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2016 Conf Previews: Horizon, Ivy + Patriot

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: August 10, 2016

Horizon League

2015 Conference Honors
Player of the Year: Macy Hamblin, Northern Kentucky
Offensive Player of the Year: Macy Hamblin, Northern Kentucky
Defensive Player of the Year: Cassidy Blanchard, Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Goalkeeper of the Year: Kelly Fritz, UIC
Freshman of the Year: Claudia Eustaquio, Detroit(w)
Coach of the Year: Troy Fabiano, Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Teams (2015 overall, conference record)
Wisconsin-Milwaukee (11-3-4, 8-0-1)
Oakland (8-6-7, 6-1-2)
Northern Kentucky (11-5-2, 6-2-1)
Wright State (9-8-2, 5-3-1)
Valparaiso (7-8-3, 4-4-1)
Cleveland State (8-10-1, 4-5)
Detroit(w) (7-9-2, 3-5-1)
UIC (5-12-2, 2-6-1)
Youngstown State (7-11, 2-7)
Wisconsin-Green Bay (3-14, 1-8)

The race for regular season and conference honors should be a compelling on in the Horizon League, with Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Oakland and Northern Kentucky raring to battle it out for a spot at the top of the table.

Oakland’s 2015 was a memorable one, topping Milwaukee in the conference tournament final to punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Goalkeeper Emily Zweng and her 42 saves could be critical again in goal, while First Team performers Alice Palmer is back in the fold as well.

Even if the Golden Grizzlies enter this year as the preseason favorites, the race for the Horizon League title is likely to come down the wire. After all, Wisconsin-Milwaukee has won 15 of the last 16 regular season titles, and went unbeaten last fall. The Panthers do face a lot of turnover, though three fourths of the back line returns, including Ashley Burkhardt, Erin Corrigan and Kelli Swenson. They’ll provide the platform for defensive success in a new campaign, while the team does bring back its top four scorers from a year ago.

Sure to draw the attention of opposing defenses all season, Macy Hamblin enters her junior year at Northern Kentucky as the reigning Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year. The combination of her and fellow attacker Jessica Frey were particularly effective as the team piled up 33 goals. If that pair can hit the ground running, things should go well for the Norse.

Valparaiso brings back 18 players from the 2015 squad, as its seeks to muscle its way into the title conversation. A key component of those hopes will fall on the shoulder of top scorer April Cronin, who will be in search of an accomplished finish to her college career.

Patriot League

2015 Conference Honors
Offensive Player: Rosy Hayes, Loyola (MD)
Defensive Player: McKenzie Hollenbaugh, Boston University
Goalkeeper of the Year: Alyssa Parisi, Boston University
Rookie of the Year: McKenna Doyle, Boston University
Coach of the Year: Kelly Kuss, Bucknell

Teams (2015 overall, conference record)
Boston University (13-6-3, 8-0-1)
Bucknell (11-6-3, 6-1-2)
Navy (11-7-4, 3-2-4)
Colgate (6-9-3, 4-4-1)
Loyola (MD) (6-10-2, 4-4-1)
American (5-11-3, 2-4-3)
Holy Cross (5-8-4, 2-4-3)
Army (4-12-2, 2-5-2)
Lehigh (7-8-3, 2-5-2)
Lafayette (8-7-1, 2-6-1)

Since moving to the Patriot League in 2013, Boston University has won all three regular season crowns. Even with the usual amount of turnover, the Terriers keep finding a way. The departing talent is once against difficult to replace, with key cogs like McKenzie Hollenbaugh, Alyssa Parisi and Clare Pleuler among the departing seniors. Of course, the return of assets such as McKenna Doyle, Julianna Chen and Rachel Blozanlis means that Boston could certainly make it a four-peat.

One of the teams that could give BU a run for its money is Bucknell. The Bison return nine starters from last season’s second-place team, including Cora Climo, Alexis Gannon, Jessica Ratner and Meghan Holtz.

While turnover hits Navy pretty hard, there are capable players returning. That includes forward Clare MacAdam, who has provided two seasons of consistency, and Dayton Wetherby, who anchors the team in goal. Navy has a tough non-conference schedule lined up, headlined by the visit of national title contenders Stanford to open up the season on August 19.

