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AU women’s soccer team looks to rise in Empire 8 standings
8/26/10

ALFRED, NY – Alfred University’s women’s soccer team lost the bulk of its scoring from a season ago, but the 2010 Saxons return 11 letterwinners, including six starters, as AU tries to improve on a 5-9-2 record from the 2009 campaign.

Head coach Jen Enke is confident that the experience her team has, along with the addition of several key newcomers, will help increase its scoring and improve its defense, lifting the Saxons higher in the Empire 8 Conference standings. “Our biggest strength this year will be our team play. We’ve come together more as a team this season,” Enke said. “We’re moving the ball forward better as a unit, and are winning more balls in the back.”

Enke said her greatest concern entering the 2010 preseason was finding ways to improve the team’s scoring. The Saxons played solid defense, allowing only 1.55 goals per contest, but had trouble finding the back of the net, tallying just over a goal per game. For the year, AU was outshot 317-191, making an increase in scoring opportunities a big priority entering this season.

A deep midfield, focused on keeping the ball in the opponents’ end of the field and generating scoring chances, will benefit the Saxons. Junior Alicia Shuler (Elba, NY/Elba) will anchor the midfield from her center-midfield position. A two-year starter entering this season, Shuler netted one goal last season and will be looked on to lead the team as a captain, control the midfield and help initiate the attack.

“She’ll be the one who directs play,” Eke said of Shuler. “She has a wonderful first touch and brings physicality to her game.”

Sophomore Tracie McGinnity (Rochester, NY/Gates-Chili) (one goal in 2009), freshman Samantha Randall (Homer, NY/Homer) and junior Molly Finnerty (Watertown, NY/Watertown) will also be competing for time at center midfield, although Finnerty should see the bulk of her playing time as a wing midfielder.

“(McGinnity) is a natural leader who loves to go forward into the offensive third of the field. She goes hard the whole game,” Enke said. “(Finnerty) has great experience and is a solid leader on the field.”

Enke said Finnerty will be joined as an outside midfielder by sophomore Devyn Fitzgerald (Rochester, NY/Greece Olympia), who is coming off a solid freshman campaign in which she scored one goal. Sophomore Tara McCheyne (Interlaken, NY/South Seneca) will also see time as a wing midfielder, as will sophomore Gabrielle Rinaldi (Canisteo, NY/Canisteo-Greenwood) and freshman Martha McGrath (Rochester, NY/Victor).

“(McCheyne) did well as a freshman and hopefully with a year under her belt will find her rhythm this year,” Enke said. Rinaldi “has good speed” and McGrath “looks great. She could see time on defense. She just has awesome technique receiving and playing the ball.”

Sophomore Kristin Clauss (Gates, NY/Gates-Chili) adds depth to the midfield.

“We’re looking for our midfielders to play forward and shoot and score when they have their chances,” Enke commented.

The forward position will have to be one of strength if AU is to improve its scoring output. Senior Elizabeth Graham (Wellsville, NY/Wellsville), a letterwinner since her freshman campaign, netted two goals in 2009, making her the team’s leading returning scorer.

“She’s our leader up front,” Enke said of Graham. “We expect her to create scoring chances.”

Senior Erin Crandall (Almond, NY/Alfred-Almond) started last season as a midfielder and tallied a pair of assists. She moves to striker this season and will be counted on to boost her scoring output and continue creating chances for others. “Her experience and determination will make her successful. She’s very good at reading the play and knowing when to pass or shoot,” Enke said of Crandall.

Senior Abbey Schaffnit (Bemus Point, NY/Maple Grove) will be a welcome addition to the team, and the forward line in particular. A standout four-year starter on the women’s lacrosse team, Schaffnit will be playing her first year of soccer at AU. “Abbey has great speed and superb athletic ability. She has knowledge of where to be on the field. She played (soccer) in high school, so once she gets back to being comfortable with the game, she’ll be a threat.”

Junior AnnMarie Ventura (Olean, NY/Olean) is a solid ball distributor who will also see time at midfield. Also adding depth to the forward position will be sophomore Kari Blatz (North Babylon, NY/North Babylon), who also serves as a backup goalie.

The Saxon defense returns two starters in senior Amalia Reinhardt (Northhampton, MA/Northampton) and junior Katelyn Ross (New Berlin, NY/Unadilla Valley).

“(Reinhardt) played a lot of minutes; she’s experienced and is a team leader. She’ll anchor our defense,” Enke said. “(Ross) is another returning starter and we expect her to be a leader on and off the field. She has great instincts for the ball and sees the plays well.”

Freshman Kristen Bartiss (Kinnelon, NJ/Kinnelon) and sophomore Kelly-Jo Beck (York, NY/York) will be expected to step in and contribute on defense and Rinaldi could also see time as a wing defender. Freshman Gabrielle Valentine (Hornell, NY/Arkport) has “great skills,” Enke said and will be a solid contributor on defense as she gets acclimated to the college game. Junior Lindsay Tarby (Auburn, NY/Auburn) adds depth to the back line.

The incumbent starter in goal, senior Shanna Ewoldt (Tuscon, AZ/Waubansie Valley) will be counted on to provide leadership and shot-stopping ability. Ewoldt, the team MVP in 2009, was an Empire 8 honorable mention all-star last year. She earned each of the Saxons’ five wins (three by shutout) and turned in a .841 save percentage and 1.51 goals against average.

“She’s a great shot stopper who is very good at directing play in front of her,” Enke said of Ewoldt. “She was our MVP last year and we’ll need her to be again this season.”

Backing up Ewoldt in net will be red-shirt freshman Rebecca Windover (Lowville, NY/Lowville), freshman Alison Schlobohm (Freehold, NY/Cairo-Durham), and Blatz (one save, no goals allowed in nine minutes of action last year).

Enke is optimistic about her team’s chances for success this year. Much will depend on the Saxons scoring more goals, along with continued sound play from the defense. “We need to create more scoring opportunities. Everyone has changed their mentality to focus more on scoring,” she said.

Enke said the team’s goal is to play better in Empire 8 games and move up to the top half of the conference standings and compete for a berth in the four-team Empire 8 championship tournament.

“Our non-conference slate is strong, so this year will be a great challenge for us,” Enke commented.