Women's Soccer Ready for a Turnaround Season
CHICAGO - There's more than a hint of change in the air when it comes to DePaul women's soccer.
Dominique Locascio couldn't be more blunt.
"We don't want to have any more losing seasons," Locascio, a senior defender, said as the Blue Demons prepare for their season-opener Friday at Loyola. "Everyone worked hard on fitness over the summer, and there's a lot more mental toughness."
"We are all holding each other accountable for mistakes."
The infusion of new talent and welcoming back seven sophomores who started as freshmen last season has coach Erin Chastain fired up about this season.
"Those seven freshmen are a lot more prepared and focused this year," Chastain said. "And, our new players will have an impact."
Taking offseason conditioning so seriously has the Blue Demons in top physical shape, allowing Chastain and her coaching staff to concentrate on technique and strategy during preseason workouts.
"We only had a couple kids not pass the fitness test, and that's never happened before," said Chastain, entering her third season. "That enabled us to work more on soccer stuff.
``The difference between this year and last year is that we have more kids who simply love soccer. You see them coming out early for practice. They watch soccer on TV. They're into the sport."
You won't find more of a soccer fanatic than senior forward Shannon Williams.
"I'm just so excited to be here---soccer is my passion," said Williams, who was granted an extra season of eligibility by the NCAA. "I love being out here, and our program is definitely growing."
"The biggest thing is that Erin is getting us together as a team. She is bringing in great players and forcing us to do our best."
Williams' best came two years ago when she led the Blue Demons with seven goals, 16 points, 44 shots and 23 shots on goal.
"Last year, I was trying to distribute more," said Williams who had one goal and two assists. "We're running a lot more offensive plays this season. I think we're going to score a lot of numbers."
Williams, Arianna Foster and Morgan Celaya will head up the attacking unit while the Blue Demon defense will be anchored by Locascio and freshman Chelsea Grant. Midfielder Tara Strickland will be a force while junior Kelsey Hoinkes and freshman Claire Hanold compete for the goalkeeper position.
Williams, Foster and Lauren Pagone each scored a goal in an intra-squad match that had Chastain re-evaluating her starting lineup.
"I really liked the attacking by Shannon and Ari," Chastain said. "They created a lot of scoring opportunities. Shannon has a tremendous amount of athleticism, and that's something you can't teach."
After finishing 2-9 in the BIG EAST (4-15 overall), it's no surprise the conference's coaches picked DePaul to finish last in the National Division.
"Everyone is underestimating us right now," Williams said. "It's like they don't take us seriously. That's definitely going to change, and we're going to fight for it."
Williams has watched the soccer program evolve over the course of her career in Lincoln Park.
"It's sad this is my last year," she said. "With Erin here, (the program) is definitely going to change. I wish I were a freshman all over again so I could be here for the change."
Opening night: The DePaul Blue Demons quest to build a winning tradition begins with a road test against local rival Loyola Friday night followed by their home opener at 1 p.m. Sunday against Northwestern... The Blue Demons fell just short of the Ramblers last year, losing 2-1 despite a goal by Tara Strickland on an assist from Shannon Williams... DePaul led NU 2-0 at halftime last season on goals by Williams and Arianna Foster only to watch Amanda Hoffman's hat trick rescue the Wildcats with a 3-2 victory.
2009 Preview: ... A big key to the Blue Demon season is the performance of seven sophomores who started as freshman last year... Equally critical will be the leadership from seniors Dominique Locascio, Williams and Molly Borchardt along with juniors Strickland and Lauren Pagone... After scoring one goal last year, Williams is ready for a return to her 2007 form when she tallied seven goals... sophomore forwards Arianna Foster, Morgan Celaya and Michelle Scandora (team-high three goals) join Williams as key offensive threats... heading up the defense is Locascio and freshman Chelsea Grant... junior Kelly Hoinkes and freshman Claire Hanold are competing for the goalkeeper position... the Blue Demons lost six games by one goal last season, and a reversal of fortune hinges on turning around such close encounters... head coach Erin Chastain is in her third season at DePaul... Chastain said this is the best-conditioned team she has coached at DePaul with four players doing the two-mile run in a little more than 10 minutes as part of their fitness test... sophomore forward Casey Mercurio will miss the season because of a torn knee ligament... 2009 is the 14th season of women's soccer at DePaul University.
Lowdown on Loyola: .A virtual prerequisite for success against this program is containing its ``Ramblin' Wreck,'' senior forward Cynthia Morote-Ariza, who led the nation last year with 19 assists, tied for sixth with 18 goals and tied for second in the country with 55 points... Loyola (14-9, 7-1 in Horizon League) also boasts first-team, all-conference selection Jackie Vera along with second-team, all-conference performers Katie Groesch, Julie Colhoff, Ashley Funk and Laura Trevillian. The Series: The Blue Demons are 1-7-1 against the Ramblers, defeating Loyola 4-0 in 1999.
Notes on Northwestern: Junior forward Sam Greene leads the Wildcats into Wish Field after Northwestern finished in a tie for fifth place in the Big 10 last year, having gone 5-5 in conference and 10-9-1 overall... Greene is sixth all-time in assists at NU, and her eight assists last year is the fourth-best single-season mark in school history... goalkeeper Carolyn Edwards recorded five shutouts and 75 saves last year with a goals-against average of 1.47... the Wildcat defense also boasts defender Leigh Jakes, a Big 10 All-Freshman team selection... head coach Stephanie Erickson enters her fourth season with a career record of 27-26-7. The Series: The Blue Demons have yet to defeat the Wildcats in five tries, although the last three losses have been by a lone goal.
Preseason Picks: The Blue Demons were picked to finish eighth in the National Division of the BIG EAST preseason poll. Notre Dame was selected to finish first in the National Division while West Virginia received the top spot in the American Division. Notre Dame's Melissa Hendereson was the selection for Preseason Offensive Player of the Year while Connecticut's Brittany Taylor was named the Defensive Player of the Year. The Goalkeeper of the Year was Erin Guthrie of Rutgers.
2009 BIG EAST Championship: The semifinals and title match of the 2009 BIG EAST Women's Soccer Championship will be Nov. 6 and 8 at Connecticut. The first round and quarterfinal matches will be hosted by the higher-seeded team on Oct. 29 and Nov. 1. The champion receives the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship. CBS College Sports Network will broadcast the semifinal and championship matches. The top five teams in each division qualify for the league tournament.