BRIDGEWATER, Va. – The Bridgewater College women's soccer team will be looking to build upon the best season in program history.
Bridgewater finished the 2018 season with a 15-4-2 overall record and a 7-1-2 ODAC mark. The Eagles tied for first-place in the ODAC regular-season standings, the best finish in program history, and made the program's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III national tournament.
The Eagles may just have the talent returning to make another title run.
Veteran coach Mike Van Horn has nine players returning to the starting lineup, including seven players from the 2018 All-ODAC team. Leading the list of returnees is 2018 ODAC Rookie of the Year and first-team All-ODAC pick Hanna Randolph. Also, back in the fold are second-team All-ODAC performers Sydney Ryan, Savannah Cowan and Catherine Haufe along with third-team all-conference picks Cyan Coates, Hunter Collier and Sydney Davis. If that wasn't enough, 2017 first-team All-ODAC pick Isabella Krider is back after missing the 2018 season with an injury.
During preseason workouts, the Eagles' defense looks to be the team's strong point. "Defensively, we're very strong," said Van Horn. "With our defense, we're going to be in a lot of games." Bridgewater recorded 11 shutouts in 2018 and posted a program record 0.65 goals against average.
In goal, the Eagles return junior Sydney Davis, a third-team All-ODAC pick a year ago. Sophomore keeper Jessica Touve is competing for the starting job and a pair of freshmen are also in the mix. Davis finished the 2018 season with a 0.70 goals against average, the best single-season mark in program history.
"I've been very pleased thus far with the play of our goalkeepers. We'll have strong competition at that position," said Van Horn.
Playing in front of the keepers will be an experienced and talented group of defenders. "We have a lot of depth in the back row. We have a lot of leadership and experience. We're athletic and they communicate well," said Van Horn. "Definitely it's one of our biggest strengths. They will play a big role in our success this season."
In the middle of the back row are Savannah Cowan and Cyan Coates, both all-conference performers. Coates is making the move from outside to center back for the upcoming season. On the outside will be All-ODAC selection Ryan along with Maddie Grim, a three-year starter. Sophomore Jordan Davis and first-year player Lexi Winkler are pushing the starters.
In the midfield, the Eagles have one of the strongest duos in the conference with Randolph and Haufe. Randolph scored seven goals and led the team with seven assists. Haufe tied for the team lead with eight goals scored.
Also expected to be part of the midfield will be senior Morgan Todd and transfer Taylor Corbin. Two players coming back from injury, Krider and Rachel Bullard, should also figure into the mix. Krider was an all-region selection in 2017. She could also see time at one of the forward positions. Bullard played significant minutes in the midfield as a freshman during the 2017 season.
"We'll look to Hanna to dictate play in the midfield," said Van Horn. "Cat is a very talented player with a non-stop motor. She's willing to work and she can create offense. Morgan Todd has really put in the work in the offseason and she gives us experience. Taylor Corbin is a physical, possession style presence in the midfield who can also score."
"Up top, we're going to do it by committee," said Van Horn when discussing his forwards. "We may not have that dominant, goal-scoring type up front, but we have a lot of players at the same level at the forward position."
Senior Bridget Fabiani and Collier, a junior, return after starting a year ago. Fabiani scored four goals while Collier tied for the team lead in goals with eight and points with 21.
Also expected to log minutes at the forward position are senior Janidy Madera and sophomores Emily York and Ana Elson. York scored five goals, Madera had four goals and Elson added three. "Ana started some games late last year while Emily was our spark off the bench. We're looking for Emily to take that next step as a consistent goal scorer as she moves into the starting lineup. Janidy is another experienced player we can turn to for minutes."
While the Eagles return enough experience and talent to make a run at a conference championship, Van Horn expects his team to have plenty of company at the top of the standings.
"Last year, you saw that there were six teams in the mix late in the season," said Van Horn. "This year, there's going to be six or seven teams that can be in it. I think there is more parity at the top of conference than ever. It's going to be exciting. We're going to look to get better as the season progresses and be in position to play for something in October. That's why you come to college, to play games that matter late in the season."
Bridgewater opens its season this weekend with games against Denison and Greensboro at the Washington and Lee tournament.