returning, Navy will be in a strong position to make a third straight Patriot League championship appearance and to contend for the Patriot League's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
"We are really looking forward to this year," said Gabarra. "We felt like we had a good year last year but not a great year. We didn't win the game we wanted to win - the Patriot League Championship."
Navy returns its entire starting defensive unit, including All-American and Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Jade Seabrook, Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year and team captain Elizabeth Hoerner and all-league honoree Julie Schumacher.
Gabarra also welcomes in nine newcomers with a variety of playing experience. Two players, Emily Tucker and Taylor Kipilii, led their high school teams to state titles and were named the player of the year in their respective states of New York and Hawaii. Rachel Feldman won a national title with her club team. Goalkeeper Dayton Wetherby has started for the U-20 Panamanian National Team and Courtney Mason played her freshman season at VMI.
"The new players have been great," said Gabarra. "They are healthy, they are fit and they are learning the system. They know how to play soccer and their soccer IQ is very good. We are going to rely on them to contribute and we need them to step up. I think they know that and they are ready to do what we ask them."
Navy (19-2-1 in 2012) will defend its conference regular season title against the usual Patriot League schools, as well as the league's newest two members Boston University and Loyola.
Boston University won nine America East tournament titles and 10 regular season titles in its 18 years in the league. Since 2000, Loyola has won eight MAAC Championships and competed in eight NCAA Tournaments, including in 2012.
The conference tournament will expand to six teams in 2013 with the top two teams receiving byes into the semifinal round. The Patriot League regular season champion will host the semifinals and the championship game from November 8-10 after the quarterfinals are held on November 5.
"The league will have a whole new look this fall with the two new teams and with more teams making the playoffs," Gabarra said. "It will be a slightly different feel for everyone involved."
Due to the conference expansion, Navy will have to play at West Point for a second straight year in the annual Army-Navy Star Match. The Mids defeated Army, 1-0, last fall and the teams will meet this season on November 1 in the regular season finale.
Navy will face a challenging non-conference schedule this season that will include ACC opponents Maryland and NC State. Navy has a 19-game regular season slate in 2013 and 12 games will be played at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility, including the annual Navy Invitational from September 6-8.
Navy will also play an exhibition game on August 16 at Penn State, the 2012 NCAA College Cup runner-up.
"What a great way to open the year against a team that went to the NCAA final and a team that has an incredible culture and legacy," Gabarra said. "We always want to play great teams and we are going to go after them. They will expose any weaknesses we may have and then we can make ourselves better in those areas moving forward."
After leading the Patriot League in scoring and ranking eighth in the country with 2.50 goals per game, Navy's offensive unit will be back in full force in 2013. The Mids return all three of its starting forwards and nine of its top 10 scorers overall.
Navy's three returning starters - senior Ashlynn Soellner, senior Paloma Perez and junior Morgan Dankanich - all scored at least 24 points in 2012 and Soellner and Dankanich scored 10 goals apiece.
"They are all dynamic and they all score in different ways," said Gabarra about her three starters. "It's very hard for a team to shut down three forwards that can put up that many points. It's a great base for us to start and we want to build on that and have our other forwards step up and score big goals as well."
Soellner led Navy with 29 points on 10 goals and nine assists last season and with 56 career points (22 goals, 12 assists), she sits 12th on the program's career scoring chart. Soellner is a two-time All-Patriot League honoree and was named to the second team last fall. Soellner has a knack for scoring late in the game and has registered 11 career game-winning goals.
Perez was named to the All-Patriot League First Team in 2012 after tallying eight goals and eight assists for 24 points. Perez also earned all-league second-team honors in 2010 and she enters her senior season with 48 career points on 17 goals and 14 assists.
Dankanich emerged as a top scoring threat in her sophomore year and matched Soellner with a team-best 10 goals. Dankanich also had six assists for 26 total points. During one stretch in the middle of the season, Dankanich scored a goal in four straight games and was recognized by Top Drawer Soccer with a weekly award.
