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League Previews: Horizon, Patriot & Ivy

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: August 14, 2015

Horizon League

Conference Tournament Champion: Valparaiso
Player of the Year: Rita Craven, Valparaiso
Offensive Player of the Year: Rita Craven, Valparaiso
Defensive Player of the Year: Haley Burtraw, Detroit(w)
Goalkeeper of the Year: Kelly Fritz, UIC
Freshman of the Year: Vanesa Abad, Valparaiso
Coach of the Year: John Marovich, Valparaiso 

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)
Valparaiso (14-1-4, 8-0)
Detroit(w) (9-9-1, 5-3-0)
Oakland (6-11-3, 4-3-1)
Wisconsin-Green Bay (11-7-2, 4-4-0)
Cleveland State (8-8-3, 3-4-1)
Youngstown State (7-9-2, 3-4-1)
Wright State (6-10-1, 3-4-1)
Wisconsin-Milwaukee (6-10-2, 2-4-2)
UIC (3-15, 1-7)
Northern Kentucky (9-8-3, 3-3-1)*
*Denotes 2014 Atlantic Sun record

One year after sweeping through the regular season slate in the Horizon League, Valparaiso has a number of its top options back in the fold for the upcoming season. That includes Rita Craven, the Player of the Year, 2014’s leading scorer April Cronin and Freshman of the Year Vanesa Abad. Defense was a critical part to the team’s success, conceding nine goals overall and securing 12 shutouts in 20 games.

With all the returning talent it’s hard to think of any other program as favorites entering a new season. Detroit(w), Oakland, Wisconsin-Green Bay all rounded out last year’s top four in conference play and will look to make inroads on Valpo. Each program has its own issues to sort out, from Detroit(w)’s loss of seniors like Alyssa Riley and Haley Burtraw, to Wisconsin-Green Bay adjusting to new head coach Kim Brandao.

Cleveland State could be one of the programs to make some noise, bringing back  eight seniors, who will combine with a large class of 11 freshmen. Forward Kaila Sargema and goalkeeper Sarah Wood are among the returners after earning All Conference honors a year ago.

There’s also a new program joining the Horizon League fray, as Northern Kentucky comes over from the Atlantic Sun.

Ivy League

Offensive Player of the Year: Tyler Lussi, Princeton
Defensive Player of the Year: Elise Wilcox, Yale
Rookie of the Year: Dani Stollar, Harvard
Coach of the Year: Ray Leone, Harvard

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)
Harvard (11-5-2, 5-1-1)
Dartmouth (8-5-4, 3-1-3)
Yale (8-4-4, 2-1-4)
Penn (8-5-3, 3-3-1)
Princeton (7-6-3, 3-3-1)
Columbia (7-4-6, 2-3-2)
Cornell (8-9, 2-5)
Brown (6-8-3, 1-4-2)

After a run to the Ivy crown last season, Harvard enters the 2015 campaign as favorites once again. The reason? Margaret Purce is one good one, as the dangerous attacker enters her third season in college as dynamic of a force as ever. Purce gets to team up with PDA star Caroline Chagares, who tore her ACL last fall and missed the entire season. That one-two punch alone is going to be tough to slowdown for the rest of the field, as the Crimson have a legit shot at running the table in the Ivy League.

That’s not to say the rest of the field doesn’t have a shot. Tyler Lussi provided the offensive muscle for Princeton, which enters the 2015 season under new head coach Sean Driscoll, who took over for the retired Julie Shackford. Returning All-Ivy performers include defender Natalie Larkin and midfielder Vanessa Gregoire.

Dartmouth ensured that the race for the Ivy League automatic bid came down to the wire, finishing in second place in 2014. A number of key contributors to that run are back in the fold, including leading scorer Lucielle Kozlov, Corey Delaney and Jackie Friedman. Defense engineered the team’s success, conceding just 11 goals in 17 games.

Another past Ivy power facing a regime change is Penn. Stanford Associate Head Coach Nicole Van Dyke was tabbed as Darren Ambrose’s replacement after he left to take the job at Vanderbilt. There’s a core of talent here, including defender Caroline Dwyer, goalkeeper Kalijah Terrili and midfielder Erin Mikolai.

There’s plenty to keep an eye on around the league. Yale has nabbed a Top 15 recruiting class, though the loss of three First Team All-Ivy seniors is sure to sting. Columbia showed signs of life under new head coach Tracey Bartholomew, and bring back Second Team All-Ivy sophomores Natalie Ambrose and Kerry Manion.

Patriot League

Conference Tournament Champion: Boston University
Offensive Player of the Year: Sarah Coy, Colgate
Defensive Player of the Year: Jade Seabrook, Navy
Goalkeeper of the Year: Brenna Mason, Colgate
Rookie of the Year: Aly Spencer, Holy Cross
Coach of the Year: Kathy Brawn, Colgate

Teams (2014 overall, conference record)
Colgate (14-3-2, 7-1-1)
Boston University (14-5-3, 6-1-2)
Navy (12-4-5, 6-1-2)
Army (7-9-3, 4-2-3)
Bucknell (10-9-2, 4-4-1)
Loyola (MD) (6-9-4, 2-3-4)
Lehigh (4-7-5, 2-3-4)
Holy Cross (10-5-3, 2-5-2)
Lafayette (5-11-1, 2-6-1)
American (3-15, 0-9)

The always competitive and impossible to predict Patriot League produces some of women’s college soccer’s most exciting postseason races. Last fall, both Navy and Boston University finished just behind regular season champs Colgate, before BU had the last laugh with a conference tournament crown and automatic NCAA bid that comes with it.

Plenty of returning talent stocks each team’s roster as well. Colgate brings back the Offensive Player of the Year in Sarah Coy, while she’ll be augmented by goalkeeper Brenna Mason, midfielders Jenna Panepinto, Aliza Doll and defender Lexi Panepinto. The Raiders conceded the fewest goals of any team in the league last season, an obvious key to their run.

Boston University brings back eight starters from last year’s tournament squad, including Jenna Fisher, McKenzie Hollenbaugh and Ariana Aston. Fisher led the Terriers in the goal scoring department in 2014, thought ten different players found the back of the net as BU received contributions from different part of the field.

Amongst the perennial contenders, Navy has the most significant pieces to replace. That includes Jade Seabrook, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year and back-to-back NSCAA All American. Scoring ace Morgan Dankanich also graduated, along with midfielder Rachel Hunter. It’s not all bad news, fortunately, as goalkeeper Dayton Wetherby brings experience in net, while Lexi Ricketts will take over as defensive leader at the back, and rising sophomore Clare MacAdam. It’s certainly a young roster, with only eight of the 27 players listed a junior or senior.

Senior Katie Holder is the key returnee for Army, after landing on the Patriot League All Conference First Team and leading the team with six goals. Improvement is needed after getting outscored 29-19 a year ago.

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