Aug. 21, 2008
Navy opens the 2008 campaign on Saturday, August 23, against Vermont, beginning at 1:00 p.m. The match marks the first of 13 matches the Mids will host at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility, where they turned in an undefeated home mark (9-0-1) in 2007 and boast an impressive 23-1-1 record (.940) over the last two seasons
Head coach Carin Gabarra and Navy's women's soccer program enters its 16th season of varsity competition in 2008 amid a five-year run of unprecedented success. The Midshipmen have carried the Patriot League banner into the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons, and three times since 2003. Over this span, Navy has averaged more than 14 wins per season and has produced an impressive overall mark of 73-26-9 (.718). With eight starters and 15 letterwinners returning from last year's 14-5-4 squad and a promising incoming class, Navy has its sights on extending its streak of consecutive NCAA appearances to three in 2008.
To get there, Navy will have to overcome the graduation of its top two scorers from a year ago in Brigitte Fox and Kari Weniger and the loss of more than half of its goal-scoring production from `07. The senior duo alone accounted for 46 percent of the team's entire goal total, including eight of the Mids' 14 game-winners.
Fox, a two-time All-Patriot League selection, leaves the Academy as one of the most prolific goal scorers in program history. She was an absolute force offensively last fall for the Mids, scoring 16 of the team's 41 goals and pacing the Patriot League in scoring with 35 points. Coincidentally, Weniger, the 2007 Navy team captain and Fox's running mate up front, was the next leading scorer with 13 points and a team-best seven assists.
"We lost an important class. Goal-scoring is always hard to replace, but we bring back a deep and talented group. We also have brought in a very well-rounded plebe class that has responded well to a competitive atmosphere, and we expect several newcomers to step in and have an impact right away."
In 2007, Navy learned first-hand just how difficult a task repeating as league champion can be. The road to the program's third Patriot League Tournament title looked grim in mid-September after Navy dropped back-to-back games to regional powers William & Mary and VCU and later fell in its conference opener at Bucknell.
Behind Fox's scoring prowess and a stout defensive unit that held a conference-best 11 opponents scoreless and surrendered the fewest goals in Patriot League play (4), the Mids peaked at just the right time. Navy closed out the year unbeaten in its final 10 matches (8-0-2), including a stretch of six-consecutive wins, en route to the program's second straight Patriot League Tournament title.
"Last year was very fulfilling for us as a staff because we really had to earn it. We had some games in the beginning where we weren't really at our best. We had to peak at the right time and win some big games at the end, and the girls really came through."
Heading into the fall as the two-time defending league champions, Gabarra knows her team will have its hands full. Still, the Mids' top mentor relishes the challenge facing this year's squad.
"Looking for a third straight title, we know the task ahead of us is now going to be that much harder. Teams are really going to be coming after us - we can't afford to take any opponent lightly. But that's the way we want it to be. We want people to play their best against us all the time."
Navy will look to its bevy of veteran leadership to step up and set the tone for the 2008 squad. The Mids return a program-record eight seniors, including two-time all-league midfielder Julie Reynolds and standout goalkeeper Lizzie Barnes, a member of the preseason watch list for the Hermann Trophy a year ago. Also coming back to anchor the league's stingiest defense is two-time all-league defender, junior Shelly Moeller.
"Every year is different. Every team and every season has a different identity based on who is in charge and who the leaders are. This is an interesting class with eight seniors, which is a large number for us. It is a very strong class with many different personalities and I expect it will turn into a very good and cohesive unit."
Gabarra's squad will feature an entirely new look up front in 2008 as it replaces the services of stalwarts Brigitte Fox and Kari Weniger. While making up for the departure of goal production and veteran leadership at the forward position looms as the team's biggest question mark, the Navy lineup boasts several players capable of stepping up and providing an offensive punch.
A total of 20 different players turned in a point (goal or an assist) in 2007 and Navy's coach foresees more of the same in store for this fall.
"We lost a talented class and one of our most decorated goal scorers in program history. With Brigitte gone from the top, we will expect goals to come from a variety of places."
Senior Sam Schroth returns as the veteran member of the group, having played in every contest for Navy's league champion squads the last two seasons. Schroth turned in three goals and an assist for seven points last fall. The native of Chester Springs, Pa., possesses all the necessary tools to become a dominant player in the Mids' attack.
"Sam's fitness and mobility make her very hard to contain. She opens up the defense when we have the ball and causes turnovers defensively. She has the potential to make things happen in attack and we are expecting big things out of her."
One of the first places Navy will look for a scoring touch will be at the feet of junior Brittany White. A two-year starter in the midfield and a Second-Team All-Patriot League selection as freshman, White served as one of the team's primary table-setters in 2007 with six assists, five of which produced game-winning tallies. In 2008, she is expected to move up and see time as one of the team's top forwards.
"Brittany is technically solid and her ability to read the game under pressure is excellent. She had a great spring for us up top and we expect her to score goals and create many goal scoring chances for her teammates this fall."
