Hiram, Ohio -- This fall, the Hiram College women's soccer team will have a balance between veteran and newcomer experience as the Terriers look to improve from a year ago.
Hiram (3-13-2, 0-7-1 NCAC in 2011), will return nine starters and one goalkeeper from last year and will be led by six seniors, including leading scorer and All-NCAC forward Ernestina Zappa (Brooklyn/Laurel). To go along with nine starters, the Terriers also welcome back 13 letterwinners to this season's roster.
Highlighting the list of returning forwards this season will be Zappa who led the team in almost every statistical category including: goals (six), assists (three) and total points (15). She started all 18 games in 2011 and had a .261 shot percentage tallying 23 shots with 12 being on goal. Joining Zappa, will be sophomores Samantha Zuponcic (Mantua/Crestwood) and Sarah Condon (Powell/Bishop Watterson) at the forward position. In her first season with the program, Zuponcic played in 15 games primarily coming off the bench. She ended the season second on the team in goals with three for six points. She took 16 shots, with nine on goal, and had a .188 shot percentage. Condon played in all 18 games and started 13. She scored one goal in 11 shots for two points during the season.
Hiram returns a host of players at the midfielder position who could also see playing time at forward. Amongst the returning players, sophomore Tiffany Marchewka (Chesterfield, Mich./L'Anse Creuse North) scored a position-best two goals last season with two on a to end the season with four points. Marchewka only posted six shots during the season for a .333 shot percentage. Also looking to provide offense for the Terriers from the midfielder role will be fellow sophomore Natasha Blonsky (Calabasas, Calif./Agoura). Blonsky played in 17 games as a freshman and started 12. She scored one goal in five shots to place in a tie for fifth on the team. Other players to watch this season are: seniors Stephanie Takeuchi (Milton, Ontario/E.C. Drury), Hannah Brown (North Olmsted), juniors Vanessa Consolo (Ravenna/Rootstown), Megan Verel (Aurora) and sophomores Jocelyn Schmidt (Kent/Roosevelt) and Kelsey Martin (Austintown/Fitch).
As a squad, the Hiram defense averaged 2.04 goals against per game and will return five starters in 2012. Leading the group will be senior All-NCAC player Olivia Dagg (Brampton, Ontario/Central Peel Secondary). Dagg was a mainstay on defense playing in all 18 games and starting 11. She recorded 10 shots from her defender position with six of those shots being on goal. Along side Dagg, will be fellow senior Lyndsay Witmer (Ashland/Hillsdale) who also played in all 18 games last season and started 16. Witmer also got involved offensively scoring one goal and an assist for three points. Breann Mason (Mentor/Lake Catholic) is the third senior making up a strong corp of veterans in the backfield. Mason saw playing time in 16 games in 2011 and started 11. In addition, look for returning players Chelsey Christie (Niles/McKinley), Anna Cicchinelli (Stow/St. Vincent-St. Mary), Maggie Picolo (Springfield/Enon), Becca Simon (Mantua/Crestwood) to provide depth at the defender position.
Hiram will be without one of its starting goaltenders from last season, but will return senior Kate Valaitis (Lewis Center/Olentangy) who split time as a starter in 2011. Last fall, Valaitis played in 13 games with nine starts. She finished the season with a 2.04 goals against average and a 1-6-0 record. She tallied 56 saves in nearly 706 minutes of playing time.
The Terriers open the 2012 season on Friday, Aug 31 against Houghton College in Houghton, N.Y. The game will be one of eight non-conference games to begin the season before Hiram opens North Coast Athletic Conference play on Saturday, Sept. 22 against DePauw (Ind.) University. The Terriers will play seven of 10 games in September at home, but will only play three of its final seven games at home in the month of October to wrap-up the regular season.