By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- There will be no easing into the 2019 season for the Bridgewater State University women’s soccer team.
Two of the first four opponents the Bears will face reached the NCAA Division 3 tournament last season, going a combined 29-8-3.
BSU, coming off a 9-6-2 season, returns 15 players to a team that opens the schedule Wednesday night at Brandeis University (12-5 with a trip to the NCAAs a year ago).
The Bears’ home opener is Sept. 7 against MIT, which is ranked 20th in the national preseason poll after going 17-3-3 and losing in the second round of the NCAAs, followed by games against Wheaton College (11 wins) and Emmanuel College (14 wins).
“That’s what we do,″ said BSU coach Yasmina Carvalho, now in her sixth season. “We always start off with tough teams on our schedule. We know these are the top caliber teams in New England.
“We want those really competitive games to say, ‘Hey, this is the type of competition we’re going to play. If we can compete with these three teams, we can compete with anybody in our conference.’ It’s a confidence booster.″
The Bears finished second in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference a year ago, going 5-1-1, before falling in the semifinal round of the tournament.
Four of the top five scorers return to the BSU lineup, including the leader in points, Emma Sanders (six goals, 10 assists, 22 points). She is joined by Alana Vincent, of Taunton, a second-team All-MASCAC pick who had seven goals and an assist, sophomore Delaney Langton, the conference rookie of the year with five goals and three assists, and Amelia Burke, who had three goals and six assists.
Sanders, Vincent and Burke, who are all seniors, play the forward positions.
“We call them the triple threat,” said Carvalho. “They have a really good chemistry.”
A pair of freshmen, Samantha Rischitelli and Julie Eline-Wright, should add scoring punch.
“The offense right now is looking like our strong point,” said Carvalho, whose team is picked to finish third in the MASCAC Preseason Coaches Poll. “Right off the bat, we’re being very creative and there’s a lot of communication. We’re really impressed with what they’re doing up top and how they’re creating. We’re happy with that.″
Senior goalkeeper Kellie Souza, who started all 17 games and had a 1.47 goals against average with two shutouts, returns with Tory Viola-Laughery, of Brockton, the backup.
“Last year she really stepped up and had a great year,” said Carvalho of Souza. “She came up big time with big time saves, which is exactly what we needed. We’re expecting the same thing this year.″
The defense returns Langton, 2017 All-MASCAC selection Kaitlyn Bongarzone and senior Abby Haefner, who made five starts, while sophomore Cassie Brown and freshman Kelly Powers take over at midfield.
“I think we’ll be as good as we were last year,” said Carvalho. “But we have 10 new faces on our team with eight freshmen and two transfers. It’s going to take a little bit to get that team chemistry down and understanding the way we play. Once we hammer that down, we can be better than we were.”