If last year's Patriot League Championship was any indication, sophomore Carissa Youker is also ready and capable of contributing in Fox's absence. In last November's title game, Youker came off the bench to relieve Navy's top scorer and scored one of the biggest goals of the 2007 season, leading the Mids to a 1-0 win and their second straight league crown.
"Carissa gained a lot of experience in her first season at Navy, and scored an extremely important goal in the Patriot League Championship match. She is technical, strong, and we are excited for her to add a physical and mental element to her game."
Talented newcomer Annie Kendzior comes to Navy with an outstanding high school and club pedigree and the potential to immediately become one of the team's offensive catalysts. Kendzior led her Southlake Carroll High School team to its first state championship and a No. 7 spot in the NSCAA/Adidas national rankings in 2008. A longtime member of the Sting Dallas club team, she helped her club squad to a pair of regional titles and runner-up finishes at the 2007 and 2008 USYSA National Championships.
Gabarra believes the Southlake, Texas, native has the ability to make a big statement in her first collegiate season and entrench herself as the next in a long line of standout strikers at the Academy. "Annie is a constant attacking threat with her explosive 1v1 ability and creativity with the ball. She possesses the desire and mentality to score goals. We will give her freedom in the attack and expect her to be an impact player immediately."
Freshman Alex Lagunzad, an opportunistic finisher who hails from Seven Hills, Ohio, can play virtually anywhere on the field and should also factor into the equation up front. A three-year member of the Ohio ODP team, Lagunzad helped her Cleveland Internationals club squad to a pair of State Cup Championships in 2007 and 2008.
The Mids return a wealth of playing experience and veteran leadership at the midfield. Four seniors, including team captain Julie Reynolds, are back to headline what perhaps will be Navy's deepest group at any position this fall.
Reynolds is a tenacious defensive player with a competitive mentality that figures to set the tone for this year's team. She commands respect in the midfield, where she has been a fixture, starting all but two matches since arriving in Annapolis (64 career starts). In 2007, Reynolds produced a career-best five points earning second-team all-league kudos for the second straight year.
"Julie has already established her leadership role within the team, and her passion to compete and excel is contagious Her work-rate, mobility, and ball-winning mentality sets the tone for our midfield. We expect her to again be an impact player both offensively and defensively."
Senior returning starters Kristen Laraway and Carey Young are both expected to transition into midfield roles. Young, a two-year starter and integral part of Navy's success on the back line, registered a career-best eight points on two goals and four assists a year ago. A tireless attacker out of the back, she is expected to thrive in her new role this fall.
"Carey has great technical abilities along with the fitness and mentality to be a deciding factor in the attack. She has become an two-way player, and her leadership and work ethic will be a huge factor this year."
An explosive offensive player, Laraway tied for second on the team with six assists while earning 14 starts at the forward position in 2007. Heading into her final season, Gabarra expects her to be a big part of a multi-faceted Mids' offensive arsenal.
"We are expecting Kristen to be a personality player this year. She is very athletic, reads the game well, and has an uncanny ability to beat defenders 1v1 consistently. Her touch on the ball is outstanding and she is capable of serving the box, serving a final pass, or attacking 1v1. Her mentality and skills make her difficult to defend for 90 minutes."
Senior CiAnna Weikle will also feature in a strong and experienced midfield corps. Weikle earned starts in 14 of 22 contests last season, providing a consistent and dependable presence for the Mids. A defensive-minded player, she is a terrific ball-winner who will be counted on to contribute at both ends of the field in '08.
"CiAnna has a noticeable presence with her fitness, mobility, and tackling ability. She is fearless and relentless in defending and continues to make runs forward into attack. She is a necessary ingredient in our success in midfield and we expect her to dominate again this year."
With a year of experience, sophomore Anastasia Abid is primed to become a major force in the middle for Navy. Abid competed in all 23 contests, earning six starts as rookie. Her standout spring season has the Navy coaches geared up and expecting the second-year midfielder to assume a chief playmaking role in 2008.
"Stasia had a breakthrough spring. She has grown tremendously as a player, learning to use her creative attacking and dribbling talents, along with her mobility, and athleticism to add immensely to our attack. We are excited to see her make an impact this season."
Junior Jen Grijalva and sophomore Christine Calderon add additional depth to an already experienced unit. A creative playmaker with an excellent first touch, Grijalva earned the starting nod in six of nine contests before a knee injury ended her sophomore season prematurely. Calderon played in all 23 of the Mids' contests as a freshman, earning three starts and tallying four points on a goal and two assists.
The addition of freshmen Stephanie Lomeli and Amanda Serfass further bolsters Navy's deep stable of midfielders. Both newcomers are expected to adapt quickly to the new level of competition and vie for playing time. Lomeli, a three-year member of the Arizona ODP Team, netted the game-winning goal for her Sereno Golden Eagles club team to lead her squad to a state championship in 2008, one of five titles she earned as a member of the team. Serfass is one of two incoming Navy freshman hailing from the state of Texas (Annie Kendzior), where she was twice an all-district honoree and served as a senior team captain.
