COLLIN PERRY | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR | email@example.com
Following a Big East championship and a NCAA tournament appearance in 2015, the Butler women’s soccer team fell off track at the end of last season.
Beginning with a 7-2-1 season through the nonconference schedule, the Bulldogs went just 4-4-1 in Big East play, finishing sixth in the conference. Their season came to an end against a strong Georgetown University team, knocking out Butler in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals 4-0.
Butler began regular season play on a three-game road trip. They tied then No. 18 University of Notre Dame 0-0. They lost at Ohio University 1-0 before bouncing back, winning at Michigan State University and winning their home opener over Bowling Green State University 2-0.
The Bulldogs graduated four seniors, including Serina Kashimoto. Kashimoto now plays professionally for MSV Duisburg in the German Frauen-Bundesliga.
“Everyone is aware, I think, of what Kashimoto meant to the team,” co-head coach Rob Alman said. “But there were other seniors that were hugely influential for the team.”
Despite losing their lead scorer in Kashimoto, Butler keeps a plethora of talent on the field. Junior forward Paige Monaghan finished the 2016 campaign with six goals and three assists, finishing second on the team in those categories.
“Last year, we were definitely good, but we never were great,” Monaghan said. “This year, we really want to break that barrier and be great as a whole.”
The Bulldogs also keep junior goalkeeper Hannah Luedtke, who finished last season with 10 shutouts. Junior forward Halle Stelbasky and senior defender Shannon McDevitt both made a major impact on the 2016 squad. Stelbasky is currently a starting forward, while McDevitt has been strong through four games this year.
“We’ve got a group of juniors and seniors that are excellent role models and leaders,” Alman said. “They’ve really brought the younger players along very quickly.”
While last year’s starters have led to some early success this season, there are several pleasant surprises in the early going: the eight incoming freshmen.
“We kinda laugh and joke about it in preseason, where we give them two days to be freshmen,” Alman said. “Then they’re not referred to freshmen anymore, and we expect them to be on the same page as everyone else. And they’ve really taken to that.”
Caitlyn DiSarcina is one of those new faces on the team. DiSarcina, a forward from Shirley, Massachusetts, has surely made an impact. Coming off the bench in all four games so far, she’s scored twice, including the game winners at Michigan State University and against Bowling Green State University. DiSarcina was named the Big East women’s soccer Freshman of the Week on Aug. 28 following the performance.
She has attributed some of her early success to her more experienced teammates.
“Having the older girls to look up to has made it so much easier,” DiSarcina said. “Halle Stelbasky, I like to watch her a lot, like how she moves and how she posts her players up.”
Freshman midfielder Elena Gutlove was named to the All-Ohio team twice in high school. The Massillon Jackson alumnus has started every game thus far and has scored twice for the first time in her collegiate career in the team’s last game against Bowling Green.
“Coming in, it’s obviously Division I, it’s obviously going to be competitive,” Gutlove said. “I was preparing all summer. In preseason, our fitness program, I always worked hard every day.”
Another new name for the Bulldogs is Leonie Doege. Doege, a goalkeeper from Langenfeld, Germany, has already won Big East Goalkeeper of the Week after shutting out Notre Dame. Since then, Doege has shut out Michigan State and played a scoreless half against Bowling Green.
Alman said the team has combined defense schemes and ways to play creative.
“I think things have come together pretty nicely,” Alman said.
While the team has enjoyed the early season success, Monaghan said the team is focused on preparing for conference play. Reigning conference champion Georgetown was picked to win the Big East this season after making it to the NCAA College Cup. The Bulldogs host the Hoyas at 1 p.m. on Oct. 22.