Colgate suffered a slight dip last season after a tremendously successful 2014 campaign. There are plenty of pieces from that squad, enough that it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see the Raiders shoot back up the table. That includes returning players like Eliza Doll and Sarah Coy, both who will be central to this year’s hopes of recapturing old form.

It’s an uphill climb for Loyola (MD), which faces the daunting task of replacing Rosy Hayes – the Offensive Player of the Year – and Charlotte Miller, both who earned plenty of individual accolades. All that, and it was a fifth place finish for the Greyhounds. Defender Nicole Wahlig is back, and she’ll be a key figure for the team at the back.

The cluster of American, Holy Cross,, Army, Lehigh and Lafayette shared the same number of Patriot League wins last fall, with just two each. Given the nature of the conference, don’t be surprised to see a significant improvement from at least one of those in the year ahead.

Ivy League

2015 Conference Honors
Offensive Player of the Year: Tyler Lussi, Princeton
Defensive Player of the Year: Jackie Friedman, Dartmouth
Rookie of the Year: Mimi Asom, Princeton
Coach of the Year: Sean Driscoll, Princeton

Teams (2015 overall, conference record)
Princeton (14-1-4-1, 6-0-1)
Harvard (8-7-2, 5-1-1)
Brown (7-7-2, 3-3-1)
Columbia (7-8-1, 3-3-1)
Penn (6-4-6, 1-2-4)
Cornell (9-4-4, 2-4-1)
Dartmouth (8-4-4, 1-3-3)
Yale (4-10-2, 1-6)

The two-headed attacking beheamoth of Mimi Asom and Tyler Lussi fired Princeton to an Ivy League championship last fall, and the focus for the Tigers this year will be on providing an encore. The pair has to be in the running for one of the best strike duos in the country, accounting for 27 of their team’s 46 goals in 2015. If the defense can step up, the Tigers could dream of accomplishments beyond just the Ivy League.

Harvard’s season should be an intriguing one. Head coach Ray Leone left to take over at Maryland, but with incumbant goalkeeper Lizzie Durack back and Margaret Purce up front, they could be as dangerous as ever. Purce has averaged 10 goals a season, putting up a total of 30 through three years in Cambridge. If she can hit the ground running, Harvard has every chance to return to the Ivy summit.

There’s also a coaching change at Brown, as Kia McNeill moved to the Bears from an assistant role at Northeastern. Fine-tuning an offense that scored just 18 goals in 16 games is likely to be an area of focus; senior midfielder Carly Gould is back after topping the team in goals scored with seven a season ago. Rising sophomore goalkeeper Christine Etzel blossomed in goal, conceding just 15 from 15 games, and should return to provide experience in net.

While the top two are sure to garner the most interest, Ivy League seasons can provides some of the more compelling races around Division I soccer. Columbia continues to climb the table under third-year head coach Tracey Bartholomew, who has added a breath of fresh air to the New York program. It’s also the second year of Ivy League soccer for Penn’s head coach Nicole Van Dyke, which managed just a single league win last year. The Quakers have to replace a trio of All-Ivy performers from the 2015 squad, though promising midfielder Allie Trzaska is among the returnees.

An impressive defense looked like it could carry Cornell to the cusp of Ivy League contention, though things in the final third never clicked enough to threaten a first place run. Goalkeeper Kelsey Tierney is back after conceding only nine times in 2015, though the team could only muster 16 goals of its own. Midfielder Ellie Crowell is another important returning player.

While its non-conference record finished at an impressive 8-1-1 record last season, Dartmouth failed to kick on, winning just a single Ivy League game to finish near the bottom of the table. Midfielder Remy Borinsky and defender Brittany Champagne are two key players back in the fold as the Big Green look to erase that disappointment.

A young Yale team will continue to rely on its stable of promising talent, including Sofia Griff, Hannah Coy, Fran Steele and Michelle Alozie. Six freshman started at least nine games or more, experience that should lead to significant improvement in the upcoming season.

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