Since its inception, more than anything else, it has been Navy's commitment to defending that has been the staple of the program's success. Navy continued its defensive prowess in 2007, limiting the opposition to just 22 goals in 23 games, including a Patriot League-low four in conference play. Additionally, after pacing the conference by holding 11 opponents scoreless last fall, the Mids have now recorded a total of 30 shutouts over the last two seasons. This fall, Navy returns four defenders from the `06 squad that posted the lowest goals-against average in the country.
Spearheading Navy's efforts on the backline is two-time All-Patriot League defender Shelly Moeller. A fixture at center back since arriving in Annapolis, Moeller has started every game for the Mids in her first two seasons, a span of 47 contests. She garnered second-team all-league kudos as the lynchpin of a stingy Navy defensive unit that surrendered 0.92 goals per game a year ago, the fourth-lowest goals-against average in program history. A member of the 2006 Soccer Buzz Freshman All-American Team, Moeller also poses a significant threat on the offensive side of the ball, where she has scored 11 career goals and produced 26 points headed into her junior campaign.
"Shelly is an impact player for us who dominates both offensively and defensively. She is capable of single-handedly changing the outcome of a game. We are excited to see her impact this season, and the new standards she will set for herself and her teammates."
A talented mix of youth and experience complements Moeller in the back, where seniors Jenn Dunbar and Elise McCaskey are joined by sophomores Katie Kelly and Jessica Grupp and a talented trio of newcomers. A reserve in her first two seasons, Dunbar assumed a larger role on the Navy defense last season, starting in all 23 matches. She turned in four assists in a strong year out of the back and is expected to build on that experience in 2008.
"Jen is extremely tactical, and her fitness and mobility are key in our possession game. She excels with the ball at her feet and her long ball service is necessary for our team's success."
After battling a series of injuries over the last two seasons, the Mids will look to Elise McCaskey to return to full health and once again become a major contributor in the backfield. McCaskey, who enjoyed a standout freshman campaign as a starting defender, played an important role off the bench in 2007, seeing action in 19 games despite not being at 100 percent all year.
"Elise has exceptional focus and intensity. She refuses to be beaten 1v1 and is very comfortable with the ball attacking out of the back. She is a tenacious tackler, dominates in the air, and makes an impact going forward."
Katie Kelly saw time in all 23 games and played a valuable reserve role down the stretch for the Mids as a rookie. Kelly has built on her impressive fall campaign with a strong off-season and should quickly become a mainstay on the Navy defense this fall.
"Katie has become a tough 1v1 defender, and her dominance in the air adds to her physical presence in our defense. She grew as a player in the spring and gained valuable experience against top players."
Second-year back Jessica Grupp rounds out the list of returning Mids. A steady defensive presence, Grupp played in 10 games as a freshman.
Navy welcomes three newcomers, Katelyn George, Kate Herren, and Sara Ster, into the defensive rotation for the upcoming year. Look for George, a member of the Ohio Elite club team that captured the Super Y-League North American Championship in 2007, to step into the lineup and pay immediate dividends. Herren is a two-time team captain and all-county defender from Auburn Mountainview High School in Auburn, Wash., while Ster, a Leawood, Kan., native, captained and led her Blue Valley High School squad in scoring as a senior.
Anchoring Navy's defensive unit again will be senior keeper Lizzie Barnes. Heading into her third year as the Mids' top netminder, Barnes has raised the standards of excellence for Navy goalkeepers.
In her first year in a starting role, Barnes recorded one of the best single-season goalkeeping performances in NCAA history, leading the nation in goals-against average (.292) and save percentage (.933), while posting a school- and league-record 13 shutouts. The 2006 Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year, she helped lead Navy to a storybook season that saw the Mids produce a school-record 21 wins.
A year removed from the program's banner year, Barnes headed into '07 amid lofty expectations, which included her earning mention on the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List - the first time any Patriot League player has been recognized on this distinguished list.
The New Orleans, La., native did not disappoint, delivering a solid follow-up season with a 1.02 goals-against average over 21 games and a league-best eight solo shutouts, including seven in the Mids' final 11 games. For the second straight season, Barnes came through when the stakes were highest, producing a pair of clean sheets in Patriot League postseason play en route to the program's third league title.
She is Navy's career record holder in GAA (0.65) and with 21 shutouts, she enters the fall just one shy of tying the school record.
"Lizzie is an impact player in goal for us and an important factor in our success. She has long and accurate distribution, is capable of making the big save, and often can be the difference between winning and losing."
Junior Beth Reed returns as Barnes' primary backup. One of the team's most athletic players, Reed has gained significant game experience in her first two seasons in a Navy blue and gold uniform, making a pair of starts and allowing just three goals in more than 510 minutes of action. After a strong spring season, she returns this fall to create one of the Patriot League's premier goalkeeping tandems.
"Beth had an excellent spring for us and gained a lot of game experience and confidence. She is one of the most athletic players on the team and we trust her to step in the game in any pressure situation. We will be relying on her to step up in competitive matches." Rounding out the group, sophomores Eowyn Pedicini and Traci Willemse both will add valuable depth to Navy's back line.