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Season Preview: Determined Bulldogs Excited To Get Started

Colleen McCormack  (Steve Musco photo)
Colleen McCormack (Steve Musco photo)

Season Kicks Off Friday Against Bryant

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A very determined Yale women's soccer team has returned to campus to prepare for the 2016 season. Head Coach Rudy Meredith, who begins his 22nd season at the helm, was pleased with the attitude and intensity last spring and it has carried over to the early practices this fall.

The Bulldogs kick off the season on Friday when they host Bryant in the first game of the Yale Classic at 4 p.m. Sacred Heart and Fairfield meet in the second game at 6:30 p.m. On Sunday, Fairfield plays Bryant at noon followed by Yale hosting Sacred Heart at 2:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs will again be young – there are only four seniors on the roster – but talented. Four of last year's top five scorers return, and two key defenders who were injured last year are back to add to an already deep unit. In addition, Meredith welcomes a freshman class that was ranked 44th in Division I.

Colleen McCormack, the team captain, is one of the leaders on the back line. McCormack has appeared in 32 games in her time at Yale, including making a career-high four starts last year. Junior Hannah Coy earned honorable mention All-Ivy and second team All-New England recognition last year after starting 14 games. In Ivy games, she played 459 of a possible 555 minutes.

Junior defender Meg Byfield was the recipient of the team's most improved player award last year after starting 10 games. Sophomores Brittany Simpson and Fallon Sheridan had an immediate impact in their rookie seasons. Simpson started 13 of the 15 games she appeared in, while Sheridan played in all 16 games and contributed two assists.

Senior Dani Temares (22 career games) and juniors Kristina Kim (13) and Mara Blumenstein (5) also have experience on the back line.

Yale's defense should be bolstered by the return of junior Carlin Hudson and the addition of sophomore Mackenzie Marsh. Hudson, an honorable mention All-Ivy selection as a freshman, suffered a season-ending injury in the very first game last fall but is back healthy. Marsh, a member of the Jamaica Under-20 national team, missed all of last year with an injury but also is ready to go this fall.

Three goalkeepers will vie for playing time. Sophomore Maritza Grillo is the only experienced returner. She appeared in three games as a rookie, including playing a scoreless 45 minutes in the victory over UMass.

Freshmen Alyssa Fagel and Jane Buckley bring strong credentials to New Haven. Fagel was the 2016 Peninsula Athletic League Goalkeeper of the Year at Carlmont High School in California, while Buckley was a three-time first team all-league selection at The College Preparatory School also in California.

Senior Geneva Decker is the most experienced returning midfielder. Decker appeared in 15 games a year ago after scoring three goals in each of her first two seasons at Yale.

A trio of sophomores will play key roles in the midfield. Sofia Griff was a second team All-Ivy and All-New England selection after tying for the team lead with six goals and 16 points. She was the only player to start all 16 games and scored one of the biggest goals of the season, the game winner in a victory at Villanova. Keri Cavallo also had an important tally in her first year. She scored the game-winner against Dartmouth and was named the Ivy Rookie of the Week. In all, she played in 15 games and scored three goals. Fran Steele appeared in all 16 games and notched an assist against Sacred Heart.

Juniors Taylor Hobbs and Aria Pearlman Morales also will compete for time in the midfield.

Three freshmen also could play a role in the midfield. Noelle Higginson was a three-time all-state, all-district and all-metro selection at Benjamin Franklin High School in Louisiana, Kristi Wharton was a two-time all-state selection at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut and Kirsten Lobben was a three-year starter for the Albertson Fury 97 ECNL on Long Island.

The Bulldogs should feature considerable firepower up front. Sophomore Michelle Alozie has the potential to be one of the most dynamic scorers in the Ivy League. She tied for the team lead with six goals and 16 points a year ago en route to earning honorable mention All-Ivy and second team All-New England recognition.

Two other upperclassmen are scoring threats. Junior Sarah McCauley started 14 games last year after leading the team with five goals as a sophomore. Senior Karina Kovalcik has overcome injury to appear in 10 games in the last two years.

Two freshmen hope to contribute up front. Alex Ritter scored a school-record 30 goals in 19 games as a junior at San Francisco University High School, and Aerial Chavarin was a Two-time first team all-league selection at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland and earned four stars from TopDrawer Soccer.

There are two players who are injured and won't be able to play but will still contribute to the program. Senior Lillian Bitner and junior Maggie Furlong will both serve as team managers.

Report filed by Tim Bennett (, Yale Sports Publicity