After failing to reach the MAAC Championship in his first season in New Rochelle, Iona College head coach Mike Barroqueiro is determined to get over the hump after a two-year absence for the program.
The 2012 roster has a mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen which includes seven newcomers. Seniors Laura Jackson and Leah Taylor and junior netminder Trista Rivera headline one of the strengths of the lineup this season, the backline. Taylor was the only Gael to start every contest in 2011. Rivera will once again get the nod as the top keeper after playing in 35 games in her first two seasons. Upfront the team will look at sophomore Melissa Frederick and junior Nicole Paulucci to lead the offense at the striker position.
Possibly the most important position the Gaels will need to improve this season is upfront. The duo of Frederick and Paulucci will look to be the driving force of the Iona offense, as the two combined for six goals last season.
Junior Carly Haden will also be an important fixture as a forward. She scored one goal last season, took eight shots-on-goal and made 13 starts.
With one season under her belt and already one career goal, sophomore Samantha Fiorenzo, who played in all 19 games, can be a key developing part of the Gaels attack.
Like Fiorenzo, classmate Safi Ayinde is a piece of the young developing core along with freshmen Amanda Cantos and Alex Chinich.
The Iona midfield will maintain a level of consistency and will be looked at to be a major part of the transition game. Led by junior Leanne Benson - who started 18 games in 2011 - and sophomore Natalie Murphy, the Iona midfield returns six members with the addition of one freshman.
Benson an All-MAAC Academic Team member will use her expertise to aid the Gaels as a distributor.
Murphy took the field in 16 games last season and scored the only goal from the midfield unit, will be asked to move up at times and join the attackers.
Cabarcas fresh off being recalled by the Colombian National Team prior to the London Olympics will use her international experience and an anticipated expansion of her role after starting in five games last season.
Iona will also look to sophomore Gabriella Fuduli and freshman Kara Maguire to challenge for extensive playing time throughout the year.
The Iona backfield consists of 11 members with the core four returning, allowing development and maturity to come for the younger players. The core four consisting of Jackson, Taylor, and sophomores Sara Chandlee and Sali Ayinde will once again be looked upon to keep the opposition away from goal.
Jackson, an All-MAAC Second Team member was responsible for two goals and an assist. The London native was not afraid to jump into the rush and scored the game-winning goal against NJIT.
Taylor also an offensive threat from the other side of the pitch scored a goal and had an assist.
Chandlee and Ayinde are more of a defensive minded back and will continue to keep the team’s goal against average under 1.50 again.
Looking for time on defense this season will be junior Katie Higgins who scored the game-winning goal against Loyola off a corner kick in double overtime. Senior Shannon Meara will also seek more playing time in her final season with the Gaels.
The one staple that has stayed intact over the last two seasons has been in the cage. Trista Rivera will once again patrol the Iona crease. In 35 career games for Iona, Rivera has held a respectable 1.48 GAA with seven shutouts.
Junior Jacquelyn Gates will work as the primary backup after starting in two games last season. Freshman Mackenzie Stelljes is being touted as the goalie of the future for Iona and will work with the coaching staff to develop her craft in goal.
An 18-game regular season is upon the Gaels this season with 11 games being played away from Mazzella Field. The team will have to work on building its confidence in unfriendly territories this season as they will not see their home pitch for the entire month of September. Iona opens the season at home against Fairleigh Dickinson University on August 17 before a pair of road games at Seton Hall and La Salle. The final home match of August features the Rams of Rhode Island making the trek west on I-95 to New Rochelle.
The September road trip mimics the men’s basketball schedule of 2011-12, as the Gaels will travel to take on Temple, Saint Joseph’s, Yale, NJIT, and Hartford in non-conference tilts. MAAC play opens on September 28 with a meeting with Loyola and then at Rider before finally returning for a two-game homestead. Canisius and Niagara make their Western New York trip down south on October 5-7. Siena and Marist will welcome the Gaels on October 12-14, respectfully. The Maroon and Gold concludes the season with three MAAC derby matches against rivals Fairfield (Oct. 20), Manhattan (Oct. 26) and Saint Peter’s (Oct. 28).
The 2012 MAAC Championship will be held at Marist College on November 2 with the final game on November 4.