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Monday, August 11, 2008

2008 Women's Soccer Season Preview

Proverbial priorities
Rev up offense, secure net, gain respectability


It seems the PC women’s soccer team will stop at no logical boundaries to pad on a little optimistic meat onto their skeletal scouting report.

The team’s hit press release over the summer was on the freshly arrived recruiting class’ inclusion in Soccer Buzz’s Top 100 list. It didn’t bother to detail that the Friars’ new pack is indeed in the Top 100 poll –at #93 in the nation and #8 amongst the Top 20 programs in the northeast.

An earlier statement from the Friars’ offices introducing the five rookies, who took in their first rounds of pre-season practice at Glay Field on Monday, proclaimed that “Head Coach Jim McGirr hopes to continue the winning tradition he is establishing at PC.” Granted, McGirr has only had three seasons to work with so far, but in those three seasons he has mustered an aggregate transcript of 12-33-8 (4-25-4 Big East) and the overall win supply has dwindled a touch each year.

Deceptive much?

Before the steadfast, unreserved PC partisans accuse this report of obsessive-negativity just for offering a thorough evaluation, perhaps a compromise can be reached through the Tevye approach. On the heels of a 3-14-1 season (2-9 conference) and a cringing 37-7 goal deficit, PC soccer –which has seen no more than two conference wins in any season on record- is near that point where it can’t get much worse for them. It can only get better.

But how much, how soon? The Friars will return all of those who pitched in to their slender offensive output in 2007, led by senior Megan Mancarella, the only one out of eight PC point-getters to muster a single goal and assist –and she literally got a single goal and assist for a team-best three points on the year. As a whole, McGirr’s lineup compiled seven goals on the year, easily the shallowest output of his coaching tenure here after 13 and 14 connections were celebrated in the previous two seasons.

The brittle, though largely intact strike force’s palpable endeavor to beef up can also count on a little aid from Maryland transfer Kylie Ricker, who started in three of twelve appearances and inserted a game-winning kick as a freshman Terp.

Barring any blindsided prodigious breakthroughs, though, Providence will have to settle for bit-by-bit progression in the way of scoring. But in their own goal box sits a much more harrowing cavity now that the reliable Laura Elfers has graduated.

Elfers made her tracks after appearing in all 35 games of her junior and senior campaigns and having consumed all but 35:45 of the clock in those games. Elfers’ GAA barely nudged above two per game last year, but she valiantly dealt with an overloaded average of over seven shots on goal in each outing.

She now leaves her vital station, which was explicitly the paramount reason PC had any utterable shot at the 2007 Big East playoffs, in the collective hands of freshman Caitlin Walker and the almost equally unripe sophomore Jill Schott. Schott filled in the three-and-a-half minutes not occupied by Elfers in a 3-0 loss to Quinnipiac last September 16.

It is worth mentioning that nine out of ten Elfers’ praetorian guards, who confined the overwhelming opposition to a .496 on-net rate versus the Friars’ .513 percentage, is slated to return. But if that kind of knuckled-down defense doesn’t duplicate or better itself this autumn, the new keepers could be prone to piteously green exploitation. Unless, of course, Walker can suitably translate her club resume highlighted by a reported 38 shutouts and a Metuchen (N.J.) High School scholarship.

While that ambiguous outlook develops, PC ought to attend principally to its clear-cut lack of scoring proficiency. This team left on a four-game road wrap-up still mathematically eligible for a conference playoff spot after a season-high two goals in their home finale against Pittsburgh last October. Suffice it to say, they hardly managed to build on that heartening U-turn, losing those next four bouts by an aggregate 9-2 and finishing at the top of the red by a gaping five points.

And so the annually renewed Operation Breakthrough quest begins once more.

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