CASTLETON, Vt. – Fresh off winning the 2017 North Atlantic Conference title, the Castleton University women's soccer team is looking to carry over its success into its first year as a member of the Little East. The team has been ranked fourth in the conference's preseason poll.
Chris Chapdelaine – in his 14th season as head coach of the Spartans – will lead the team against quite a few new opponents but will start with a familiar foe in Plattsburgh.
"Plattsburgh is good. I know the coaches really well; they have done a great job with that program and have some awesome players. They made it all the way to the SUNYAC Championship game last year…I anticipate it will be a good test for us to see where we are at compared to them."
In 2017, the host Cardinals scored a couple of early goals to sink the Spartans. Yet, Castleton had its chances, tallying eight shots. This year's edition will take place at Applejack Stadium in Manchester, Vt.
The grass surface will give the team an opportunity to test itself in more ways than one.
"We are going to have to do that a couple of times this year…at Keene and RIC…"
Early on in last year's contest at Plattsburgh, Bronwen Hopwood – looking to give the Spartans a lead – lifted the ball just past the goal. She will be a large part of a returning group that will be relied on to lead the newcomers.
"We are fortunate that we have a solid group. We have Rylee Nichols coming back, she had a great freshman campaign…it will be nice to have Loren Henderson back from a season-ending injury. Bronwen Hopwood had a breakout year…Julia Carone, Makenzi Bellando are back and ready to go. We have Kaitie Sanders for another year. I think, for the most part, we are in a good spot."
Nichols (31) and Bellando (26) combined for 57 points to lead the squad, while each player notched two game-winning goals. The duo was one-two on the team in the goals scored category with 14 and 10, respectively. Hopwood and Carone followed closely behind with seven scores apiece.
As far as the freshman class goes, Chapdelaine believes fans will see them in action almost right way. "They are all very solid. I think you will see them out there, playing, gaining experience and pushing forward."
"The goal every year is to win the conference and go on to the NCAA Championship. That's everyone's goal and it doesn't change, but as far as what we are focusing on, we want to grow as a team and get better at what we do. Control the controllable and the outcomes will work themselves out."
Following the neutral site game against Plattsburgh, Castleton heads out on the road for games at Sage and Westfield State. The Spartans home opener will be against Emmanuel at 3 p.m. on Sept. 8.
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