The Case Western Reserve University women's soccer team will begin a new era in 2019, as the Spartans and first-year Head Coach Jen Simonetti will open up their schedule this week.
Simonetti will be aiming to replicate the same success she had at a previous stop, Eastern Oregon, where her team saw an eight-win improvement on its win total from her first season with the team in 2012 to her second campaign in 2013. Her team made just their second-ever postseason appearance in 2013, and Simonetti coached the first All-CCC First Team honoree in the program's history.
"I am extremely excited to be here in such a supportive and competitive environment," said Simonetti. "We have depth and talent and are working hard to build our identity on and off the field. Pre-season has been intense, yet fun with some good challenges along the way."
The Spartans are coming off a 7-10 season in 2018, including a 5-4 record at home. The 2019 squad has plenty of experience in place with seven returning regular starters and five additional players that started at least one contest in 2018.
Led by All-University Athletic Association Second Team selection in junior Bailey George, the Spartans' defense yielded 23 goals in 17 games and shutout seven opponents during the season. CWRU held opponents to averages of 7.5 shots on goal per game, and 15.6 total shots per contest.
Offensively, eight different CWRU players scored at least one goal during the campaign, and nine players registered at least a point for the balanced Spartan attack. Sophomore All-UAA Second Team selection Christina Hickson led the squad with a team-high eight goals and one assist for a team-best 17 points. Her eight goals were tied for the 10th-most by a CWRU player in a single season. Senior All-UAA honorable mention pick Kimberly Chen started all 17 games and finished as the team leader in assists (4) and shots (30), while also ranking second on the team in goals (6).
In addition to Chen and Hickson, sophomores Ella Copich and Brianna Van Zanten are expected to play a role in the Spartan offense. Copich appeared in all 17 games last year and totaled one goal and one assist for three points, while Van Zanten also appeared in all 17 games.
Adding to the team's defensive strength was junior goalkeeper Lauren Metz, who turned in a career year, finishing the season with a 1.40 goals against average. She started 17 games for the team, recording four individual shutouts and 88 saves during her sophomore season as a Spartan, including 10 games with five saves or more. Metz also received UAA Defensive Athlete of the Week honors on September 24th and October 22nd.
Simonetti also expects senior Mary Kate Ford and sophomore Kat Rebele to compete for significant minutes on the backline. Ford appeared in all 17 games, including 17 starts as a defender. Rebele played in 17 games and made 15 starts during her first year as a Spartan. Returners in juniors Emily Hauser and Ali Sivilotti, and sophomores Megan Arumpanayil and Maria Prokos will have a chance to make an impact as well.
In the midfield, junior Lizzy Barna returns after totaling six points on three goals, while senior Jennifer Markley scored one goal for two points and sophomore Taylor Bova recorded one assist for one point. Also back in the midfield are juniors Abby DeCicco and Francesca McDonald, and sophomores Greta Lazzara, Anika Washburn, Molly Whelan and Lizzie White.
Simonetti will be welcoming 10 freshmen to the fold with several expected to contribute this season. Forwards Aniya Hartzler and Maia Sethi are expected to see playing time on the front line, while in the midfield, freshmen Johanna Dunkers, Merry Meyer, Melina Peshoff and Helina VanBibber could all make an impact during the their first of collegiate competition. In addition, freshmen Katherine Dabkowski, Casey Groves, Laura Gorjanc and Rachel LeBlanc should see playing time on the back line.
"We have a strong mix of experienced upperclassmen and raw and very talented underclassmen who are working daily to create connections on and off the field," said Simonetti. "It's competitive within the program for starting spots and minutes, and the overall level of talent has had a positive impact on the training environment."
The Spartans 2019 schedule opens with a road match versus Oberlin College on Friday, August 30. The team will then play its home-opener on Sunday, September 1 versus Fredonia on DiSanto Field. CWRU will then continue to get the benefit of home-field advantage as they play four of their next six games at home, before closing out the month of September with a match at John Carroll University on Sunday, September 29.
"We are looking forward to the first true test of the program and what we have been working to create throughout pre-season," said Simonetti. "Our hope is to be organized and dynamic and use our depth to the best of our ability."
The UAA portion of the schedule begins on the road with a Saturday, October 5 match-up against New York University. Following a non-conference match at Chatham, the Spartans play a crucial four-match stretch at home against Brandeis University, Emory University, the University of Rochester and Ohio Wesleyan University.
The regular season will wrap up with a conference road weekend at the University of Chicago and at the third-ranked Washington University (Mo.). The final match of the regular season against Carnegie Mellon University will be played at home on Saturday, November 9.