2014 UAlbany Women’s Soccer Outlook

ALBANY, N.Y. – In 2013, injuries and youth led the UAlbany women’s soccer team to have a tough season.  Returning five of the top six scorers, the Great Danes will look to infuse a large returning corps with a strong recruiting class to make a charge in the America East.

Head coach Caitlin Colfer-Cucchiella returns for her second season and will look to improve a young team that went 2-14-1 last year.  The Great Danes earned victories over Florida Atlantic and UMass Lowell, finishing in 8th in the America East.

11 different players scored goals in 2013.  Seven of them return this season, plus the primary starting goalkeeper and members of the back line come back for 2014. Colfer-Cucchiella adds a seven-member recruiting class to round out the Great Danes.

FORWARDS
The front row for UAlbany will be young but strong for the team.  Junior Leanne Miller is the main veteran of the group, starting in 13 games last year with six shots on goal.

Two freshmen will compete at forward this year.  From the Golden State to wear Purple and Gold is Vivian Vega, a former member of the U17 Mexican National Team that scored 105 goals at Segerstrom.  Also joining is one of the top players in the Capital District, Morgan Loder, who scored a CRCS-school record 137 goals, including a state-record 10 goals in one game.

FORWARD/MIDFIELD
The Great Danes will have some players shift between the front line and the midfield.  2013 America East All-Rookie Team member Alexa Schneider was the team’s top threat last season, scoring three goals and two assists for eight points.  Finishing third on the team in shots last year with 21, junior Allison Carhart, one of the team’s primary reserves last year, scored a goal and assist each in 2013.  Kiana Rugar redshirted last season and will play for the first time this year.

A couple of new faces will help the unit.  Returning to the Capital District is former Guilderland High-star Angela Luizzi, who scored six goals and a team-best five assists as a freshman at Hartwick College last year.  Also incoming is freshman Kelsey Luke, a former player for U17 and U18 Real Colorado who led Mountain Vista to a #1-ranking in Colorado and three conference titles.

MIDFIELD
Three veteran players will focus their efforts on the midfield lines.  One of the team’s primary shooters, sophomore midfielder Caitlyn Paltsios scored two goals off 23 shots for UAlbany in her first campaign.  Also earning a pair of scores last year was junior Krista Fitzpatrick, who finished 2013 with a goal and an assist with just four shots.  The third member is junior Kelly Kempf, who will serve as an assistant team captain after playing in 10 games last year and 24 in her career.

DEFENSE 
A number of starters in the back row return to anchor the line. The only player to start all 17 games last year, senior Stephanie Nelle scored a goal and two assists from the center back position and has played as a starter the past three years.  Redshirt sophomore Shelby Belak started eight games on the back row in her first season playing, while sophomore Bianca Webb also started eight games on defense.

Bolstering the line among the returners redshirt sophomore Celia Balf, who is back after missing 2013 with an injury and will serve as the team captain this year, and Juliana Martins, who enters her sophomore year after playing five games last year as a reserve. 

Two newcomers will battle for playing time on defense.  Katie Carnell, a JUCO transfer from Edmonds, led her team to an NWAACC title game appearance and 12-1-3 record, entering on junior standing.  Also new is freshman Alex Dencker, a Section 9 Class AA All-Star at Newburgh Free Academy, leading the school to eight victories last year.

GOALKEEPERS
The two Alanas will stand as the last line of defense for UAlbany this season.  The primary starter the last two seasons between the pipes, junior Alana Brennan ranked ninth in all of Division I with 7.27 saves per game last year.  She ranks tied for second all-time in UAlbany DI history in victories, having a 2.90 goals allowed average in 11 starts in 2013.

Competing with Brennan is Alana Olivieri, who comes from fellow SUNY school the University at Buffalo.  Olivieri transfers after a redshirt season and has four years of eligibility.  She has a two-year all-league player at Our Lady of Mercy, leading the school to the 2011 state semifinals.

COACHING STAFF
Colfer-Cucchiella retains her coaching staff for the second season.  Assistant coaches Nick Bochette and Mark Van Leuven return for the UAlbany ranks for the 2014 year.

SCHEDULE
The Great Danes will play a full 19-game schedule, including 10 games at Bob Ford Field at home and a full-conference slate.

After opening the season on August 22nd at St. Mary’s in California, the Great Danes will play a trio of in-state rivals in a row at home.  UAlbany opens at home under the lights against Syracuse on Friday, August 29th at 7 p.m., then takes on crosstown-rival Siena on Sunday, August 31st at 7 p.m., then Iona on Friday, September 5th at 5 p.m.

The Great Danes continue non-league play with Holy Cross (9/7, 2 p.m.) and Dartmouth (9/10, 7 p.m.) on the road, Rhode Island (9/12, 5 p.m.) and Saint Peter’s (9/14, 1 p.m.) at home, back on the road for Columbia (9/19, 7 p.m.) and Northeastern (9/21, 3 p.m.) then back home against NJIT (9/25, 7 p.m.).

After finishing the non-conference season, UAlbany begins America East play at Hartford on Sunday, September 28th at 2 p.m.

The first home game in conference play will be against UNH on Thursday, October 2nd at 7 p.m., followed by a home game against Vermont on Sunday, October 5th at 1 p.m.

UAlbany spends the next couple of Thursdays on the road, taking on UMass Lowell on October 9th at 7 p.m. and Binghamton on October 16th at 7 p.m.

Back home, UAlbany will celebrate Senior Day on Sunday, October 19th at 1 p.m. against Stony Brook.  The home finale will come against reigning-America East champion UMBC on Thursday, October 23rd at 7 p.m.  Conference play finishes up with a road game at Maine on Sunday, October 26th at 1 p.m.

UAlbany looks to get back to the America East Tournament, which the top-six teams in league play make.  All games are hosted by higher seeds, with the quarterfinals being on October 30th, the semifinals on November 2nd and the final game on November 8th.