CANTON -- While the 2010 St. Lawrence University women's soccer roster has 14 first years and sophomores, 10 juniors and not a senior to be found, the apparent youth of the team belies its experience as the Saints prep for a Friday opener against Lasell College at Sandy MacAllaster Field.
The Saints, coming off a 9-6-3 2009 season, will host Lasell as part of the annual Lotto Tournament with Geneseo and Clarkson squaring off in game two on Friday at 4 p.m. St. Lawrence will play Geneseo at 1 p.m. on Saturday with Lasell taking on Clarkson at 3 p.m. The Saints have won the last three Lotto Tournament titles and did not surrender a goal in last year's tournament.
This year's test will be a little tougher as Lasell is coming off a 9-6-2 season and Geneseo was 14-5-2 a year ago, but third-year Saint coach Franco Bari is looking forward to the challenge for his team.
"While we have a young team, it is one with a lot of experience and excellent depth," Bari said. "With the addition of a good group of freshmen, the talent and chemistry of the team has been elevated and thus far we have had a very strong training environment.
"This opening weekend is going to be a good test for us both physically and mentally. The leadership of junior captains Devon Shatkin, Katherine Polido and Abby van Geldern has been fantastic thus far, and the team has responded very well to the challenges that have been presented to them," Bari added.
Two-year starter van Geldern will anchor the Saint defense as she returns for her third season as the main Saint goalkeeper. She played all but four minutes in goal last season and had a 1.01 goals against average, an .844 save percentage and five shutouts. She has started every game in her first two seasons for the Saints and has 13 shutouts among 19 career wins.
"We have added freshman Andrea Strauss and with two-year backup Amanda Chase also returning, we have added depth which compliments the talents of Abby," said Bari.
Defensively, key backfield returnees for the Saints include Polido, who was also the Saint corner kick specialist last year and piled up seven assists, plus Shatkin, who started all 18 games and also scored a goal. Newcomers Corinne Werner and Liz LaPrade have impressed in the pre-season while sophomores Emily Marvin and Mandy Godin join freshman Addie Peterson in providing defensive depth.
Junior Kirsten Newton and newcomer Julia Friesen will provide solid midfield defensive support in front of the backs with sophomores Danielle Durocher and Brooke Hessney also providing both offensive and defensive skill in the middle.
The Saints averaged just under two goals per game last season and the potential is there for an even more potent offense in 2010.
Sophomore Stephanie Sayward led the Saints with six goals and seven assists in 16 games while junior Kristina Peso scored five goals and assisted on five others. Junior forward Marcelle Justison shows outstanding speed and scored five goals with two assists while junior Elena Rogers is a key figure offensively and a weapon on throw-ins who had part of her sophomore season hampered by injury. Junior Betsy Lucas and sophomore Alex Troli will also be key figures offensively with newcomer Erika Gobielle turning in an impressive pre-season.
Rookie Anna Kowalczyk, sophomore Laura Stewart and junior Louise Wheeler will also contend for significant roles in the Saint offense, providing excellent depth at both forward and midfield.
The Saints open the season with three straight at home before playing three games in as many days in the Wellesley Classic Sept. 11-13. SLU plays at RIT and Elmira before opening Liberty League competition with Vassar and Rensselaer at home at Sept. 24-25.