Women’s soccer: Mix of players lead to surprising season

BRENDAN KING | STAFF REPORTER

The Butler women’s soccer team concluded its 2013 season with a 3-2 loss to St. John’s in the Big East Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

Although the Bulldogs were eliminated in the first round of the tournament, team members took away a number of positives.

Co-head coach Rob Alman said the team had a better season than even the coaches predicted.

“I think the team overachieved this year and exceeded expectations in much the same way as it did last year,” Alman said. “With the move to the Big East Conference, we took a huge jump in the level of competition we had to face this season.”

The team finished with an overall record of 11-7-2 and 4-5 in the Big East. That was good for a fifth-place finish in the 10-team conference.

“It’s amazing that these players are capable of producing at the level they do and something they should be proud of,” Alman said. “It’s fun to punch a little above your weight, and that’s something we hope to continue to do.”

The Bulldogs had that punch thanks to the play of its younger athletes.

The team’s top six point-earners were a mix of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, and goalkeeper Julie Burton is a senior as well.

Sophomore midfielder Sophie Maccagnone led the squad in nearly every offensive category. She tallied 28 points—16 more than any teammate—made up of a team-high 10 goals and a team-high eight assists.

Maccagnone said her favorite goal this season was one she scored against against Providence Oct. 12.

“My team was playing really well, and then having to go into overtime makes things very exhausting, and we all just want to score that winning goal,” Maccagnone said. “When (junior forward) Elise (Kotsakis) had the ball, she did an amazing job at keeping it and putting it in the perfect place across the net.”

Maccagnone earned her second consecutive first-team All Conference honor, this time in the Big East, last week. Kotsakis and freshman midfield Serina Kashimoto earned second-team honors.

Alman said the honor is well-deserved for Maccagnone.

“She receives a lot of attention and plaudits because she is a special player and well on her way to becoming one of the best players—if not the best—player ever to pull on a Butler jersey,” Alman said.

One of Butler’s top six point-earners was freshman midfielder McKenzie Muchow.

In Muchow’s first year of collegiate soccer, she scored three goals and had six points.

Perhaps her biggest goal was against the University of Michigan. It was the game-winner, propelling Butler to a 1-0 upset victory over the nationally-ranked Wolverines.

The goal also briefly gave the Bulldogs a position in the Soccer America Women’s Top 25, in position No. 25.

“The goal was off a cross from a senior, (midfielder) Mary Allen, and she could not have gave me a better opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net,” Muchow said.

Allen and forward Katie Griswold are two of six seniors who will depart from the squad prior to next season. They were both top-six point scorers for Butler.

The other seniors are Burton and defenders Anna Ventimiglia, Olivia Colosimo and Ali Backscheider.

Griswold has been with the team for five seasons. She said not playing collegiate soccer will be a brand new experience for her next year.

“I’m sad to leave everything and everyone, but I’m excited to see where and what I will be doing in less than a year,” Griswold said. “Being a student-athlete has definitely taught me time management. It has also taught me about hard work.”

This group features athletes who were part of three different athletic conferences.

They were part of a Horizon League-winning team their freshman year, from which they moved on to compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference and Big East.

“This group of seniors will be tough to replace,” Alman said. “The culture they leave behind makes it possible for our incoming freshmen to follow in their footsteps.

“We will look for them to contribute and compete for starting spots from day one, along with some of our current players who will step up and fill both leadership and on field roles.”

The mix of upperclassmen and younger players resulted in noteworthy victories against Michigan, Xavier and Creighton.

Muchow said the seniors had a great effect on her freshman season.

“The seniors were willing to do anything to help not only the freshman class, but anyone on the team,” Muchow said. “They were some of the most motivating group of girls I’ve ever played with and that rubbed off on our team in a positive way.”

As the Bulldogs look to the future, Muchow and Maccagnone will be integral parts of Butler’s system.

“Our expectations for next season are to come out stronger and represent all the seniors and other Butler alumni that have made this program what it is today,” Muchow said. “With one year of Big East play under our belt, I think we will be even more ready to show everyone what Butler women’s soccer is all about.”

Alman knows it’s going to take hard work to keep the program prominent on a national stage, but the team is ready to face challenges to that goal.

“Our ultimate aim will be to secure a spot in the national tournament,” Alman said. “But that is a long way off, and we know the only thing we can control is working hard to get better every day.”

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