By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The only two players the Bridgewater State University women's soccer team lost to graduation made major impacts on the program.
Goalkeeper Lauren DeSousa of Taunton set BSU records for career shutouts (24), goals-against average (0.89) and wins (29) during her three seasons while Courtney Pepin made the All-Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference twice, earning a spot on the first team in 2017.
Despite entering this season without DeSousa, who was the MASCAC player of the year as a junior and a three-time all-conference pick, and Pepin, who had 10 of her 19 career goals and three of her career 13 assists a year ago, the Bears have plenty of reason for optimism.
Coach Yasmina Carvalho of Brockton has 21 returning players from a team that went 12-6-1 and finished in a three-way tie for the top spot in the MASCAC with a 6-1 record.
"Courtney and Lauren are really hard to replace, but we've had so many people within the past two years play so well and understand what we're trying to do as a team possession-wise and defensive-wise,″ said Carvalho, now in her fifth season.
"We'll be just fine. It's just putting all the pieces together and making the connection with some of the new players who have been stepping up.″
Bridgewater State opens its season on Thursday, hosting UMass Dartmouth at 7 p.m. at Swenson Field. After four non-conference games, the Bears start the MASCAC schedule at Salem State on Sept. 15.
The same defensive unit that combined with DeSousa to limit opponents to 19 goals in 19 games last season returns.
"It's awesome having everyone back,″ said Carvalho, who has been impressed with freshman defender Delaney Langton. "It's very easy to get them back into the rhythm of playing with each other. We expect the most out of those four.″
DeSousa's spot in goal will be taken over by junior Kellie Souza, who appeared in two games the past two seasons, playing 65 minutes.
"She's been Lauren's understudy and has trained hard and is now ready,″ said Carvalho. "Kellie has the most positive attitude I've ever seen out of a goalkeeper. Even though she didn't get a lot of playing time the last two years, she knew her responsibilities and her role on the team.
"Now that it's her turn, she's stepped up to the plate and is ready to take on all the minutes.″
"That's a good dynamic because they've been together and we're hoping the connection stays there,″ said Carvalho.
Junior forward Alana Vincent of Taunton, a first-team all-conference pick as a freshman, played only eight games last season due to an injury. She had four goals and four assists after leading the team with six goals and 13 points in 2016.
"She's back and healthy,″ said Carvalho. "She was doing really, really well. It was just a freaky mishap with her ankle in practice. Now, she's got that fire in her eye.″
The Bears are picked in a tie for second in the MASCAC preseason poll, sharing that spot with Worcester State behind Westfield State.