Junior Lily Kraemer (two goals, four assists) and junior Caprice Kelty (three goals, two assists) bring valuable experience as reserve forwards and freshmen Courtney Hook and Cat Macklin will make their collegiate debuts.
The midfield unit is where Navy will see the most turnover for the upcoming season, as the program graduated a pair of three-year starters in Brittany Fruin and Fallon Puppolo.
However, junior Rachel Hunter and sophomore Kaylie Davidson return after playing substantial minutes last fall.
Davidson was named to the All-Patriot League First Team in 2012 after scoring 17 points on seven goals and three assists in her rookie season. Her 17 points ranked fourth on the team.
Hunter scored two goals and had four assists for eight points and ranked second among all midfielders in minutes played with 1,231.
Sophomore Lizzy Rullan saw solid action in the midfield and on the defensive backline last fall. Rullan logged three starts and scored a pair of goals.
"We do have experience in the midfield and we've asked them to step up and do a little bit more," Gabarra said. "We were solid last year and we were very technical, but we want to add even more to how we play in the midfield. We want more mobility and more attacking from this group."
Senior K.D. Woolard and sophomore Lexi Ricketts will see playing time in the midfield as well as on defense.
Sophomore Nikki Peterson also returns to the midfield unit and will be joined by incoming players Rachel Feldman, Courtney Mason, Alison Norris and Emily Tucker.
Navy returns its entire starting defensive backline with Jade Seabrook and senior Emily Wilkin holding down the central defender positions. Junior Julie Schumacher (20 starts) and junior Kahra Kelty (16 starts) also return as outside backs.
"We pride ourselves on defending," said Gabarra. "Both individually and as a team. There is a lot of mental effort and a lot soccer IQ involved in how we want our backs to play. I feel good about them and we have new players that can step in and fill those roles and play in the same fashion as the players in front of them."
Seabrook became the first Navy women's soccer player to earn All-America honors in 2012 after anchoring the backline. Seabrook helped Navy lead the Patriot League in goals-against average (0.90) and shutouts (9). Seabrook tallied eight points and scored the game-winner in Navy's 1-0 win at Army to claim the N-Star.
Seabrook was tabbed as the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the all-league first team. She also earned NSCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region First-Team honors.
Wilkin has started all 43 games in which she has played in through her first three seasons at Navy and forms a solid duo with Seabrook in the middle of the backline.
Schumacher was named to the All-Patriot League Second Team and tied for the team lead with nine assists.
Navy also brings returns a solid contingent of reserve defenders. Senior Britta Vivaldi, Woolard, Rullan and Ricketts will all see time on the backline.
Freshman Taylor Kipilii will also contribute to the backline, as will Macklin, Mason and Tucker.
Senior Elizabeth Hoerner played in just three career games during her first two years at Navy, but earned the starting goalkeeper position in training camp and went on to have a banner junior season in 2012.
Hoerner was named to the NSCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region First Team, the All-Patriot League First Team and was named the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year.
She posted a 17-2-1 record with a league-best 1.06 goals-against average and a .808 save percentage. During conference play, she was 6-0-1 with a 0.55 goals against average and posted four shutouts.
"Our keepers have always been very cerebral, very smart in how they play the game and very dedicated," said Gabarra. "We train our keepers hard and expect a lot from them and they've always stepped up and been a huge part of our success on the defensive end."
Hoerner is also a standout in the classroom and was named to the NSCAA Scholar All-America First Team. She was also chosen as the Patriot League Women's Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Navy has had a tradition of strong goalkeeping and Hoerner is the fourth different keeper in the last five years to earn All-Patriot League honors.
"You definitely have to give a lot of credit to Dustin (Shambach)," said Gabarra. "He came in as our goalkeeper coach and instantly raised the level of all of our goalkeepers."
Senior Kalli Schulz returns as a backup goalkeeper. She saw action in three games during her first season with the team last fall.
Navy's freshman class also features two goalkeepers in Dayton Wetherby and Chelsea Pixa.