NORTON, Mass. - Over the last decade, the Wheaton College women's soccer program has experienced incredible success, including 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, 10 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) regular season titles and seven NEWMAC Tournament crowns. The Lyons also boasted an impressive 203-27-10 overall record and 82-3-5 conference mark.
Wheaton, which is receiving votes in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll, is coming off a 2009 campaign in which it advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and posted an 18-4-2 record. The Lyons also claimed a share of the league's regular season championship with a 6-1-2 record, but the one thing that eluded them was the tournament title.
"Our first goal is to be the best we can within the conference," said 14th-year head coach Luis Reis, whose 252-41-12 career record is among the best in Division III. "We don't lose sight of what our primary goal is within the league and having a strong non-conference schedule provides our players the opportunity to compete against top teams around the region."
For the second straight year the Lyons were zapped with the injury bug, as only three of their 27 players who saw time appeared in all 24 games last year. Wheaton averaged just over two goals but primarily enjoyed its success because of its defensive prowess. The Blue and White surrendered just 11 goals and posted 16 shutouts, yielding more than one goal three times.
"Defense has been a staple of our program," said Reis. "We take great pride in that particular part of the game. Offensively, the difference these last two years has been our inability to finish. We've had a similar number of opportunities, but with the combination of us not finishing our quality chances and facing solid goalkeepers, our goal production has decreased. We are focused and determined on improving."
The Lyons start a second straight fall with 30 players. Twenty of them our returners, led by senior tri-captain Alessia Viscomi (Newton, Mass./Newton North). Viscomi is an All-America back as well as a three-time all-region and all-league player. She will be flanked by sophomore Jordan Muse (Candia, N.H./Central). Freshmen Rebecca Raymond (Lowell, Mass./Lowell) and Rachelle Rodman (Fair Oaks, Calif./Bella Vista) are also in the starting mix.
In goal, junior Lindsay Leddy (Warwick, R.I./Wheeler School) is competing with freshman Kerry Condon (Whitman, Mass./Whitman-Hanson Regional), as both are expected to see significant time. Leddy already ranks third in program history in shutouts and fourth in wins. Junior Erin Cawley (West Springfield, Mass./West Springfield) rounds out the goalie unit.
The midfield line will be led by senior tri-captain Colleen Liffers (Merrimac, Mass./Pentucket Regional), who will be adjusting to a new position. Juniors Jessica Stuart (Weymouth, Mass./Weymouth) and Emily Vincunas (Granville, Mass./Wilbraham & Monson Academy) should also see starts in the midfield.
At the top of the depth chart as forwards are senior Emily Hough (Norwich, Vt./Hanover), junior Kaitlyn Mawicke (Trumbull, Conn./Notre Dame Catholic) and sophomores Samantha Cronin (Wethersfield, Conn./Wethersfield) and Cassey Muse (Candia, N.H./Central). A three-time all-region and all-league player, Hough is seventh in school history in assists, eighth in points and ninth in goals. Muse, who was named NEWMAC Rookie of the Year, led the 2009 team with 15 goals, 34 points and eight game-winners.
Senior Christina Bertrand (Agawam, Mass./Cathedral) is expected to spell Liffers in the center midfield, while classmate and tri-captain Lauren Caney (West Springfield, Mass./West Springfield) is in the mix for a forward or midfield position after working back from a season-ending injury last year.
Juniors Bailey Bowling (Littleton, Colo./Littleton), Lindsey Cobb (Shrewsbury, Mass./Saint Peter-Marian) and Jessica Gray (Carver, Mass./Sacred Heart) provide depth in multiple areas. Bowling should see time as a midfielder or forward, Cobb as a back and Gray in the midfield.
Sophomores Samantha Bennett (Weymouth, Mass./Weymouth) and Maria Veronesi (Plainville, Conn./Suffield Academy) are positioned to have defensive roles. Classmate Tara Caney (West Springfield, Mass./West Springfield), who is also returning from a season-ending injury, is vying for time in the midfield or up front, while sophomore Kierstin Luber (Cedar Park, Texas/Cedar Park) is looking to play in the midfield and potentially in the back.
Rounding out the roster are freshmen Christina Angione (Manhattan, N.Y./Beacon School), Kristina Braga (Lowell, Mass./Lowell), Joy-Marie Fernandes (Woburn, Mass./Northfield Mount Hermon School), Holly Santos (Fall River, Mass./B.M.C. Durfee), Nicole Sherman (Wilton, Conn./Wilton), Anna Sokolova (Andover, Mass./Austin Prep) and Abby Tobin (Lynnfield, Mass./Lynnfield).
Braga is battling for time up front, Fernandes should see action in the midfield or as a forward, while Sherman is competing for a defensive midfield or back position.
Scheduled to face four 2009 NCAA Tournament teams, the Lyons open their season on Thursday at Roger Williams University. Wheaton hosts 11th-ranked Middlebury College in a rematch of last year's NCAA Tournament second-round game on September 12.