After a trying 2012 season that saw the Coast Guard women's soccer team finish 3-13-0 (1-8-0 NEWMAC), the Bears seem primed to take the next step to reach their primary goal and qualify for the NEWMAC tournament for the first time since the 2003 season. The optimism stems from the fact that the Bears lost just two starters from a season ago with the loss of Jill Kelly and graduation of Kelsey Freeman.

In addition to returning the vast majority of their starting lineup, Coast Guard also welcomes in a strong freshman class that features eight new faces. It should prove to be strong mix of veteran leadership and youthful talent.

The Bears will be led by seventh-year head coach Susan Grant (Cortland State, '95) and she'll be assisted by Amanda Illinger (seventh season), Lt. Beth Nakagawa (first season), and Anthony Occhialini (first season). The leadership responsibilities will not fall entirely on the coaching staff as senior tri-captains Devin Fellman, Judy Hooymans, and Emily Marks will be expected to be shoulder some of that load both on and off the field.

Coach Grant had a number of positive things to say about each of the captains. She said of Fellman, "Devin will be a key given the position she plays. Her maturity and vocal leadership, as well as her game sense are keys to guiding her teammates." Hooymans "is more of an off-the-field leader, making sure everything is going well behind the scenes. On the field, she works her tail off providing an example for her teammates to follow." Emily Marks, however, falls somewhere in the middle of those two by "blending the leadership styles of Devin and Judy excellently. She provides important communication from the center back position and is a hard worker."

Perhaps most key for the upcoming season is the amount of experience that they return. As with anything, teams are built around defense and Coast Guard is well-positioned in this regard. Fellman returns in goal after a strong season a year ago that saw her post an .812 save percentage (125 saves). The Bears will have two backups to Fellman in juniors Holly Moore and Brittany Zirulnick.

Additionally the Bears bring back three starting defenders in Hooymans, Marks, and junior Avery Ayers. Those three started all 16 games a season ago as the Bears recorded three shutout victories and held opponents to just 1.82 goals per game. Ayres will be important as an outside back going into her third season as a started and counted on to be a force in the backfield.

Coast Guard will also welcome back sophomore Andrea Saldana, who after starting her career as a reserve, worked her way into a starting role towards the end of last season as their fourth starting back. The Bears will also be adding two newcomers to the backfield depth chart with the additions of freshmen Emily Matthews (Chandler, Az.) and Kat Beasley (Voluntown, Conn.), both of whom will be expected to step in and contribute immediately.

On the offensive end the Bears return 85.7% of their scoring from last season led by Marks (4 goals) and sophomore forwards Caroline Eastman (3 goals) and Sheila Dutt (2 goals). Also returning are a pair of forwards in junior Liz Runci and sophomore Sarah Hills who recorded two assists apiece last year, both of whom will be expected to up their contributions this season. Coach Grant sees Hills as a key cog in this year's offense, expecting her to be one of the Bears' primary goal scorers.

Coast Guard will also welcome in a pair of standout freshmen to the forward and midfield ranks. Terry Netusil (Baldwinsville, N.Y) and Katie Clark (Sacramento, Ca.) are currently in line to be a starters after stellar preseason camps.

The Bears will also return starters Kristen Euchler (senior, midfielder), Lindsay Duplessis (junior, forward), and Hanna Jansson (sophomore, midfielder/defender). According to Coach Grant, "Euchler is a senior workhorse and the team feeds off her energy. She gives 110% all the time and will be counted on to be a leader."  Duplessis will also play a crucial role as a center midfielder where she'll be counted on to lead and direct the offense.

The midfield will be crowded as well this season with the return of junior Julia Mundy and sophomore Madison Ahlers. Mundy was used in a reserve role last season, who should see an increase in playing time this year. Ahlers battled through injury in 2012, but when healthy was a valuable asset and she'll be counted on to stay healthy and provide depth in the midfield. The Bears will also welcome in a pair of freshmen in Alyssa Sato (Waldorf, Md.) and Brianna Grisell (Brookfield, Conn.) who will be expected to be immediate contributors.

The schedule for the 2013 season will be challenging as always and strongly resembles the one put together a year ago. The Bears open the season at the Seahawk Invitational hosted by St. Mary's (MD) College against Randolph-Macon. The schedule features a pair of new teams including a match-up in the home opener on September 8th against UMass Dartmouth as part of the Conn. College/CGA Tournament. Also new to the Bears' schedule will be NEWMAC newcomer Emerson as Coast Guard will play them in a road game on October 26th.

The key to this season will be more of an emphasis on the offensive end with the combination of experience and youthful talent that this year's team offers. According to Coach Grant, "we'll have to maximize our chances but we'll also need to generate more shots which will lead to an increase in scoring..

The schedule will also feature a four-pack of games against 2012 NCAA Tournament teams. It gets started with a road game at Lasell on September 4th. Also included are a trio of home dates with Springfield (September 21st), Wheaton (October 22nd), and MIT (November 2nd).

The team goals for the season will be to qualify for the NEWMAC Tournament for the first time since 2003 and to sport a .500 winning percentage for the first time since 2002. From an execution standpoint, the club would like to be able to put half of their shot attempts on net and to defensively take aim at the school shutout record.

Things are looking positive and Coach Grant is excited to get the season underway, especially with the addition of this year's freshmen to complement a solid returning core. "This year's group is very talented and different from previous classes. They are more confident and comfortable when they step onto the field and that's shown by their propensity towards being vocal. They really seem to be meshing well with the upper classmen and they communicate well both on and off the field.

The 2013 season gets underway on Friday, August 30th at the Seahawk Invitational hosted by St. Mary's (MD) against Randolph-Macon at 4:00 pm. The championship round will take place a day later with the consolation match at 12:00 pm and the championship at 2:00 pm. The Bears will open up their home schedule on Sunday, September 8th when they host UMass Dartmouth in the Conn. College/CGA Tournament.