CASTLETON, Vt. –The Castleton University women's soccer team opens its 2019 season on the road at Plattsburgh on Friday, August 30.
The Spartans are set to endure an 18-game schedule in their second season in the Little East Conference (LEC). After the season-opener against the Cardinals, Castleton open at home on Sunday, September 1 as it plays host to intrastate rival, Norwich, at 1 p.m. at Dave Wolk Stadium. The Spartans will next host Westfield State at Applejack Field in Manchester, Vermont on September 3 before a pair road non-conference matches at Emmanuel and MCLA lead-way to the conference opener at home on September 14 versus Keene State.
Long-time head coach, Chris Chapdelaine, returns for his 15th season at the helm of the program in 2019. He enters the campaign with an overall record of 167-102-21. Chapdelaine and the coaching staff has focused hard on creating a winning environment for the team in the preseason. "The environment that we have been creating has really taken a step forward and gotten better and it's exciting to see," said Chapdelaine. "We want to set a good standard of what we expect every day and we just want to get out there and bring it." New to the coaching staff is out-going team captain Kaitie Sanders, who concluded her stellar playing career as a Spartan in 2018 with Second Team All-LEC honors as a defender.
Castleton finished its opening season as an LEC member at 7-12-0 and an 85th-minute surrendered goal to UMass Boston in the quarterfinals in a 1-0 affair. "I think we're definitely ready to take the next step in the Little East," said Spartan junior goalkeeper Loren Henderson. "Now with that idea of what is to come, I think we can really build upon that and use our new talent to really be successful in conference play this season." Henderson started all 19 games for Castleton in 2018 and earned a spot on the All-LEC Second Team thanks to a 1.97 goals-against average and .769 save percentage and a conference-leading 123 saves.
The new talent includes nine newcomers made up of seven freshmen and a pair of transfers. Tatum Shappy, Izzy Scott, Ashlee Meczywor, Haley Hodgdon, Bella Varisco, Julia Blanchard are the class of incoming freshman competing for time in the field. Freshman Hanna Richards adds to the goalkeeper depth, which also includes Alex Benfatti, who played two games with one start last season at Rensselaer. Kaidin Gauthier is the final newcomer and a transfer from Southern Vermont College after scoring four goals and two assists in the final season of Mountaineer soccer.
Makenzi Bellando was the leading goal-scorer for the Spartans in 2018 and was named a First Team All-LEC all-star. She looks be a crucial component of the offense once again after scoring 10 goals and added an assist in her junior season. She scored the game-winning goal in four occasions including an overtime winner against Eastern Connecticut State. "I'm excited for making most of this experience and topping my career off with this group of girls," said Bellando as she enters her farewell season.
Also expected to lead the offensive effort is junior Rylee Nichols, who netted five goals with three assists in 2018. Junior Julia Carone had a team-leading six assists a year ago and is also primed for a major role in the attack in 2019. Additionally, sophomore Taylor Mann scored four goals last season and led the top-eight point-getters in shooting percentage.
Junior Cassidy Newman and sophomore Stephanie Burkhammer project to log major minutes across the back-line for the Spartans after each started all 19 games a year ago. Liz Bell, who started 16 games in 2018, will also look to be a steadying force for Castleton in the midfield, while Dallas Brodhead returns after playing all 19 games for Castleton off the bench last season. Seniors Callie Miltenberger, Jamie Ledoux and Erin Tully, junior Jamie Barrett, along with sophomores Callie Miltenberger and Krista Girroir all bring experience to the squad planning to take on bigger roles for the Spartans this season.