After a disappointing early exit from the NCAA playoffs last year, the West Chester women’s soccer team is geared up and ready to redeem themselves in their 2010 campaign.In recent years, West Chester has built up a reputation for having a strong women’s soccer program. Their consistent PSAC Tournament appearances and incredible numbers both as a team and as individual players make them a constant hurdle for the rest of the PSAC teams.
Last year, West Chester dominated their regular season. Freshman goalkeeper Lyndsie Bernardini only allowed two goals all season, neither of which were given up on home turf. The Rams reached as high of a ranking as second in the nation at one point in the season. After breezing through the first two rounds of the PSAC Tournament, West Chester hosted the championship game on their south campus field and eventually hoisted the championship trophy.
After winning the PSAC tournament and earning a first round bye in the NCAA tournament, The Rams were stunned by the lower seeded IUP in the second round. The loss came just eight days after the Rams handily beat the Crimson Hawks by a score of 4-1.
West Chester will not get the opportunity to rematch IUP until they travel to their campus on October 2. Their first home game will be on September 2 against Chestnut Hill College in a non-conference match. They will get their first chance to tally a mark in the conference standings when they travel to Lock Haven on September 8.
After the Rams won their third PSAC title in the past four years, they have been picked to defend their title in the coach’s preseason poll. This is the sixth straight year that West Chester has been predicted to take the conference. West Chester has significant expectations set for them, with nine first place tallies of the possible fifteen.
In second place was California, who had their best season in school history last year. The Rams will not play against California until late in their season. Rounding out the top five in votes are IUP, Kutztown and Gannon.
With only two of last year’s players lost to graduation, the Rams will see the return of some of their key contributors to last season’s success story. Bernardini will return in goal for the Rams after a record-setting performance last year. Bernardini finished the season with a record 15 single season shut-outs and is on pace to have the most career wins in West Chester women’s soccer history.
Senior Jessica Bennett will reprise her role as the backbone of the defense. As a second-year captain and three-time letter winner, Bennett has the experience and leadership qualities to guide this team to another long postseason.
With her position at stopper, Bennett is the core of the defense. She controls the middle of the field and has the capabilities of keeping the pace of the game, making her an extremely important defensive asset to the Rams.
Up front, Sarah Oswald is looking to produce her fourth straight season as the Rams’ leading goal scorer. The West Chester forward is a constant obstacle for opposing coaches as she is a strong and very skilled goal scorer for the Rams.
She is also a three time letter winner and finished last season with 36 points (10 goals, 16 assists). Along with Bernardini, Oswald was named to the NSCAA Division II All-America Team.
Also returning this season for the Golden Rams are seniors Lara Bodenstab, Cindi Nickles and Jenna Arnold. For the juniors, Tara Malkiewicz and Brittany Couper will continue to be strong defensively. Sophomores Jen Hutchinson and Jen Gangl will be welcomed back to the line up after their performance for the Rams last season. They were both strong offensively, contributing eight and four goals to the team total, respectively.
In the offseason, the Rams also recruited 16 newcomers. The new freshmen, which include a backup goalkeeper, worked with the team to get ready for the new season. West Chester also has the luxury of a strong bench to call on in necessary situations.
Behind this exceptional cast of athletes is the most important player not on the field, head coach Betty Ann Kempf Townsley, who is entering her fourth season on the West Chester sideline. The coaching of Kempf Townsley has been a major influence in the dominant success of the soccer team. She holds a 50-8-9 record in her three-year tenure at West Chester.
Kempf Townsley has been the mentor for several eventual All-American players. In her first season as the Rams’ head coach, she led the team to the NCAA quarterfinals.
As opposed to previous seasons, where the PSAC consisted of two divisions, the East and the West, the conference will be consolidated into one larger division. West Chester finished last season with a record of 19-2-1 overall and 11-1 in the PSAC East.
Because of the combination of the two divisons, West Chester will only play each team in the conference once. In prior seasons, the Rams would only contend with teams from the West division in playoff competition and they would play the teams that also share the Eastern Division twice.
West Chester will not meet with Bloomsburg, who was responsible for West Chester’s only regular season loss in 2009, until eight games into the season.
PSAC Preseason Poll:
1. West Chester University
T6. Slippery Rock
T8. East Stroudsburg
13. Lock Haven
Amy Festa is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.