Aug. 19, 1997
1997 Women's Soccer Outlook
For first-year head coach Alison Foley, the 1997 soccer season promises to be something of an adventure -- an exciting and positive road. Along the way, Foley will evaluate her new team, shift players to positions that best suit the team's style of play, and watch her compete with many of the nation's top teams.
Foley assumes the head coaching duties at Boston College after serving as the head coach at Angelo State (TX) University in 1996, and handling the assistant coaching duties at James Madison University from 1992-95. Foley played a key role in JMU's gaining a national ranking in each of her four years.
Taking over the BC head coaching reins in July, Foley has had little time to evaluate her players. Nevertheless, her initial reactions are positive. The Eagles return 19 letterwinners, including nine starters, from last year's team that finished with a 9-8 record. The head coach is confident that if her players can quickly adapt to a slightly different style of play the program can begin to make forward strides.
"I'm very encouraged by the attitude of the players," Foley said, just days into her preseason training camp. "They've shown tremendous enthusiasm and have welcomed the new (coaching) staff and our new ideas.
"It's also good to see that the players themselves expect a lot," she continued. "There's a great anticipation among the players for the coming season. The seniors and the captains are working extremely hard and showing real leadership."
Seniors Alex Chamberlain and Anne Schneider and junior Leigh Cofran will serve as team captains this fall.
In addition, Foley wastes no time in commending her freshman class. She believes the seven newcomers -- four midfielders, two forwards and one goalkeeper -- can make immediate contributions to the team.
"I don't see any drop-off from the returning players to the freshmen," Foley said. "The newcomers will make an immediate impact on the program. They'll see plenty of playing time, and give us depth that will allow us to pressure opposing teams more than ever before."
The quality of the freshman class also provides for great competition in preseason drills, as players compete for starting roles and Foley makes her initial evaluations.
"Nothing's settled," Foley said, without hesitation. "We're in training, and the players are all competing for spots. The players want to accomplish more, so the competition is healthy."
Foley's excitement about the coming season is coupled with a cautious sense of optimism. With her experience comes the knowledge that the BIG EAST presents some formidable challenges with some of the nation's top teams, especially when the Eagles will rely to some degree on newcomer contributions.
Nevertheless, Foley believes gaining a berth in the 1997 BIG EAST Championship Tournament is an attainable goal.
"Getting in the conference tournament is our first goal," the first-year coach said. "For now, battling for and gaining that berth would be a nice start for our program. The BIG EAST Conference is a highly-competitive league. As time goes on, we certainly will look to raise those standards, and set our standards much higher."
Below is a brief position-by-position look at the Eagles based on early preseason observations.
The goalkeeper position will be key for the 1997 Eagles. As Foley begins her BC coaching tenure, she has two goalkeepers competing for the starting role -- sophomore Alice Lehne and freshman Courtney Schaeffer.
Lehne played in 12 matches in her freshman season, making 10 starts. She finished with a 6-4-0 record and three shutouts. Her impressive performances earned her the team's Most Improved Player award.
Schaeffer enjoyed an outstanding high school career at Walt Whitman (NY) High School. A versatile athlete, she earned All-East and All-State honors in high school, and also gained valuable experience playing club soccer and competing in the Olympic Development Program.
"We have high hopes for both Alice and Courtney," Foley said. "They're both solid keepers, but we need to provide them with a strong line of defense to give them the confidence they'll need. In this league, our goalkeepers will face some of the very best forwards in the country. It's important that they know the upperclassmen in front of them can run the show and provide some protection."
Two returning keepers -- junior Kerin Sikorski and senior Valerie Daniel -- will not be available this season because of medical problems. Sikorski served as the Eagles' back-up goalkeeper last fall, playing in seven matches and recording three shutouts. Daniel will serve as team manager this year.
The Eagles' defensive backfield will be a real point of emphasis for the new head coach. With the possibility of a freshman in goal, the head coach wants to ensure the team has good leadership in back.
To accomplish this, Foley will immediately point to senior Alex Chamberlain and sophomore Brandy Manza. Both are talented -- and experienced -- players who have a keen soccer sense and will allow the Eagles to begin their attack out of the back.
Chamberlain, who has played 53 matches and started 50 in her first three years at the Heights, tallied four goals and one assist from her defensive position last fall. At season's end, she captured Northeast Region Third Team accolades as well as the team's Unsung Hero award. She'll be the sweeper this fall.
Manza gained valuable experience in her first collegiate season, playing in 13 matches. This year, however, Manza will move from the forward position she occupied in 1996 to an outside back slot. Foley hopes to utilize Manza's offensive experience to help the Eagles attack out of the back and apply pressure on opposing teams with extra numbers in the midfield.
"We'll rely heavily on these two players," Foley said. "Alex will play a crucial role. She's a good leader and the team has a lot of confidence in her.
"Brandy will move back from forward and give us good long-ball distribution. She's very technically sound."
Sophomores Stephanie Glecos and Kristine Klagges and freshman Katie Murphy also figure to battle for positions in the Eagles' defense. The stopper, Glecos played in 15 matches as a freshman, while Klagges is a versatile performer who made an immediate impact last fall. An outside back, Klagges captured BIG EAST All-Rookie Team honors, after starting 12 of 17 matches.
The Eagles' midfield is an area where Foley believes she has speed and depth that will be a valuable asset this fall. With the addition of some talented freshmen, the Eagles have more quality midfielders than in past years and can therefore pressure opposing teams throughout the match, knowing the bench has capable reserves ready to enter the game.
Junior Kiera McKeon and sophomore Janice Collein are leading contenders to start in the central midfield. McKeon, who has started all 35 matches since coming to Boston College, is a relentless worker who will likely be tabbed as the defensive central midfielder. Foley recognizes the junior as a tough competitor was is also a good "ball-winner".
Collein will likely be the team's starting attacking midfielder. With Collein's "quickness and good vision", the head coach believes she can effectively work with the team's forwards and be the catalyst of the team's offensive attack. In 1996, her first collegiate campaign, the Garden City, N.Y., product played in 15 matches and started nine.
Senior captain Anne Schneider figures to start on the left side of the midfield, while newcomer Muffin Rueckel has the inside track for the right side. Schneider, who joined the team as a walk-on as a freshman, has played in 45 games over the past three years, including 16 last fall. The left-footed Schneider entered preseason camp "real fit" and will offer great service into the box this fall.
Rueckel, an exceptional athlete with great speed, should be an impact freshman in the BIG EAST. The head coach notes her "outstanding understanding of the game", a quality rarely found in freshmen.
Also figuring to contribute in the midfield are freshmen Sarah Powell and Kerri Wright. Powell, who hails from Natick, Mass., is among the team's quickest players. Wright, who earned All-State accolades as a senior at St. Rose High School in Neptune, N.J., is a fast, strong forward who likes to attack one-on-one.
The Eagles' forward line will also be highlighted by its youth. Sophomore Mary Guarino and freshman Rachael Klemanski have the early lead in the race for starting roles. Guarino, the veteran of the offensive line, saw action in 15 matches last fall and will be depended on to lead the way.
"Mary is fast and her technical speed with the ball is very good," Foley said. "She also possesses great maturity and desire."
Klemanski, a Farmington, Conn., product with a powerful shot, will provide a good target for her teammates and, Foley believes, should work well with Guarino.