Aug. 6, 2012
LEWISBURG, Pa. -- The 2012-13 athletics season kicked off at Bucknell on Sunday, with women's soccer the first of the Bison fall teams to begin preseason practice. Ben Landis' squad dodged some thunderstorms during morning conditioning testing, then saw cooler temperatures and a light breeze for their first training session on Sunday evening.
Tri-captains Meghan Fitzpatrick, Sandita McDermott and Kayla Yee are among 19 returning players who are looking to lead the Bison back into the postseason after a rare miss a year ago. Bucknell had qualified for the Patriot League Tournament six years in a row, including twice as the No. 1 seed, but in 2011 a 1-0 loss to Navy on the final day of the regular season kept the Bison out of the playoffs for the first time in Landis' head coaching tenure.
"I am really pleased with the day," said Landis after Sunday's initial training period. "I thought we handled the adversity of the lightning and getting chased off in the middle of fitness, and then having to come back on. I thought they did well with it. We had a disappointing season last year. Just repeating things as they were and expecting different results, that is the definition of insanity. So we've altered the schedule a little bit, and we've been a little more direct in our expectations. Our philosophy has remained the same, but we have to find ways to do everything a little better."
Landis said he is also very pleased to his his roster back at full strength. During the spring season, a handful of current seniors studied abroad, junior Corey Tipton competed with the track and field team, and sophomore Hannah Bonotto was sidelined with an injury.
Bucknell was strong defensively last season, allowing only 19 goals in 16 games, the second-fewest conceded in program history. McDermott backstopped that defensive effort with an All-Patriot League campaign in goal, and she enters her senior year as one of the league's premier keepers.
Fitzpatrick along with junior Bridget Gilmartin and seniors Corinne Collins and Jenna Tryon are all experienced defenders. Sophomore Courtney Nelson made a big impact in the defensive third last year as well, but with the addition of some strong backs in the first-year class, Nelson likely moves up front this year, where her speed should be more of a factor.
Seniors Yee and Taryn Boucher, along with sophomore Evelyn Nicinski, who has international experience with Poland's U-19 national team, will help anchor the Bison midfield. Junior Liz Dwornik and sophomore Cassie Denger also bring back plenty of experience.
The Bison struggled to score goals at times last season, and they are working hard on their finishing so far in preseason practice. Yee has seen time at both forward and center midfield in her career, and Landis will be counting on her for some goals in 2012. Junior Chelsea Garkowski is coming off a big spring campaign, and Landis is confident that she can emerge into a potent goal-scorer as well. Sophomore Brigit Falcón has battled some injuries but is also a solid target up front.
Six newcomers are getting their first taste of collegiate soccer this week. Goalkeeper Jessie Ashworth joins defender Lauren Dandie, midfielder Madison Loos, forward Danielle Piccirilli, back Alexandra Rosen and midfielder Devan Schulte in the first-year class.
Training continues on Monday with a double session at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. In the afternoon, the team will gather together to cheer on Team USA in its Olympic semifinal match against Canada.
Bucknell will face Towson in a scrimmage at 4 p.m. on Friday at Emmitt Field at Holmes Stadium. The season opener will be one week later, when the Bison host Binghamton at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17.