2017 UAlbany Women's Soccer Outlook: A New Era Begins
ALBANY, N.Y. – In 2017, the UAlbany women’s soccer team will look to make it a three-peat in the America East, under a new, but familiar, head coach.
In March, Nick Bochette took over as head coach of the Great Danes after serving as the team’s associate head coach under Caitlin Cucchiella, who retired from coaching after the 2016 season. The duo coached UAlbany to its first-ever pair of America East Tournament titles in 2015 and 2016.
2016 was the best year in UAlbany’s Division I history, notching the program’s first America East regular season title with a 6-1-1 record. Earning the 1-seed in the America East Tournament, UAlbany defeated 2-seed Hartford 2-1 in the title game for its second consecutive league championship. UAlbany picked up an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, falling 4-2 to UConn with a pair of goals from Mariah Williams.
In 2017, UAlbany returns three all-conference players, including last season’s America East Co-Rookie of the Year Meghan Cavanaugh, a two-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-Region player in Caroline Kopp and Vivian Vega, who is second in program history in goals with 20. Last week, UAlbany was predicted to finish second in the America East in 2017.
Veterans lead up top for UAlbany, looking to replace the production of Kiana Rugar, the program’s all-time assists leader.
Vega, a senior, had five goals last season in 18 games, including four game-winners in conference play, to earn America East All-Conference Second Team. Williams, now a junior, was UAlbany’s primary forward off the bench in 2016, notching five goals and four assists.
Senior Morgan Loder played in nine games as a reserve last year while sophomore Michaela Webb played in a pair of contests. Adding to the unit is freshman and Capital District native Hannah Murphy, a three-time Suburban Council All-Star at Saratoga Springs.
Two 2016 America East All-Rookie Team members headline the unit, including Cavanaugh, an America East All-Conference Second Team member last year with four goals and four assists.
Also in the midfield is Gina Bracamonte, who started 19 games with a goal and three assists. She notched both of UAlbany’s assists in the America East title game victory over Hartford.
A trio of freshmen will look to get playing time. Miranda Badovinac took Notre Dame High to a #4 national ranking in Canada and Ontario Cup final in 2016. Sophia Eifler is the program’s first ever recruit from Germany, playing at St. Thomas Gym Wettenhausen. Bee Murphy led Monson High to the 2015 state title in Massachusetts, earning all-state honors all four years.
UAlbany retains much of its back line from 2016, with three starters coming back, including a pair of team captains.
Kopp enters her junior season as the only ever NSCAA All-Region player in program history. Starting all 20 games at corner back, the team captain led UAlbany in assists with six in 2016, earning America East All-Conference First Team.
At center back is Savanah Courtney, also named team captain for 2017. The junior started all 20 games at center back last season, starting all games in her collegiate career.
Meghan Malone was a starting center back for UAlbany last year. The junior played in 18 games, scoring a game-tying goal in a league matchup at Maine.
A pair of freshmen will bolster the defensive unit. From the USA’s northern neighbor comes Hailey Summers, who led St. Mary High to the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Association indoor title. Katie Gowing, a Houston-native, a three-time First Team All-District player at Clear Lake High.
UAlbany will have two freshman goalkeepers competing for the starting role this season. It will be the second straight season that UAlbany will have a freshman in goal.
From the state of Colorado comes Sophia Chen. At 5-foot-10, the Monarch High graduate earned second team all-state and first team all-region honors in 2016.
Andrea Leitner comes to the Capital District as a two-time All-New Jersey goalkeeper. She had a 0.36 goals allowed average in four years playing at Scotch Plains Fanwood.
Bochette is entering year five with UAlbany and first year as the team’s head coach.
Claire Scanlan joins the team as an assistant coach after three years at Oakland, while Ashley Grove is back as an assistant coach for her second season. Mark Van Leuven has been with the program since 2013, serving as the team’s director of operations.
The 2017 season kicks off with a trip to Norfolk, Virginia as UAlbany takes on Old Dominion on Sunday, August 20th at 6 p.m.
The next week, UAlbany will fly to the Centennial State for a pair of games. UAlbany will take on Colorado College on Thursday, August 24th at 5 p.m. ET (3 p.m. MT), then to the state capital to play Denver on Sunday, August 27th at 2 p.m. ET (12 p.m. MT).
The team plays its fourth road game in a row in New Rochelle for a contest at Iona on Friday, September 1st at 3 p.m.
UAlbany's home opener will be the first of three games in a row at Casey Stadium, taking on crosstown rival Siena on Sunday, September 3rd at 6 p.m.
The three-game homestand concludes with games against Dartmouth on Thursday, September 7th at 7 p.m. and vs. Colgate on Sunday, September 10th at 3 p.m.
After a midweek road matchup at Rhode Island on Thursday, September 14th at 7 p.m., UAlbany completes non-conference play by taking on Missouri, a member of the SEC and a 2016 NCAA Tournament participant, on Sunday, September 17th at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. CT).
UAlbany begins America East play in Baltimore with a game at UMBC on Sunday, September 24th at 1 p.m.
Back to the Capital District comes the Purple & Gold for the conference home opener against Binghamton on Thursday, September 28th at 7 p.m. at Casey Stadium.
Following a road game against New Hampshire on Sunday, October 1st at 2 p.m., UAlbany plays the next two at home: a rematch of the America East title game with Hartford on Thursday, October 5th at 7 p.m., then a matchup against UMass Lowell on Sunday, October 8th at 4 p.m.
UAlbany heads north to take on Vermont on Thursday, October 12th at 7 p.m., then has its final regular season home game vs. Maine on Sunday, October 15th. The regular season wraps up on Long Island as the Great Danes battle rival Stony Brook on Thursday, October 19th at 7 p.m.
The 2016 America East Tournament will include the six teams with the best conference records, with the top two earning a bye into the semifinals. All games are hosted by the higher seed in the contest. The quarterfinals are set for Thursday, October 26th, with the semifinals being played on Sunday, October 29th. The America East title game will be played on either Saturday, November 4th or Sunday, November 5th at the highest remaining seed.