June 6, 2013
2013 PITT WOMEN’S SOCCER SEASON PREVIEW
The Pitt women’s soccer team will begin its 2013 season with a bright new perspective. Coming off a 7-10-2 (2-6-2 Big East) season in 2012, second year head coach Greg Miller will take his Panthers into the best women’s soccer conference in the country, the Atlantic Coast Conference. Even though the program welcomes back nine returning starters, 12 incoming freshmen will have the opportunity to compete for playing time immediately.
Maintaining success in the top flight ACC under these conditions would be difficult for any team, but Miller, joined by assistant coaches Michael Baker, Ileana Moschos and Anthony James, is confident in his squad’s ability as long as the Panthers can preserve their identity.
“We want to establish ourselves as one of the most fit and hardworking teams out there,” Miller said. “We want that to be who we are at the core and if we can consistently show up with that as our identity, I think some of the talent that we have will enable us to compete in every game.”
In preparation for the upcoming season, Miller’s goals throughout the spring season have been not only to improve, but also to mix his returning players and his new signees.
“When you are coaching 12 players, you have a lot of time to layer things in and the opportunity to establish what you are trying to do,” Miller explained. “Part of our goal this spring was to get this group as prepared as we could be to be able to lead and adopt in these 12 new players. We had our current players constantly communicating with our incoming group this spring to help bridge the gap and incorporate them into our family sooner”
The leadership that Miller envisions for his team is supplied by newly appointed team captains Morgan Sharick and Caroline Keefer. Their senior leaders will provide guidance and direction for the 12 new freshmen signees. Sharick, a catalyst in the Panthers’ strong backline, ranks first among 2012 returning players in minutes played (1737), tied for first in starts (19) and second in goals scored (four). Keefer, a senior midfielder, has started 54 of her 58 career games played.
In losing two starters and 10 total players, Pitt has lost over a third of its minutes played last season. However, of the 19 goals and 18 assists recorded last year by the Panthers, 89% of the goals scored and 83% of the assists produced return to the program for the 2013 season.
Pitt adds a 12-member recruiting class that Miller hopes will be ready for the challenge of the new season and the new conference. In Greg Miller’s eyes, the youth at every position is more of a positive than a negative.
“We see this freshmen group heavily contributing to our team next year,” Miller said. “Potentially, each of them could have a significant role on our team. We really like the diversity and talent level of this class and it really is going to change who we are moving forward. There are so many competitors in this class, people that come from winning clubs and backgrounds and it is just a part of who they are. We expect them to bring that experience, winning mentality, and hate of losing to our training environment and to our games.”
Pitt’s first ACC women’s soccer season will feature eight matches against opponents who ranked among the nation’s top-25 teams last year. The Panthers open up their 2013 season on August 25th against Duquesne.
Here is a position by position look at the 2013 Pitt women’s soccer team:
Offensively, the Panthers return two experienced players in RS junior Alex Charlebois and senior Dana DelleFemine. Charlebois led the team in goals scored (five) and game winning goals (two) last year. It marked her first season as a Panther after transferring in from Missouri. DelleFemine is making the transition from outside midfielder to forward this season, and Miller is excited about the prospect of seeing her make the score sheet more often this year, whether it’s contributing a goal or an assist.
Several incoming players will also have the opportunity to compete for playing time. Those players include Carly Seneca and Emily Pietrangelo. Seneca is considered one of the top players in Pennsylvania and is a 2012 All-WPIAL selection. Emily Pietrangelo is a member of the Canadian Youth National Team and Under-17 World Cup and Miller expects her experience to provide a good background for the team’s transition to the ACC. With the addition of these two young players, Miller believes Pitt will have a more dynamic and balanced scoring attack.
Junior Alyssa Meier, formerly a defensive player, will provide support in the midfield. Meier was one of only two players to start all 19 games last year. In Pitt’s final two games last year, Meier saw action in the midfield and sparked an offensive resurgence with a goal and an assist in leading Pitt to wins over Connecticut and Providence. Miller is hoping she can duplicate that success in the coming year. “We are moving Alyssa into the midfield full-time. We want to be able to utilize her talents in that area of the field,” Miller said.
Joining Meier in the midfield are three experienced players in senior captain Caroline Keefer, senior Katie Lippert and sophomore Roosa Arvas. Miller praises Lippert for her “ball-winning and set play abilities and overall midfield presence.”
Arvas, a sophomore from Finland, led the Panthers in points (14), assists (8 – third in the Big East) and was named fourth team All-America. Arvas earned Big East Rookie of the Week award last year. Miller calls Roosa “an exciting player. She continues to adapt to the college game and we anticipate her being more of a complete player going into her sophomore season.”
Miller sees this as an opportunity for the midfield to improve from last year. “The midfield was our most inconsistent line last year,” he said. “By moving Alyssa into the midfield to help Katie, Caroline and Roosa, we hope will provide some stability in our possession and in our attacking.”
Also assisting the returnees in the midfield are freshmen Ella Vanhanen, Siobhan McDonough and Arielle Fernandez. “We add a completely different dynamic with the addition of Ella, Siobhan and Arielle from an athletic and talent standpoint,” said Miller. Vanhanen, a member of the Finnish National Team, possesses the ability to attack 1v1, and Miller described her as, “an explosive, athletic player with a solid tactical understanding of the game.” McDonough was a 2012 All-America selection from Governor’s Academy in Massachusetts. Fernandez played for one of the top-five best club teams in the country in high school, and Miller described her by saying, “Her athleticism, strength and vision will give us added dynamic play to our frontline.”
Defensively, the Panthers look to improve upon a strong backline, which Coach Miller credits with being “our strongest line last year, and we anticipate that continuing to be one of our stronger lines.” The Panthers have added depth and talent to an already impressive returning group. Three players return with a great deal of experience. Senior captain Morgan Sharick leads the group, along with juniors Jackie Poucel and Riliegh McHugh.
Poucel had a stellar spring, according to Miller, and the team anticipates great things from her this year, after starting 18 of 19 games last year. McHugh, a transfer from Georgia who scored two goals as a forward last year, is one of Pitt’s more diverse players. She will contribute full-time on the defensive side of the ball this year. The other position in Pitt’s backline could be filled by one of the incoming freshmen. The candidates are Jaci Brown, Marci Carter, JoJo Chryst and Jessica Marini. Brown played for the FC Slammers soccer club in high school, the best team in the nation in the ECNL (Elite Clubs National League). Carter is a two-time Tennessee All-State first team selection, Chryst earned All-State honors in Wisconsin, and Marini was a two-time second team All-State selection in Pennsylvania. Miller believes that these freshmen will add talent and depth to the backline.
In goal, junior Nicole D’Agostino started all 19 games last year, and finished the year ranked third in the Big East in saves (87) and fifth in save percentage. D’Agostino faced 290 shots in 2012, and had a 73.1 save percentage. She also concluded the season as a Big East Goalkeeper of the week selection.
D’Agostino will be challenged in practice by returning sophomore Makenzie Shearson and two incoming freshmen keepers: Taylor Wulf and Taylor Francis. Wulf is an athletic goalkeeper with soft hands, great reaction time and strong footwork. Francis also arrives with outstanding credentials. She is rated the 10th best goalkeeper in the nation in the Class of 2013, and ESPN had her ranked as the 135th best high school player in the country. Miller has said that both Wulf and Francis can “come in this fall and immediately challenge for playing time”.
Miller said of the goalkeeper situation, “It is Nicole’s job to lose, being the returning starter, although she will have other people really challenging her and pushing her for that spot. We expect that to be a daily fight”.