Women’s soccer primed to battle for A-10 title 

Kelly Graves scored seven goals for the black and gold in her senior season last fall. CT File Photo

Adam Cheek, Staff Writer

After going 16-4 and advancing all the way to the Atlantic 10 Championship, the women’s soccer squad looks to perform even better with some new names on the roster.

Among the departures from last season were standouts forward Kelly Graves and goalkeeper Audrey Sanderson, both of whom graduated. Graves was named an assistant soccer coach at the University of Illinois-Springfield. She scored seven goals in 2018, good for second best on the team, while Sanderson was an intimidating presence in the net — saving 50 of 65 shots all season and recording seven shutouts.

The team went 9-1 in conference play and 8-1 on its home turf in 2018, scoring 45 goals in 20 games and averaging a little over 15 shots per match.

“I think that we’re poised to try to not only repeat that but make something even better of this season,” coach Lindsey Martin said. “We have a lot of pieces in place to do so, we have a ton of great players returning to us and we added some new faces as well.”

Martin begins her seventh season with the Rams, having taken the black and gold to back-to-back appearances in the A-10 Championship in 2017 and 2018.

Senior Alyssa Tallent returns for her final season after suffering a late season-ending injury last year. Martin says Tallent is rebounding well and is in a position to kick off this year’s campaign.

“She’s been incredible in her recovery,” Martin said. “She doesn’t look like she’s missed a step … it’s like she was never out.”

The coach praised Tallent for her mettle and drive to get back into playing form in the offseason.

“Credit to her for putting in the work in the offseason to keep herself in a good place physically and mentally, as well to overcome that kind of injury,” Martin said.

Martin pointed to redshirt-senior forward Amanda Tredway as a player who could step up once the season begins. The fourth-year veteran is an attacking player who will step into some of the graduated Graves’ team roles, while former Graves understudy Idelys Vazquez, a sophomore, will step into the target forward role.

Additionally, junior midfielder Samantha Jerabek returns after a breakout 2018, when she scored 11 goals and recorded seven assists en route to leading the team in both categories.

The Rams’ eight new players, including three transfers, will play alongside the returners who make up a majority of the roster.

The transfers include junior defender Paige Franks from the University of Tennessee, a versatile player Martin hopes will be a valuable utility player. Senior midfielder Katie Waring — who was named Division 3 All-American at Lynchburg — is also versatile, playing some forward and center back as well.

Sophomore goalkeeper Brecht Haakma is a Netherlands native who comes from Texas Tech. Haakma and sophomore goalkeeper Grace Young will battle it out for the starting goalie spot throughout the season.

Among the five freshman on the roster, Martin highlighted freshmen midfielders Anna Bagley and Sophie Brophy.

“[They] are probably having the best preseasons so far,” Martin said. “Anna is a crafty little midfielder that reminds me a lot of a young Alyssa Tallent, so I think it’ll be good for her to play with Alyssa for a year before Alyssa graduates so she can learn and grow into that role.

Martin described Brophy as a “good-statured, 5-foot-9 holding mid” and said Brophy could learn from senior midfielder Ingrid Brouwer, who has been the starter in the holding midfield position for the last three years. Although Brouwer is coming off an injury and missed preseason, she will return early in the regular season.

The team will face plenty of in-state rivals throughout the year, including Old Dominion University and Richmond.

“Anytime we play those in-state teams, I think the team feels a bit of ‘this should be our state’ and that we want to kind of dominate those games and show what we’re about,” Martin said.

The Rams were dominant in A-10 play, posting a 9-1 record last season, and Martin believes the tough non-conference schedule this season will help the team gear up for A-10 play.

“We try to play teams that are in other conferences that do well and that will challenge us and we will challenge them,” she said. “We obviously hope to get a win, but also hope to continue to grow so that you’re peaking at the right time, which is conference season.”

The coach looks forward to the 2019 season and hopes to improve on the team’s 16-4 mark from last year.

“I think we’re a fun attacking team, I think that we play a high-pressure style and we play the game the right way,” she said. “We like to possess and we love to attack, and I think that’s an exciting style to watch and we hope that the fans come out. I know our players love the home environment, so the better that we can make the environment for them … the more success we’ll have.”

The Rams’ first home game is on Aug. 29 against Loyola (Md.), with the match kicking off at 7 p.m. at Sports Backers Stadium.

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