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Conference Preview: CAA, CUSA women

Article Written by Will Parchman
Published: August 11, 2015

Colonial Athletic Association

2014 Conference Awards

Player of the Year: Leah Galton, Hofstra
Defensive Player of the Year: Bianca Calderone, Northeastern
Rookie of the Year: Hannah Lopiccolo, Northeastern
Coach of the Year: Tracey Leone, Northeastern

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)

Northeastern (15-5-3, 7-1-1)
James Madison (12-8-0, 7-2-0)
Hofstra (13-7-1, 6-2-1)
William & Mary (12-6-1, 5-4-0)
Drexel (7-9-3, 4-3-2)
Delaware (7-9-2, 3-4-2)
Towson (6-9-4, 3-4-2)
UNC Wilmington (7-9-2, 2-6-1)
College of Charleston (7-11-1, 2-6-1)
Elon (5-12-0, 1-8-0)

For the first time since 2009, Northeastern was the cream of the CAA and won the league title in 2014. Northeastern kept a staggering seven shutouts in its nine conference matches last year, and that national No. 1 defense carried them to an NCAA tournament win over Boston and a respectable showing against eventual champ Florida State in the second round. The good news: Lopiccolo has three years left as the show-runner in midfield, and Kayla Cappuzzo is back for another bite after starring up top as a freshman.

The bad news for Northeastern - and the good news for the rest of the league - is that the Huskies lost two all-conference defenders and a first-team keeper to graduation. One of those was the DPOY. A lot of pressure falls on all-conference second teamer and newly minted junior Mackenzie Dowd to anchor a back line that will almost certainly take a step back after a history-making 2014. Can the attack make up for the losses?

There are a handful of teams with designs of unseating the reigning champs. James Madison’s defense was rock solid last year, but Sam Lofton was drafted by the NWSL, leaving JMU’s attack, featuring young studs like Ashley Herndon and Katie Hyland, as its most potent piece.

The league’s best team could well be Hofstra, which gets returning POY Leah Galton back for her senior year. Sam Scolari is gone, but with the nucleus of Galton, Jeannine Molleda and Chloe Dale going forward, there isn’t a defense capable of slowing this team with regularity. Don’t be surprised to see this team lift the trophy at season’s end.

In many spots the league looks like a toss-up. Drexel and William & Mary, the last of five teams to post winning league records last year, and each have big holes to fill. In Megan Hammaker and Melissa Chapman, Drexel lost half of its goals from last year. A lot rides on senior Lauren Stollar and the maturation of Madison Dunn. William & Mary is better situated. Leading scorer Emory Camper (10g, 3a) is gone, but Samantha Cordum returns after bagging seven goals last season. The partnership between her and Rachel Moore is quickly becoming one of the league’s best.

Conference USA

2014 Conference Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Lauren Hughes, Rice
Defensive Player of the Year: Olivia MBala, Florida Atlantic
Midfielder of the Year: Quinny Truong, Rice
Freshman of the Year: Martha Thomas, Charlotte
Coach of the Year: Nicky Adams, Rice

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)

North Texas (16-5-1, 8-1-1)
Rice (14-4-3, 7-2-1)
UTEP (12-5-4, 6-2-2)
Charlotte (8-8-2, 5-4-1)
Middle Tennessee (9-9-2, 5-4-1)
Louisiana Tech (13-6-3, 5-4-1)
Western Kentucky (10-8-0, 5-5-0)
Marshall (7-7-5, 4-3-3)
Old Dominion (4-9-5, 3-4-3)
Florida International (8-8-2, 3-4-2)
Florida Atlantic (7-9-4, 2-5-3)
UAB (5-10-2, 2-5-2)
UTSA (6-10-2, 2-7-1)
Southern Mississippi (5-11-3, 0-7-3)

Want a true measure as to how competitive this conference was last season? Eight teams finished with a record of .500 or better, seven of which had winning marks. North Texas was the preseason presumptive favorite, and they duly won the regular season title, but Rice stole the NCAA bid out from under them by taking the conference tourney. That, it seems, has jumpstarted the Owls’ move into pole position for 2015. Because it doesn’t look like anyone’s catching them.

Rice has a rare blend of attacking and defending experience back. Hughes tied Rice’s single-season record with 14 goals last season, and Jenny Fichera is the best defender in the conference. With the added attacking boost of senior Holly Hargreaves, Rice might not lose a conference game this season. The Owls are better almost everywhere than a 14-4-3 team.

Don’t count North Texas out, though. The dynamic duo of Rachel Holden and Karla Pineda returns for another crack, and keeper Jackie Kerestine, the league’s top netminder, should keep the back line well organized throughout the season. The regular season and conference titles will most likely come down to the bourgeoning rivalry between UNT and Rice again. Can the Mean Green flip the script from 2014? That’s the biggest question the CUSA will answer for us this year.

Charlotte looks poised to do some damage with last year’s freshman of the year in Martha Thomas back with plenty of experience around her. UTEP, Marshall, Florida International and Florida Atlantic probably round out the top half of the conference this year in pure returning talent. UTEP’s Aleah Davis is one of the most creative midfielder’s in the league and could lead the Miners to an upset of one of the top two. Keep an eye on FAU’s Claire Emslie. With six goals she’ll crack the program record for career goals.

 
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