Women's Soccer Lands Third on NAC Preseason Poll

Women's Soccer Lands Third on NAC Preseason Poll

CASTLETON, Vt. – After posting a 5-2-2 league record and advancing to the conference semifinals for the ninth straight year last season, the Castleton women's soccer team has been selected third in the North Atlantic Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll, as announced Wednesday morning by the league office.

Four different teams received first-place votes in a tight poll conducted by the league head coaches. Castleton earned 79 points with one first-place tally, while first and second place was separated by one point. New England College (90) earned four first-place votes to edge out defending NAC Champion Colby-Sawyer (89) for the top spot. Husson received the final two first-place votes and 74 points to take fourth overall, just ahead of Maine Maritime, which rounded out the top five with 67 points overall. To view the full NAC preseason poll release, click here.

Castleton finished the 2016 regular season with a 7-8-6 overall mark and saw their season come to an end in the conference semifinals against New England College. The Spartans graduated seven seniors – all of whom saw action in every game last season. 13th-year head coach Chris Chapdelaine recognizes the challenges that come with a young roster, but is also excited about the opportunities it presents his squad heading into 2017. "It will take some time for us to grow, and we have already seen some of that development through our preseason and scrimmages. I am confident that our strong group of returners can set the bar high for the incoming class," said Chapdelaine.

12 players return to the squad this season, many of which made an impact on both offense and defense last season. Sophomore forward Makenzi Bellando tied for the team lead with eight goals and leads all returners with 18 points last season. Her 16 points in nine conference contests were second on the squad and she recorded the game-winning goal against Thomas, highlighting her first career hat trick in a 4-0 win at Spartan Stadium. Junior forward Bronwen Hopwood is back on the offensive end in 2017 after enjoying a strong sophomore season that featured 14 points on five goals and four assists in 18 games played. Hopwood led the squad with two game-winning goals, including the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Gordon in non-conference action. Bellando and Hopwood look to anchor an offensive unit that averaged 4.33 goals per game in conference play last season, which was tied for first in the league.

Junior defender Kaitie Sanders looks to continue her strong play on the back line after starting all 21 games last season. Junior Kinnan Latremore also returns to a solid defensive unit that allowed 1.43 goals per game last season, good for third-lowest in the conference. Sanders and Latremore join Bellando as the three returners who played in all 21 games in 2016. Seniors Kiley Baran, Kate Steller, and Kaitlin Cole bring experience to the squad, totaling 31 wins over the last three years with an appearance in the NAC Championship in 2014.

Castleton has brought in eight freshmen this season and they look to work well with the strong core of returners on the pitch this season. Freshmen Julia Carone and Jamie Barrett look to contribute to the young Spartan midfielder group, while there has been a preseason battle in net between freshman goalkeepers Rachel Shambo and Loren Henderson. The incoming class has Chapdelaine thrilled to get the 2017 season underway. "We have a lot of great individual talent on our roster this season, we just have to work to play together. If we can build our team chemistry and play well as a team, we will achieve all the goals we have in mind this season. We have a pretty tough non-conference schedule this season, with Plattsburgh State, MCLA, and Eastern Connecticut all on the road, but it will only help us come together and ultimately we want to be playing our best soccer at the end of the season," said the five-time NAC Coach of the Year.

Castleton opens its 2017 competitive season on Friday night at Plattsburgh State at 7 p.m. The Spartans will return home to face Westfield State in their home opener Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m., before opening conference play just over one week later at New England College on Sept 16.