LANCASTER, Pa. – Bill Esterly enters his third season at the helm of the Franklin & Marshall women's soccer program looking to build off of last year's appearance in the Centennial Conference (CC) postseason. In 2011, Esterly led the Diplomats to an 8-7-1 overall record, a 6-4 CC mark and their first trip to the conference playoffs since 2002. The team's success has been on a steady incline since Esterly has taken the helm, and the 2012 team will look to continue that momentum this fall.
"In the past two seasons we've taken important steps in building the foundations of our style of play," said Esterly. "This is in large part due to the willingness of the team to work hard and buy into what we've presented to them as a coaching staff."
The Diplomats welcome back nine members from last year's starting lineup and a core group of upperclassmen that have been a huge part of helping the team improve, including All-CC goalkeeper Amanda McGowan and each of their leading scorers from 2011. In fact, the Diplomats return 100% of their scoring from a season ago.
McGowan was a First Team All-CC performer in the net for the Diplomats last season. The junior allowed only 17 goals in 16 games as the last line of defense for the team. She garnered a .730 save percentage and achieved eight shutouts on the year.
Esterly also welcomes back senior and 2010 All-CC Honorable Mention pick Carley Nicholson, juniors Nancy Epstein and Selena Boro, and sophomore Spencer Plante – a group that provided much of F&M's scoring punch in 2011. Epstein paced the Diplomats with three goals last fall, while Nicholson, Boro and Plante each notched two scores apiece.
In the midfield, seniors Libby Merritt, Jen Korngut and Sarah McGahran have been vital pieces to the improvement of the team since their freshmen year. All three have been skilled and dependable players that will look to continue their presence into their final year. Sophomore Alexa Yarish is also back in the midfield mix this fall.
The defensive unit loses a pair of multi-year starters and 2011 All-CC performers in Bailey Huber and Henley Siegrist, but welcomes back senior Holly Lagasse along with multiple players able to make an impact. Lagasse is back as one of the anchors of a defense that held its opponents to just 1.03 goals per game last year. Juniors Allyson Reid and Stephanie Bartner and sophomore Megan Rubenstein also return to the backfield unit this fall.
Esterly also likes what he sees from his newcomers.
"So far, the first year players have done a good job of integrating themselves into the team," said Esterly. "They've all performed well in the preseason." Esterly anticipates Kim Kornbluth and Vanessa Duarte to step right in and make an impact early in the season.
The Diplomats will face a challenging schedule this fall that features multiple stiff non-conference matchups in addition to the always-competitive CC.
"Our conference is extremely competitive and each year there is less and less to separate the teams from one another," said Esterly. "Johns Hopkins has established themselves as the team to beat, but the Centennial continues to be competitive from top to bottom each year."
F&M opens its season at home on Sep. 1 at 3:00 p.m. against Covenant, before going up against No. 6 Emory the following day at 1:00 p.m., also at home on Tylus Field. The Diplomats begin CC play at home on Sept. 15 against Swarthmore.