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AU women’s soccer team looks to make move up conference standings
9/02/11

ALFRED, NY - Alfred University’s women’s soccer team lost six of 11 starters and most of its scoring from a season ago, but several talented veterans return. Along with a solid group of new recruits, the Lady Saxons will look to improve on a 2010 season in which they went 4-8-3 overall (0-6-2 Empire 8).

AU will be deep and experienced at midfield and has a solid defense, but head coach Jen Enke will look to overhaul the forward line, which lost Liz Graham and Abbey Schaffnit, the team’s leading scorers from a season ago, to graduation. She’ll need increased production from senior Anne Marie Ventura (Olean, NY/Olean) and junior Tara McCheyne (Interlaken, NY/South Seneca), and immediate contributions from sophomore transfer Sara Borrhello (Columbia Station, OH/Columbia) and sophomore T. Autumn Newcomb (Pittsburgh, PA/Fox Chapel).

"Anne Marie will see plenty of playing time," Enke said of Venture, a four-year letterwinner who scored two goals in 2010, tied for tops among returning players. "She’s a seasoned veteran and a team leader. She is a solid distributor of the ball and makes good decisions."

Borrhello, who played a season at Lorain Community College in Ohio last year, is set to start in the two-forward lineup with Ventura. "She has a real nose for the goal," Enke said of Borrhello, who may also see time at midfield. "She’s tenacious."

McCheyne saw action in 11 games last year and didn’t score. "We’ll look for her to provide more offensive punch this year," Enke said.

Freshmen Emily Heslop (Aurora, NY/Southern Cayuga) and Victoria Logel (South Wales, NY/Holland) provide depth at forward.

Enke said the offense will be vastly different than recent years, when Graham and was far and away the first option, with Schaffnit a solid boost off the bench. "We’ll need to play better team ball and be more methodical on offense, with more quality possessions, because we don’t have any outstanding goal scorers right now," she said.

Midfield isn’t an area of concern for Enke, as a host of solid veterans return, led by seniors Molly Finnerty (Watertown, NY/Watertown) and Alicia Schuler (Elba, NY/Elba) and junior Devyn Fitzgerald (Rochester, NY/Greece Olympia). Shuler started all 15 games and netted a goal, while Finnerty started six and scored two goals, tied for the lead among returnees. Fitzgerald started nine contests and contributed a goal.

"Schuler will be the one running the show, going forward and getting our offense transitioning, and as a defender. (Finnerty) is a hard worker with scoring ability. She’s a real threat down the wing. (Fitzgerald) has a good foot and is solid at playing the ball in, and she wins her one-on-one battles," Enke said.

Those three could be joined in the starting midfield this season by freshman Rachael Williams (Penfield, NY/Penfield), who Enke said is "wonderful in tactical situations…she knows where to play the ball."

Sophomore midfielder Samantha Randall (Cortland, NY/Homer) played 14 games as a freshman and had a goal. She, too, will compete for a starting spot. Adding depth to the midfield will be sophomore Andrea Finch (Farmersville, NY/Cuba-Rushford).

Defense will be a position of depth for the Saxons as well. Sophomore Martha McGrath (Victor, NY/Victor) is the lone returning starter. Junior Gabby Rinaldi (Canisteo, NY/Canisteo-Greenwood), started a handful of games last year and looks to start full-time in 2011.

McGrath "is one of the strongest players on the team and will direct our defense," Enke said. Rinaldi "has experience and is a super team leader. She’s a great athlete who is very fast and tough."

Freshmen Nicole Lobur (Akron, NY/Akron) and Savannah Van Son (Darien, NY/Alexander) have a chance to step in and start right away. Other newcomers competing for time on defense will by junior Ashley Phillips (Watertown, NY/Watertown), a transfer from Jefferson Community College; sophomores Alysha Russo (Rochester, NY/Eastridge), Emily Barrera (Pittsford, NY/Pittsford-Sutherland) and Stephanie Burdick (Richburg, NY/Bolivar-Richburg), a transfer from Jamestown Community College-Olean; and freshman Sarah Evans (LaFayette, NY/Manlius-Pebble Hill) and Sara Hunt (Franklinville, NY/Cattaraugus-Little Valley).

AU will need to replace three-year starter and two-time Empire 8 all-star Shanna Ewoldt in goal. Three newcomers will be competing for time in net: junior transfer Ashley Frazell (Newton, NJ/Newton) and freshmen Alicia Hanes (Vestal, NY/Vestal) and Brianna Opperman (Erie, PA/Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy).

Frazell, who played two seasons at Sussex County Community College, is experienced, having twice helped lead her team the junior college regional semifinals. Hanes, injured for much of the preseason, will also compete for a starting spot in goal.

Enke is excited about the Saxons’ chances to improve on last year’s performance and at least crack the Empire 8 Conference championship tournament, reserved for the league’s top four regular teams.

"We’re looking to make some noise n the Empire 8," she said. "Our goal is to take some steps forward and reverse some closes losses and win games that were ties last year. We need to show teams that we can be in the mix year-in and year-out."