CHICAGO, IL – When MaryKate Cicinelli scored the game-winner against the Dayton Flyers at the legendary Baujan Field in Dayton, Ohio, she did so in remarkable fashion: in overtime, in a hostile crowd, and on a beautiful shot to the upper post. Cicinelli’s goal gave the Blue Demons their fourth win of the season, and a 4-1-1 record that was the best start to a season since 2010, when the Demons held a record of 3-2-1 after 6 games.
Most importantly, Cicinelli’s goal gave the Blue Demons one more victory in this young season than the total number of wins the Demons had the whole 2011 season. The Blue Demons finished the 2011 season with a forgettable 3-14-1 record that was easily explainable when considering nine out of eleven players in the starting lineup were underclassmen. If this young team lacked lots of experience, it made up for it with heart: 9 of its losses were decided by one goal or less, while four losses and a tie were decided in overtime, a period where one goal is the difference between victory and disappointment. In a conference as tough as the Big East is in Women’s Soccer, it was no surprise that DePaul would suffer some growing pains along the way. Fifth-year coach Erin Chastain thus sought to improve upon her team’s record and show the real potential of these young players.
One year later, with seven seniors leaving the team and the roster being shrunk from 28 to 21, the DePaul Women’s Soccer program returns determined to make a run at the Big East Championship and make it to only the second NCAA Tournament in its history. While the team is young (only 9 players in the entire roster are upperclassmen), many in its starting lineup played meaningful minutes last season, and thus have levels of experience not often seen in similarly young teams.
-DePaul will play 6 games at home and 5 games away. The Demons currently hold a 3-1-0 record at home, and have traditionally played better at home. Therefore, they should capitalize on the extra home game, while getting positive results in some away games. Cincinnati had a losing record of 2-6 at home last season, while Villanova was 4-4 at home. These are prime opportunities for wins or ties that DePaul should take advantage of.
-DePaul’s lone non-conference opponent left in its schedule, Saint Louis University, is a member of the Atlantic 10 conference, in which Dayton plays. While Dayton is a contender and current champion in the A10, the SLU Billikens only have one win thus far and had a losing record last season. DePaul looks to capitalize on this and get another win.
-DePaul avoids seeing Marquette and West Virginia this year. Both teams went 10-1-0 in conference play last year, with Marquette finishing first in its division and West Virginia winning the Big East Championship in its last season in the Big East prior to leaving for the Big 12 Conference. Marquette is currently ranked No. 24 in the nation and should be a contender on the nationwide level.
Erin Chastain’s team, as mentioned above, is a very young team that still has much experience at multiple starting spot. Although DePaul lost its school record-holder in appearances (80)and very dangerous forward in alumnus Morgan Celaya last season, there are multiple enticing players on the roster that look to garner their talent and experience and forge a winning season. Here’s a look at the 2012 DePaul Women’s Soccer Roster.
-Megan Pyrz began her freshman season on the bench, but started the last 9 games of the season and established herself as the starting goalkeeper of the DePaul Blue Demons. Her hard work this season paid off when she was named Big East Goalkeeper of the Week on September 3, after posting three straight shutouts and a 12-save performance against Wright State. Now, Pyrz looks to establish herself as one of the best goalkeepers in the Big East conference on a regular basis, all while keeping DePaul in all games with her fantastic saves and very sound fundamentals. Senior Claire Hanold started at the beginning of her junior season until being beaten in the depth chart by Pyrz, but still offers much leadership and experience that will help Pyrz and freshman Alejandria Godinez, who has the fortune of learning from two of the best goalkeepers in the history of DePaul Women’s Soccer.
-Through a carousel of players going through the defense last year, Sarah Gorden found herself in the spotlight during her freshman year as she delivered great performance every time she would get an opportunity. Now an established starter alongside junior Ren Stoecklin at centerback, the sophomore looks to work effectively with Pyrz and set up her fullbacks, junior Kylie Nordness and sophomore Rachel Pitman, for offensive runs down the sidelines. As Coach Chastain has pointed out, Nordness’ and Pitman’s versatility, coupled with their improved development, should make the defense even more exciting to watch this year. Sophomore Nina Kodros also impresses coming off the bench and should get spot starts during the season, as she is a great offensive-minded fullback much like Pitman, but can also drop back and defend well enough to merit starting. Junior Kimmy Denne, a transfer student from Foothill College in California, was outstanding in her two years at Foothill, and hopes that her experience and leadership skills will also transfer well while in a competitive DePaul squad.
-Junior Rebekah Roller had long played as a defender in her first two seasons with the Demons. Originally a midfielder, she was often forced to play on the defense because of a lack of consistency in the back line. Coach Chastain finally gave Roller an opportunity to return to the midfield at the start of the season, and Roller responded with a great offseason and an even better beginning of the season. Playing as a holding midfielder, or central defensive midfielder, Roller is a tenacious first defender that attacks opponents, retrieves balls, and distributes them to more offensive-minded players like her fellow midfielder Ashleigh Goddard, a left winger and co-captain of the Blue Demons. Goddard, originally from London, England, shows a European attacking instinct while also serving up multiple passes for her forwards. She is the perfect teammate for freshman Brianna Ryce to learn from. Ryce has gained a starting spot on the opposite wing through hard work and a well-established creativity formed in her years as part of the Trinidad and Tobago national youth teams. She hopes to continue getting starts alongside Roller, Goddard, and sophomore central offensive midfielder Amber Paul, whose brilliant offensive mind and excellent technical skills are often a driving force behind most DePaul goals. Sophomore Sara Brathwaite is also extremely versatile in filling out pretty much any offensive midfielder position, while freshman Kaily Cox will seek to get minutes along multiple midfielder positions and get a few spot starts along the way.
-Junior forward Natasa Radosavjlevic has come into her own early on in the season, scoring two goals thus far and getting multiple shots off along the way. Radosavjlevic is an intimidating presence in the box, and has a menacing speed opposing defenders often have trouble dealing with. She complements fellow forward and co-captain Kelly Blumberg very well. The senior hopes to leave her mark on the program on her final year at DePaul, having received Big East All-Academic honors aside from being a creative, brilliant force that will often set up Radosavjlevic upfront. Sophomore MaryKate Cicinelli scored her first career goal againt Dayton earlier this season and appears to take advantage of all opportunities that she gets, often a sign of great forwards. Junior Erin Pekovitch will get more minutes spelling Radosavjlevic and Blumberg during games, and has the experience necessary to help out her fellow forwards and freshmen like the Canadian Elise Wyatt, who hopes to win out a spot in a competitive forwards group and brings with her valuable experience after being part of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ youth teams.
With a young but experienced squad, the DePaul Blue Demons are set to make a splash and surprise any team in the Big East that underestimates the Demons for their poor record last year. While not expected to contend for the Big East title, DePaul looks to assert itself as a highly competitive and talented team that is a very short time away from truly being a force in Big East soccer. A record of 5-4-2 during the rest of this season (finishing a respectable 9-7-3) should be attainable for the Demons, and should be an expectation for a team as talented as DePaul.
With this record, DePaul should be able to get at least an at-large spot in the Big East Tournament, and most likely a 4th seed in the National Division of the Big East Conference, which would be an automatic bid for the tournament. The Blue Demons will probably not get to the NCAA Tournament, but some players like Megan Pyrz, Ashleigh Goddard, and Rebekah Roller will shine and get All-Big East honors. With neither of the aforementioned players being seniors, the future for DePaul looks very bright, and thus this season will serve as a launching pad for future DePaul successes on both the conference stage and the national stage.