A-10 squads prepare for 2010 conference play

By Chris Gardner

After last year’s thrilling championship between Dayton and Charlotte, many believe that the Flyers will continue to dominate in the league this year.

Just like any year, the Atlantic 10 will no doubt play host to surprises and upsets. Here’s a preview of the A-10 teams and what one can look forward to as the season begins.

Dayton

UD’s 2-1 victory over Charlotte in the A-10 championship last year has proven to be no fluke. The Flyers have jumped out to an early lead in the league this year with an 8-2 record in their non-conference games.

Offensively, Dayton has been virtually unstoppable outscoring its opponents, 17-6, and outshooting them,162-106. Much of that offensive production can be credited to freshman midfielder Colleen Williams who already has eight goals and five assists in 10 games.

The Flyers defense is still without a permanent goalie with junior Lisa Rodgers and freshman Jackie Thompson splitting time in net. A problem for Dayton could be its lack of discipline and high number of fouls per game. The Flyers currently outnumber their opponent’s fouls, 92-87.

Charlotte

The 49ers have more than enough reasons to be considered a competitor for this year’s A-10 championship. Charlotte lost in last year’s championship, however the bulk of the team’s top performers are back again this year and have begun its 2010 campaign for glory.

The 49er defense had six shutouts in a row last year, and the team continues to be stingy with two shutouts this year and just eight goals allowed.

 The 49ers’ freshman goalie Alex Kubrick is having a strong start with five goals and 24 saves in her first 10 games.

La Salle

Despite the Explorers inability to make the tournament last year, they have pulled out all the stops preparing for this year’s conference play.

With a 6-4 record this year, La Salle has proven to be a very dangerous team this season. The most dangerous of all the Explorers is freshman Renee Washington who has six goals this year and has 42 shots on the season.

Washington is one of three freshmen in the school’s history to score five goals in her first six games. The freshman led her team to victory with her sixth goal when she scored in the first five minutes of overtime play against Delaware to lift the Explorers to a 2-1 victory.

George Washington

What GW lacks in experience, it more than makes up for in tenacity and consistency.

The Colonials enter the A-10 tallying an average 42 shots in the first half of its games and an equally impressive 45 shots in the second half.

Much of this shooting has been from the foot of junior midfielder Sierra Smidinger, who has two assists this season and 18 shots.

On the defensive front, GW has allowed eight goals this season while maintaining an impressive .88 goals-against average.

Returning keeper Lindsey Rowe has been the backbone of the Colonials’ defensive success entering conference play with 27 saves under her belt.

St. Bonaventure

       A Player of the Week award for St. Bonaventure’s Nicole Markert has proven to be no distraction for the senior goalkeeper. With three shutouts this season and 11 saves, Markert’s defensive prowess has brought the Bonnies to a 6-4 record this year.

SBU’s five-game winning streak was brought to an abrupt halt after a heartbreaking loss to Siena, however the Bonnies hope to start conference play on the right foot when it faces off against Duquesne Saturday.

SBU coach Manoj Khettry will be expecting a lot from his offense, which is out-shooting (143-104) and out-scoring (16-13) its opponents.

Fordham

       A third-seed ranking in last year’s tournament and a loss in the semifinals to Charlotte has left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Rams.

Fordham (4-6) is having a slow start in non-conference play, taking a few hits from Hofstra and Miami.

Many of Fordham’s problems stem from its lack of offensive production this season. During the Ram’s six-game losing streak the offense was held to no more than one goal in every game.

This puts most of the pressure on the shoulders of goalkeeper Rachel Suther. The sophomore currently has 31 saves this season and maintained a .705 save percentage.

Temple

       Temple’s start to the 2010 season has the warnings of another tough year for the Owls.

Having failed to make the tournament last year, the Owls (5-5) suffered through some tough losses to Villanova and Maine. Temple heads into conference play with a full head of steam after a 2-0 victory over Wagner on Sunday.

One of the Owls strengths this year will be the depth of their roster, which includes 10 seniors. However, the real threat on this team are Kate and Allicia Yurkovic who are responsible for almost half of the team’s goals.

Xavier

       Xavier had its best start to a season this year since 1997 after going 2-0 at the Catamount Classic at Western Carolina.

The Musketeers dropped their next two games to Cincinnati and Evansville bringing them to 4-5 on the season.

Xavier’s offensive dynamo, Jessica Brooks returns this season after a slow sophomore year where Brooks failed to produce a goal. It took little time for Brooks to get back on form however, as she has already scored four goals in the team’s first nine games. Freshman Lauren Heap has also gotten off on the right foot this year scoring three goals for the Musketeers.

            Duquesne

       Coming off a season where they failed to make the playoff and the added pressure of entering conference play with a three-game losing streak could spell trouble for the Duquesne women’s soccer team.

The Dukes should not be written off just yet, wins against Bucknell and Buffalo prove there’s more kick to this team than one might think.

Senior goalkeeper Gabby Morrin currently ranks fourth with a GAA of 1.43 and third with 17 wins in the program’s history.

Morrin has maintained her reputation this year by making 36 saves and maintaining a .783 save percentage.

Richmond

 Coming off a win against Wilmington where they recorded a season high 19 shots, the Spiders will enter A-10 conference play against Saint Joseph’s.

Spider freshman standout Becca Wann has four goals, 35 shots and is responsible for more than 50 percent of Richmond’s point production this season.  Goalkeeper Melissa Pacheco will be the starter this year after a strong finish last year.

She currently has two shutouts already on the season, the same amount the junior had for all of last year. Additional victories against American and Longwood have provided the Spiders with a strong foundation for a strong season in the conference, which it will open on Friday.

Saint Joseph’s

A recent loss to fellow A-10 conference member could prove to be a precursor for what is to come for SJU this year.

The Hawks have struggled through the start of the 2010 season with a 3-6 record and failed to score more than one goal in any of its games this season.

Christine Neal will continue to start for SJU in goal after a top freshman season last year. Neal was ranked fourth in goals against average (1.14) and was named an A-10 All-Rookie team honoree.

Offensively, one name comes to focus for the Hawks, Jen Pfeiffer. She has eight of the team’s 12 goals this season and is currently ranked fourth in program history for shots (117).

Saint Louis

Last year, SLU managed to make it past the first round of the tournament only to lose to Dayton in the semifinals. Dayton would go on to win the tournament.

This year has been a much different story for the Billikens (1-4-6), who currently reside in last place in the A-10 standings. Offense could be a key problem for the Billikens who have failed to score a goal in its last five games.

Chris Gardner can be reached at [email protected]