Senior co-captain Jackie Poucel returns to lead the Panthers in the backfield.
SEASON PREVIEW: 2014 Women’s Soccer
The Pitt Women’s soccer team will begin its 2014 season with one of the youngest rosters in the Atlantic Coast Conference with three seniors, two juniors, and a core of sophomores and freshmen. Coming off its first season in the ACC, the Panthers look to build a name for themselves as a top competitor in arguably the top women’s soccer conference in the country.
Third-year head coach Greg Miller welcomes back 16 returning letterwinners and a top-ranked recruiting class of 12 incoming freshman. The recruiting class earned a No. 14 national ranking by BigSoccer.com. It enters the program as arguably the best women’s soccer recruiting class in school history.
In losing five starters and seven total players, Pitt lost a third of its minutes played last season. However, of the 13 goals and 12 assists recorded last year by the Panthers, 77% of the goals scored and 50% of the assist production returns to the program for the 2014 season.
Pitt’s season will feature eight matches against teams that advanced to the 2013 NCAA Tournament and six matches against squads that finished the 2013 season ranked among the nation’s top-25. The Panthers open their 2014 season on August 22nd in the Steel City Classic against Akron.
Here is a position-by-position look at the 2014 Pitt women’s soccer team:
Offensively, the Panthers return two players in redshirt senior Alex Charlebois and redshirt freshman Carly Seneca. Charlebois enters her redshirt season year after leading the Panthers in scoring in back-to-back seasons with eight total goals. In 2013, she led the team with three goals scored and ranked second on the team in shots on goals. Fernandez saw 92 minutes of playing time during her freshman season, while Seneca played only one game in 2013. Seneca will be returning for the 2014 season after earning a medical hardship due to suffering a season-ending knee injury in the 2013 season opener.
Several incoming players will also have the opportunity to compete for playing time. Those players include freshmen Taylor Pryce, Malean Fabean, and Megan Giannopoulos. Pryce was a member of the Ontario Provincial Team, selected to compete for the Canadian National Team Training center and is an extremely athletic player with great quickness, speed and strength who will provide an immediate impact in the final third. Fabean, who joined the team during the spring of 2014 and is considered one of the top senior players in Pennsylvania and last year was a four-year First Team All PIAA selection and All-WPIAL selection. Miller describes her as “a striker that has a knack for finding the back of the net as well as setting up others for success. She brings great athleticism, dynamic play, and a goal scoring ability to our frontline.” Giannopoulos, who is an explosive attacking minded player with a tremendous work rate, was a First Team all-league and First Team All-Southeastern Pennsylvania selection. Miller expects her scoring abilities and relentless attitude to be a huge addition to the frontline.
A 2012 Fourth Team All-American selection by College Sports Madness and Big East Rookie of the Week honoree as a freshman, junior Roosa Arvas is the Panthers’ top returning midfielder. As a sophomore last year, Arvas led Pitt in points (seven), assists (three), game winning goals (two), shots (36), shots on goal (14) and corner kicks (46). As a top returning offensive player, she is one of only two Pitt players to start all 19 matches last year. Alongside Arvas will be sophomore co-captain Siobhan McDonough and sophomore Emily Pietrangelo. McDonough, a versatile hardworking and relentless player, finished last year with 12 shots, one goal and three assists. Pietrangelo came off the bench to score one goal and register seven shots. Both sophomore Jessica Marini and redshirt freshman Marci Carter, who was injured last season, will have the opportunity to compete for playing time.
Also competing for playing time in the midfield is a group of incoming freshmen including Emma Pozzulo, Shaina Ashouri, Hanna Hannesdottir, Ashley Moreira, Alex Reckas and Jo Fischer. Pozzulo was a member of the Ontario National squad and participant at the Canada National Team Training Center. She can play make as well as set the rhythm of the game and also possesses great leadership skills. Ashouri is a quick, technical player who joined the team during the spring of 2014. She was ranked the state of Colorado’s No. 25 recruit and Miller hopes to see her provide depth, not only in the midfield but at the striker position as well. Moreira is another Canadian National Team Training Center participant as well as a member of the Under-20 national Canadian Team and Team Ontario. Miller describes her as “a dangerous player who possesses tremendous vision and has an ability to break opponents down off the dribble.” Reckas is a highly technical player with great understanding of the game. She played for the United States Youth Olympic Soccer Development program and was named a three-star recruit. Fischer is a two time First Team All-League selection and First-Team main line selection for her senior and sophomore years, and, as a solid player with quality technical ability and tactical understand, will provide competition and depth to the midfield.
The Panthers will have a strong defensive line with seven experienced returning defenders. Seniors Jackie Poucel and Rileigh McHugh lead an experienced and talented group followed by Jaci Brown, Kaila Jenkins and JoJo Chryst. Sophomore, Arielle Fernandez, who played 92 minutes at forward last year, will switch over to the backfield.
A central defender and three-year starter, co-captain Poucel emerged as a defensive leader last season and was one of only two players to start all 19 games. McHugh contributed full-time as a highly dangerous defensive attacker with eight shots in the 2013 season. A tough, physical player, she has also seen action as a forward during her career. Brown, Jenkins and Chryst all earned minutes on the pitch last year.
Also assisting the returnees in the backfield are freshmen Courtney Coate and Seyla Perez. Coate played for the nationally ranked Torrey Pines High School varsity soccer team for four years and is expected to bring competitiveness and intensity to the defensive environment. Perez, who joined the Panthers for the 2014 spring season, is a three time All-Region and All-District Honoree and MVP selection. Miller describes her as “an athletic, bulldog defender who has both grit and speed. Her tenacity and no non-sense attitude will help shore up our centerback position.” Coate also has the experience and talent to contribute immediately.
In goal, sophomore Taylor Francis started six of nine games last year as the backup goaltender last season. That experience will help her as she enters preseason drills as the frontrunner to start the season opener for Pitt. Among ACC goalkeeping leaders last year, Francis ranked No. 14 in saves (38) and No. 4 in saves per game (4.22).
Francis will be challenged by junior Makenzie Shearson, redshirt freshman Taylor Wulf, and incoming freshman Margot Shore. Shore is a shot-stopping goalkeeper with clean hands who can dominate the penalty box area in the air and has a tremendous ability to read the game. She was a member on Team Ontario from 2011-2013, a three time nominee for the USL national Olympic Development Program Camp and participated in the 2013 Under-20 SYL Finals at IMG Academy in Florida.
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