Date Posted:09/05/2002,  8:00AM

Women's Soccer Preview

For the Bowdoin College women?s soccer team, success is the norm. Over the past ten seasons, the Polar Bears have reached the ten-win mark nine times. Since 1980, Bowdoin has averaged over 11 wins per season. The task before head coach John Cullen?s team is to continue that success with a group of players that includes just two seniors, but a plethora of talented underclassmen. In 2001, Bowdoin posted an 11-4-1 mark and fell in the NESCAC Semifinals for the second straight season. In 2002, the Polar Bears will look to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000.

?The first thing we set out to do is to reach a good level of conditioning,? according to Cullen, who enters his 17th season at the helm, with an overall mark of 187-63-19. ?I?m very pleased with the way they came into camp. The most important thing, however is trying to remain healthy.?

The exciting part of the 2002 Polar Bears is that of the eleven players who scored last year for the team, eight are returning; including the teams? top two scorers, junior Jill Falwell (Arlington, Mass.) and sophomore Rachael Gordon (Wayland, Mass.). Falwell tallied nine goals and three assists in 2001, while Gordon scored seven goals and had three helpers. Joining the attack for Bowdoin will be senior Shelly Chessie (Fredericton, N.B.), who was third on the team last year with 13 points overall. An outstanding junior class that includes Michal Shapiro (Newton, Mass.), Hillary Smith (Denver, Colo.), Julie Barnes (Wayne, Pa.) and Christina Goss (Shrewsbury, Mass.) will also be depended upon to contribute on offense, while sophomores Cedar Goldman (Newton, Mass.) and Christina Woodward (Lexington, Mass.) will look to improve on promising first seasons. First-years Kelsey Wilcox (Cumberland, Maine) and Haillie Mueller (Sandy Hook, Conn.) will contribute at forward and midfield, while sophomores Julie Gallant (Windsor Locks, Conn.) and Rachel Kennedy (Monroe, Conn.) will look to step up in their first seasons on the varsity squad.

On defense, Bowdoin returns senior Amory Bradley (Weston, Mass.), the veteran of the backfield, along with junior Leah Bressack (Los Altos, Calif.). Sophomores Kendall Cox (Guilford, Conn.) and Melissa Anderson (Eden Prairie, Minn.) will also step into key roles in the backfield for the Polar Bears. A solid group of newcomers on defense will bring energy to the team, as first-years Kerri Brennan (Arlington, Mass.) and Meredith Railsback (Concord, Mass.) will join with sophomore Brigid Burke (Beverly, Mass.) in the backfield.

?I don?t know if we?ll have the offensive ability we?ve had in the past out of our backfield,? says Cullen. ?We?ll be working to try and get better chances out of our defense. But we have four players with good experience on defense, and that?s a big advantage.?

Losing a senior goalie always results in a learning process the following season, but Cullen is confident that the fierce pre-season competition between Maine natives, junior Rebekah Metzler (Hancock, Maine) and sophomore Anna Shapell (Cape Elizabeth, Maine), will produce a solid, front-line keeper for the Polar Bears in 2002.

Bowdoin will open the season with three straight road contests before returning home to U.N.E. on September 17. The key stretch for the Polar Bears will be a one-week stretch late this month into early October when they face perennial NESCAC foes Amherst, Middlebury and Tufts in a seven-day stretch- all at home.

?Right now, I?d have to say defending NESCAC Champion Amherst is the team to beat until proven otherwise,? says Cullen. ?But I?m really excited about our group of players and I?m confident that we?ll be in it at the end.?