By Carmine Vetrano
The defending NEC champions have all the pieces in place for the 2009 season, as they are picked as first place favorites in the preseason NEC poll. The CCSU women’s soccer team is coming off a 2008 season in which they won their seventh league title since 1997.
Last season, the Blue Devils got hot at the right time winning nine of their last 12 games towards the end stretch of their schedule. The Blue Devils beat the regular season champions and number one playoff seed Long Island University 1-0, off then-junior Leah Blayney’s lone goal to obtain the NEC crown.
That win put the Blue Devils into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005. They would eventually run into the nationally ranked no. 10 Boston College Eagles, who were pitted the third seed in the Women’s College Cup tournament. The Eagles won the first round game 3-0, ending the Blue Devils season with a 12-7-4 record (7-2 NEC).
Head coach Mick D’Arcy is coming back for his 10th season in 2009 as he returns to the sidelines for the Blue Devils. D’Arcy, who won his 100th game at Central last season, has guided the women’s soccer team to the NCAA tournament five times since 2002 by claiming five NEC crowns.
The team is only losing four varsity players in 2009, however two of the four were team points-leader Rachel Caneen and playoff MVP goalkeeper Erin Herd. Herd had a positive impact on now starting-senior goalkeeper Caity Casey.
“I learned from Erin a lot about how important a strong mentality is,” Casey said. “She had several injuries she overcame and in the end was very successful. I think everyone could learn from the example she set.”
CCSU returns 11 of their 13 top scorers for this year’s campaign. Coming back is senior Leah Blayney who was second on the team last year in points with 12 while registering seven goals.
“A personal goal for me is for Central to win another NEC title and advance past the first round of the NCAA [Tournament],” Blayney said of the upcoming season.
Blayney likes the fact that the team is the one being hunted this season.
She said, “The message it gives our team is that we are respected within the league but understand that we cannot take that for granted. It has given us expectations we are excited to meet.”
As a junior, Casey started in eight games just shy of 770 minutes between the posts. She had 39 saves for a save percentage of .780 while possessing a 1.29 goals against average. Casey had a record of 4-4 in the net for the Blue Devils. She is not afraid of the challenge ahead of her by being the definite mainstay in net.
“Four of my teammates and I played at a very competitive level over the summer,“ Casey expressed. “The training sessions and games was the best preparation I could have gotten.”
CCSU was lights out at home last season with a perfect 5-0 record. However, home is a distant thought for the 2009 season as the Blue Devils play their first seven of eight games on the road before returning to New Britain in late September.
“Its always fun to win at home, we have a very supportive fan base and a great field,” Blayney said. “We will prepare for away trips as we do home games with adequate rest, meals and down time.”
CCSU gained eight first-place votes out of a possible 11 to seize the number one spot. LIU was picked at the no. two position followed by Monmouth and St. Francis (PA). Quinnipiac University was tabbed for fifth place, as Farleigh Dickinson and Robert Morris held the sixth and seventh spots respectively. In their first season of NEC play, Bryant University holds the eight spot along with counterpart Sacred Heart University. Wagner sits at the 10 seed while Mount St. Mary’s rounds out the list in last place.
The rematch of the 2008 NEC title game between CCSU and LIU is Sun. at 2 p.m. on October 18 in New Britain as they will meet for the first time this season.
“Playing LIU is always one of my favorite games because it is always a battle,“ Casey said about the excitement of playing LIU. “Having them win the regular season gives us even more motivation to win. I love nothing more than to beat LIU.”
The Blue Devils start the run for another NEC title with the TD Bank Classic Tournament in Burlington, VT as they face Siena College Friday at 1 p.m. and Vermont University Sun. at 1:30 p.m. The Blue Devils return home on Friday September 4 as the face Buffalo University at 1 p.m. on the CCSU soccer field.