Is this the start of a dynasty?
Marist took firm control of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) in 2011 with the league and tournament championships. And it only gets better for the Red Foxes, as coach Katherine Lyn returned all but one of the starters from last year’s squad.
“We have a big freshman class coming in,” Lyn told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “They are going to solidify certain spots – forwards and midfielders mainly.”
With three seniors across the backline, the Marist defense will be much the same as last year.
However, there are a few other teams that are not so quick to anoint the Marist program as the new powerhouse. Loyola is up for the fight and wants to return to previous glory with an NCAA tournament berth.
“This is the year for Loyola to make it to the Big Dance,” Loyola senior forward Nicole Schiro told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “There are nine of us that went to the NCAA tournament as freshmen, so we know what it takes.”
Schiro was the Offensive Player of the Year in the conference in 2011 and 2010. The Michigan-native has scored 37 goals in her three seasons with Loyola.
Lyn, to her credit, listed a number of teams she believed could challenge Marist this season including Loyola.
“I am always looking out for Loyola,” Lyn said. “Last year, Fairfield gave us some tough games. They are our toughest opponents.”
The coach does expect to finish in the top two though, and believes that having the conference tournament at home will be a major plus for her side in 2012.
“We were undefeated at home last season. They enjoy playing front of their fans.”
Brief Bio: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Women’s Soccer
2011 League Champions: Marist
2011 Tourney Champions: Marist
Conference Offensive Player of the Year: Nicole Schiro, Loyola (MD)
Conference Defensive Player of the Year: Kelly Boudreau, Fairfield
Rookie of the Year: Amanda Epstein, Marist
Coach of the Year: Katherine Lyn, Marist
Teams (Overall/Conference record)
There are two main themes to the Red Foxes 2012 season: non-conference games and Amanda Epstein.
“I’d say in the non-conference schedule, we will definitely be challenged a bit,” head coach Katherine Lyn said.
Lyn is relieved to having leading scorer from last season, Amanda Epstein, back for her sophomore campaign.
“She is one of those deceptive players who doesn’t have blazing athleticism but always ends up in the right place,” Lyn added. “She has eight game-winning goals, which I think was third overall in the nation in game-winning goals.”
The Purple Eagles of Niagara will be one the main challengers for Marist in 2012. Head coach Peter Veltri returns his top two scorers from last season, Breanna Catipovic and Kayla Picanco, in a bid to knock off Marist from conference supremacy.
The Purple Eagles will need to get the goalkeeper position settled though with both of last year’s net minders off the roster in 2012.
Loyola (MD) (8-12-1/5-3-1)
The Greyhounds are always in the conversation for potential favorites in the MAAC given the rich history of the program and the talent on the roster.
“Having a group of women that are ready and willing to work hard, as well as a unique chemistry among us, there is no doubt that we are all ready to ‘dance’!” senior captain Nicole Schiro said about the possibility of returning to the NCAA tournament.
Schiro is close to breaking a number of career records for goals and point at Loyola, but she says that her focus is on the team.
“Knowing that my soccer career is coming to an end, my goal is to be the best teammate and captain I can be,” she added.
The Fairfield Stags’ record is not indicative of the type of team they were in 2011. Head coach Jim O’Brien’s group was competitive in nearly every game -- a 0-3 loss to Yale was the only major blemish.
With the top two scorers from last year, Nikki Stanton and Beyar, back, the Stags are poised to challenge for a top spot in the conference.
Iona College (5-10-4/4-3-2)
In two weeks time, Iona will take the field for its first exhibition game of the season. That short window does not give second year head coach Mike Barroquiero much time to fiddle with the roster.
Barroquiero led the Gaels to a respectable fifth place finish in the conference in 2011 and will be eager to improve on that record in the fall.
Improving the offensive output should be first on his list, as Iona only scored 16 goals last season. Leading scorer Melissa Frederick (four goals) is back for her sophomore season, which should help with getting the attack in sync.
Last year was very streaky for the Golden Griffins of Canisius. They start conference play with three wins (two of which came on the road) then ended the year on a six-game winless streak.
In 2012, head coach Jim Wendling will need to improve the consistency from his group to battle the challenges of a tough conference like the MAAC. Adding to the difficulty of bringing up the level is the loss of the two leading scorers from last year’s squad, Kelly Reinwald and Jenny Griffin.
The coaching staff is counting on the incoming class to help with improving that attack.
"We want to get back to being one of the best-attacking, goal-scoring teams in the MAAC this upcoming season and I believe these additions can help us achieve our goal of scoring more goals,” Wendling said in a release in March.
Siena College (7-7-3/2-4-3)
Siena struggled away from home in 2011. The Saints were a lackluster 2-6-1 on the road last season.
It might be a bit too much to ask for that record to improve in 2012 though. Leading scorer (and record holder) Ashleigh Barone graduated and is now an assistant coach with the program.
If Barone can mold one of the incoming freshmen to fill her shoes, the Saints will have something to build around for the future.
It was a tale of two seasons for the Broncs last year. Rider fared well in non-conference play with some decent wins on the resume, but then failed to get anything substantial going in conference play (beyond a big win over Marist) and wimpered to the finish line.
The Broncs are back in 2012 though, and forward Abi Cottam is set to be a force to be reckoned with in the league. Cottam and the ten other seniors on the roster want to make some statement before leaving Rider.
Saint Peter’s (3-15-1/2-7-0)
With 17 freshmen and sophomores on the roster last season, Saint Peter’s was building for the future. The team suffered through the bumps and bruises but did see a couple of players emerge as potential standouts in the future for Brett Sarsfield’s group.
The Jaspers continue to build for the future – with both a young roster and a young coach. Junior forward Martine Diamond showed some promise in 2011 with five goals and one assist in 16 games. Head coach Brendan Lawler will be looking to build around her this fall in his fourth season in charge.