NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University women's soccer team saw significant improvement in head coach Heather Faasse's first season at the helm of the program with the best start in program history and the most wins in a season since 2011.
Norwich started the season on a six-game winning streak and finished with a 7-9-1 overall record. However, the Cadets fell short of their ultimate goal of making the GNAC playoffs for the first time since 2011.
"Last season ended a little more abruptly than we were hoping after we got off to a terrific start," Faasse said. "Injuries caught up with us in the middle of the season and during league play and we ultimately fell a little short of our goal of making the playoffs."
Despite falling short of making the league playoffs, the Cadets showed flashes of returning to a perennial GNAC contender in 2018.
A large part of the turnaround can be attributed to a strong returning sophomore class, headlined by Karyssa Lachance (Gorham, N.H.), Julia Koron (Pittsford, N.Y.), Sara Marcotte (Enfield, Conn.) and Kim Watt (Lindenhurst, N.Y.).
"Last year we learned our current sophomore class was outstanding and we have our entire starting lineup back with another year of experience under their belts," Faasse said. "We're looking to make a bigger push this year not only athletically, but academically in the classroom as well."
Lachance led the team in scoring with 10 goals for 20 points, while Koron chipped in with five goals and an assist for 11 points in 11 games played before suffering a season-ending injury.
Senior Kaila Lemmer (Barnard, Vt.) returns after scoring six goals and dishing out four assists for 16 points in her first season in the Maroon & Gold after transferring from NVU-Johnson. Junior Zorya Webster (Corning, N.Y.) also returns after chipping in three goals last season while dealing with injuries throughout the year.
"Lemmer and Lachance should spark a lot of our offense again," Faasse said. "Lachance's speed is tough to matchup with. Lemmer has a strong shot and very good field vision. Webster fits into that group well and might be in a more of an attacking center midfielder role this year."
Faasse also expects freshman Isabel Doherty (Quincy, Mass.) to factor into the offense as a first-year player.
Norwich's midfield will be the most experienced group heading into the season, led by Koron and senior captain Madison Oelker (West Liberty, Ohio). Juniors Sydney Rocheville (Salem, Mass.) and Courtney Amell (Northfield, Vt.) are back after starting nearly every game in 2018.
"Our midfield features a large number of upperclassmen with a lot of game experience so we should be able to rely heavily on them this season," Faasse said. "Koron is back from injury after a terrific freshman season. Oelker who has done well in our transition game and motivation. Rocheville and Amell played a lot of minutes last year as well contributing at both ends of the field."
Rocheville led the team with five assists last year, including three in one game to tie for the second most in a single game in program history.
"Marcotte will be our anchor at the center back position," Faasse said. "She started every game when healthy last year and is super motivated to be better this year than last year for herself and the unit as whole. Mace will be in the back line this year after playing some midfield last year. Da Silva should be an immediate contributor and step right into a role within our system."
In goal, Watt returns after taking over the starting job at the midway point of the season. She made 75 saves in over 700 minutes of game action with a 2.82 goals against average. She'll be pushed by returning sophomore Lindsey Gordon (Wiscasset, Maine) and junior transfer from Saint Joseph's (Maine), Madison Day (Hiram, Maine).
"Watt took over the starting spot last season and ran with it," Faasse said. "She did a fantastic job stepping in last year when given a chance to play. We're looking to her to continue to grow her voice and leadership this year. Gordon and Day will be battling for time as well in the No. 2 goalkeeper spot."
Norwich's non-conference schedule will be a bit more challenging this season by design as the Cadets will take on Castleton, New England College and Roger Williams in an effort to ready themselves for the GNAC schedule.
"We wanted to build confidence last year at the start of the season and we certainly accomplished that before injuries hit," Faasse said. "This year we're taking on a tougher schedule to start the season to hopefully prepare us better for the GNAC schedule. The girls are ready and excited for the challenge with this year's schedule."
Norwich was picked to finish ninth in the GNAC Preseason Coaches Poll released recently, one spot out of the top eight that make the league playoffs.
"We're looking to perfect what we started last year culturally," Faasse said. "We're focused on being a student-athlete, professional and disciplined, while holding each other accountable on the field and off the field to keep building this program back up. The results will follow if we continue on that path."
Norwich opens the 2019 season on the road at Ramapo College in New Jersey on Friday, August 30th at 3 p.m. The Cadets return home to Vermont to take on Castleton on Sunday at 1 p.m. Norwich will play its first home match on Wednesday, Sept. 18 when it hosts NVU-Johnson at 7 p.m. on Sabine Field at Haynes Family Stadium.