After what he deemed one of the most successful seasons in the recent history of the St. John's women's soccer program, head coach Ian Stone could not wait for the start of the 2000 season.
And who could blame him. The Red Storm return 10 starters from a team that finished with a 10-6-3 record last year.
"It's one of the few years in recent years we have a lot of experience coming back," Stone said.
Stone's club, picked to finish fifth of six teams in the Northeast Division of the Big East conference, lost defender Anne Johnson to graduation, but returns several key cogs from last year's squad.
Leading the returnees is senior Jaime Clark from Massapequa, L.I., who had six goals and eight assists for 20 points last year.
"When Jaime is on her game, she is very difficult to stop, even for some of the better teams in our conference," Stone said. "She is difficult to cope with because she has a combination of skill and speed."
Junior Marissa Stork from Flushing is also one of the team's top returning scoring threats. The St. Francis Prep grad led St. John's with 23 points last year with eight goals and seven assists.
"She is very skillful, very creative," Stone said. "We have always had well-organized players, but we did not have many players who have shown moments of brilliance. Marissa is that type of player."
Sophomore Erin Zambelli from Lake Ronkonkoma, L.I. has already picked up where she left off last year when she came off the bench to score seven goals, including four game-winners. Zambelli netted the game-winner in a 2-1 win over Hofstra in the preseason.
Also back up front is junior Lisa Kaczmarski, who scored 14 goals in her first two years with the team before taking off last year. And with junior midfielder Lisa Rinaldi, who has a powerful left foot and led the team with 10 assists last year in the midfield, sophomore Joanna Dawson and junior Kristy Bergen, Stone has no doubt his team will score some goals this year.
"We definitely have more offensive weapons this year," he said. "We should play more inspired up front."
The biggest question for St. John's, which opened its season against Fordham University in a game scheduled for Tuesday night, will be in its defensive third of the field. Stone's team will score, but can it stop opponents from finding the back of the net?
Sophomore sweeper Jen Taylor should provide a calming influence to a relatively inexperienced group of defenders which includes freshman marking back Courtney Rett and senior marking back Phyllis LaTour who will play in front of senior keeper Jen Frankel.
"We have the potential to put everything together and have a successful season," Stone said. "We have a pretty deep midfield and if we have no injuries, we have 23 players who can play. We've never had that before."
But while Stone's club has improved, so too has the rest of the Big East. In addition to the regular cast of characters atop of the league, including Notre Dame, ranked No. 2 in the country in the preseason poll, and No. 9 University of Connecticut, schools like Boston College, Syracuse and Villanova should all field strong teams.
"It's going to be a case of who is prepared to do it on any given day in the Big East," he said.
©2000 Community News Group
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