WALTHAM, Mass. – The Bentley women's soccer team begins its 2018 season on Thursday at the Merrimack Kickoff Classic, where they will take on Dominican in the opener and Molloy in the second game on Saturday.
Coming off last season's run to the Northeast-10 playoffs, the Falcons return 21 players from that squad, with the goal of going deeper in the playoffs this season. Among those 21 returnees are eight of the top nine scorers from 2017, all four starting defenseman, an All-Rookie team goalkeeper, plus the return of senior attacker Alyssa Valente (New Canaan, Conn./New Canaan), who scored 11 goals in her first two seasons before having to miss all of 2017 with an injury.
"Our goal is going deeper into the playoffs this season after we had a taste of it last year," commented head coach Lauren Lukis. "Returning 21 players from last year's roster certainly helps. They understand now what it takes to reach that level and are working hard to get there."
Valente's return adds to an already strong group of attacking players. Co-captain Brandi McDonald (East Bridgewater, Mass./East Bridgewater) was tied for the team lead in points last season with nine, with two goals and five assists. Junior Stephanie Helin (Manchester, Conn./East Catholic) tied for the team lead in goals with four, along with sophomore Lindsey Connolly (Suffield, Conn./Suffield).
Senior Carly Kohler (West Islip, N.Y./West Islip) returns to run things in midfield, the team's "quarterback" and a "key leader on the field" as Lukis calls her. Kohler has been a starter the last two seasons.
The Falcons have a solid core defensively with all four starters from last season returning, in addition to sophomore goalkeeper Kat Hassapis (North Reading, Mass./North Reading).
Senior co-captain Meagan Iris (Dix Hills, N.Y./Half Hollows West) helps lead the way, along with senior Lauren Bean (Newburyport, Mass./Newburyport). Iris has been a three year starter, while Bean has started every game the last two seasons. Junior Riane Hunt (Millis, Mass./Millis) has been a starter since her freshman year, and barely left the field last season as she averaged nearly 85 minutes played per game. Junior Sammy Millman (Northport, N.Y./Northport) started all 17 games last season as well, and is "dangerous both defensively and as an attacker," according to Lukis.
In goal, Hassapis was named to the NE10 All-Rookie team. In nine appearances as a freshman, she stopped 51 shots while posting two clean sheets and a 0.98 goals against average.
After this weekend's tournament, Bentley jumps right into NE10 action when they host AIC on Sept. 8 for its home opener. Road games against Merrimack and Assumption follow, before a home match against Adelphi in a tough opening of stretch of the schedule.
A home match against Franklin Pierce begins the month of October, followed by away games against Saint Rose and a playoff rematch with Southern New Hampshire. Home games against Le Moyne and Stonehill begin the closing stretch of the season, and the regular season concludes with a trip to New Haven.
"The NE10 is the most competitive Division II conference," Lukas opined. "We have a lot of respect for our opponents and realize every game matters, we have to be mentally and physically ready every game."