Women's soccer preview: Consistency could aid upward trend

Co-captain Leah Humes '16 would give her team a big lift by staying healthy for the entire 2015 season. (File photo courtesy of David Graves) 

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates College women's soccer team begins its 2015 season on Tuesday at the University of Southern Maine, hoping to recapture its winning ways from the first half of last season.

Bates began the 2014 campaign winning six of its first eight games and finished with the program's most victories in eight years, despite tailing off in the second half. 

The Bobcats attained a winning record with non-league shutout wins over Saint Joseph's and Southern Maine, then really found a groove from mid- to late September, picking up three NESCAC victories in a four-game span against Hamilton, Wesleyan and Trinity. 

A one-goal loss at Amherst kicked off the Bobcats' October slide, with close-but-no-cigar setbacks against the iron of the conference, including Connecticut College, Middlebury and Williams, which finished as the national runner-up, one of four conference teams to compete in the NCAA Championship tournament.

Fifth-year head coach Kelsy Ross is counting on this year's squad to find and maintain a level of consistency that went missing this fall. Bates opens conference play at Hamilton on Saturday, Sept. 12, then plays its home opener against Husson on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 8pm, in what will be the team's second annual Maine High School Night.

Senior forwards Julia Rice (Providence, R.I.) and Leah Humes (Beaconsfield, Quebec) captain the team; due to injury, Rice will be confined to the sidelines this season, but Humes may be the key of what Ross hopes will be a persistent attack, one constantly creating more shooting opportunities. Humes had a goal and four assists in seven games before a season-ending injury. Senior Karen Lockhart (East Greenwich, R.I.) also returns from injuries and should be an attacking option on the front line

Sophomore Julia Rosen (Springfield, Ill.) can give the Bobcats a lift by repeating last year's nine-point scoring output, leading a cadre of younger players who found the back of the net in 2014, including now-juniors Ana Urbina (Bow, N.H.), Erin Shea (Marshfield, Mass.) and Rebecca Titcomb (Henniker, N.H.), as well as now-sophomores Libby Masalsky (Dedham, Mass.) and Caroline Andy (Concord, N.H.).

Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah McCarthy's (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) nine starts in goal is experience the defense will bank on, though the team boasts depth at goalie with sophomore Allegra Sacco (Medway, Mass.) and first-year Talia Regenstein (San Francisco, Calif.), who have been impressive in practice thus far.

Junior 2014 team MVP Allison Hill (Brunswick, Maine) will return from injury later this month, leaving the defense to be anchored by hardnosed senior Caitrin Griffin (Geneva, Ill.), junior Kyla Rabb (Stamford, Conn.), Titcomb and junior Hannah Graves (Weston, Mass.). Crafty, vocal senior Maggie Coco (Avon, Conn.) will direct teammates in game play at center midfield.

"This year's squad is hungry for success," said Ross. "They have been since last fall. The attitude and focus is different from past preseasons and we're going to build on that. Last year was a step in the right direction for Bates women's soccer, but we're not satisfied."