Kenyon ladies to start title defense with solid defense

Defense will be a key word for the 2015 Kenyon College women’s soccer team. Not only will the team’s defensive unit be its strength in the upcoming season, it will also be counted on as a starting point in the Ladies’ defense of their 2014 North Coast Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

Head coach Kelly Bryan, now entering her 13th season at Kenyon, steered the Ladies to a 13-win season in 2014. In addition to the conference crowns, Bryan and the Ladies also made an NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time since 2006 and surprised No. 21-ranked Emory University with a 1-0 upset in the first round.

The 2015 version of the Ladies certainly aspires to meet or exceed those achievements from a year ago, but the team also realizes it won’t be an easy task. In addition to shedding the underdog label, the Ladies also lost one of the most prolific offensive players in the history of the program. Becca Romaine, who scored 18 goals last season, graduated in May with 50 career goals and 113 career points—marks that rank third all-time in Kenyon history. Romaine, however, is not totally removed from the scene. She’ll be on the sidelines this season, serving as the Ladies’ assistant coach.

Junior forward Maggie Smith looks like the frontrunner to fill the void left by Romaine. She scored nine goals, dished out five assists and ranked second on the team with 23 points in 2014. Sophomore Virginia Fergusson could add some punch on the attack and the Ladies get an extra shot in the arm with the return of senior Olivia Lloyd, who missed most of the last two seasons due to injury.

Jane Symmes is another senior returning from injury. She’ll look to make an impact in the midfield along with experienced players like Lucy Evert, Chelsie Hayes, Taylor Jamil, Camilia Kirtzman and Emma Klug.

The foundation of the 2015 team, however, will be the defense which will be anchored by seniors Marie Laube and Alissa Poolpol. Last season, the Kenyon defense held opponents to an average of 1.15 goals per game. Poolpol, the team’s starting goalkeeper, made 99 saves and recorded seven shutouts. Laube, who has started every game since her freshman season, not only holds her own in the defensive zone, but also contributes on the attack. She had two goals and three assists last season.

Depending on how things shake out during preseason practices, it looks like sophomores Campbell Fee, Gillian Blackwell and Heather Pacheco will also garner strong roles either on defense or in the midfield.

The already deep Kenyon roster welcomes the addition of a freshman class of nine. Among those first-years are a goalkeeper and six defensive-minded athletes.

Bryan and the Ladies have a few more days to sort out all the details out before the 2015 season gets officially underway with Tuesday’s game at Ohio Northern University.