Aug. 9, 2012
STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut women’s soccer team will open the 2012 season with two exhibitions contests this weekend at Joseph J. Morrone stadium. UConn will battle the Northeastern Huskies on Friday at 7 p.m. and welcome LIU-Brooklyn on Sunday at 1 p.m. Admission to both games is free.
The Huskies two exhibition games will be a great warm-up for a challenging 2012 campaign that features five opponents ranked in the Top 25 of the NSCAA preseason poll. Connecticut will welcome No. 6 UCLA to Storrs on Friday, August 17 at 7 p.m. for the first regular season matchup of the year.
See below for the women’s soccer 2012 preview.
Connecticut ended the 2011 campaign 7-8-2 overall record and fell short of a postseason berth for the first time in program history. The Huskies look to return to postseason action as they head into the 2012 season with eight returning starters and 14 promising newcomers.
The Huskies will turn to senior Danielle Schulmann who had a breakout junior year where she led the UConn offense with 15 points on seven goals and one assist. The right-footed striker emerged as the top Husky after sitting out the first two games due to injury. The Saddle River, N.J. native netted her first Husky goal on September 2 in a 2-1 road upset over undefeated No. 15 Wake Forest. Schulmann didn’t stop there, adding six more goals on the season and scoring three game-winning goals.
With the loss of mainstay Jessica Shufelt in the front line, the Huskies have open spots to fill and will look to four newcomers to help fill the gap. With a year of practice under her belt, left-footed attacker and redshirt freshman Andrea Plucenik (Brooklyn, Conn.) offers a great opportunity to add speed to the front line and will compete for a starting role at the forward position. Also vying for a starting slot are true freshmen Stephanie Ribeiro (Pawtocket, R.I.), Liana Hinds (Hartford, Conn.) and Samantha McGuire (Fishkill, N.Y.).
“We have a lot of young new talent up front in addition to our leading scorer from last year. I am excited to see who emerges at the top and who will put some goals in the back of the net for us this year,” stated Head Coach Len Tsantiris.
Connecticut’s midfield looks to be the strongest position entering the 2012 season as they have four returning stars and two newcomers to fill the spots as necessary. “This year we have a lot of options in our midfield and a lot of depth. This will allow us to play the fast paced game we want to play,” Tsantiris said.
Senior Linda Ruutu (Espoo, Finland), juniors Devin Prendergast (Babylon, N.Y.) and Jennifer Skogerboe (Leesburg, Va.), and sophomore Riley Houle (Columbia, Conn.) bring a wealth of experience to the midfield for the Huskies. In 2011, Prendergast was second on the team with nine points on four goals and one assist. Prendergast is an expansive threat for UConn specializing in the long ball as she scored her four goals from a distance, including three from thirty yards out. Houle had a breakout freshman campaign that earned her a spot on the All-BIG EAST Rookie and Third Teams after she notched seven points on three goals and an assist. Houle adds a spark to the Husky lineup with the ability to easily cover the entire field and help out in all facets of the game.
Ruutu and Skogerboe bring a veteran presence to the midfield. Ruutu netted two goals and dished out two assists to tally six points in 2011, while Skogerboe had one assist while playing nearly every minute of 2011 action.
The UConn defense offers the greatest veteran presence for the Huskies with seniors Karen Gurnon (Tolland, Conn.) and Danielle Dakin (Wilbraham, Mass.) bookending the backline. Gurnon, a fifth-year senior, played every game for the Huskies in 2011 and helped the squad record five shutouts on the season. Dakin didn’t see the bench once her junior campaign as she was on the field all 1,572 minutes of action. She played a vital role in holding opponents to a .451 shot on goal percentage and .094 shot percentage.
“With the majority of our veteran players back this year we will have great leadership and stability for our defense,” Tsantiris finished.
The UConn coaching staff is looking for redshirt freshman Gabriella Cuevas (Wayne, N.J.) to return to the field and have a huge impact. Cuevas, an ESPN Rise First Team All-American, was projected to be a great asset to the Husky back four in 2011 but suffered a season-ending injury just seven minutes into the season.
The Huskies have four experienced student-athletes to utilize as potential starters or veteran subs with senior Georgina Giddings (Feltham, England), senior Michelle Baj (South Windsor, Conn.), sophomore Gabrielle Charno (Seaford, N.Y.) and sophomore Gianna Roma (Foxboro, Mass.). These four defenders add a wealth of depth and all look to have significant playing time in 2012. Connecticut will also have defensive reserves in Brittany Silva (Dracut, Mass.) and Krystina Jackson (Windsor, Conn.).
With the graduation of three-year starter Jessica Dulski the Huskies will search to find a new mainstay to keep watch over the net. Junior Leigh-Ann Jaggon (Windsor, Conn.) is the only returning Husky that will contend for the starting position. She is joined by three freshmen, Monica Dahlgren (Danbury, Conn.), Jessica Montrose (Lancashire, England) and Allison Saucier (Rocky Hill, Conn.), who will join the race to vie for the open spot on the starting roster.