Siena Women's Soccer kicks off the program's 38th varsity season tonight, with the first-ever meeting against Big East foe Seton Hall at Owen T. Carroll Field in South Orange, New Jersey. Originally scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff, the match has been moved up to a 5 p.m. start due to impending threatening weather forecasted for later today for the Tri-State area.
Fans can watch tonight's match via Seton Hall's Pirate Sports Network, and also follow the live stats by clicking the corresponding links at the top of the page. Follow @SienaWSoccer for in-match twitter updates, and join the conversation by using the hashtags #SienaSaints and #MAACSoccer.
"Preseason has gone great," said Steve Karbowski, who begins his 19th season as the Saints' head coach. "We do have a fairly experienced group coming back which really helped us hit the ground running with our first week of training. We've accomplished alot. The team does look sharp, and we've kept ourselves pretty healthy and building up to that game fitness for the opening night."
Siena is looking to build off a strong 2016 campaign in which the Saints achieved a 9-7-3 overall record and finished second in the MAAC with a 7-3 league mark. Siena's second place conference finish and seven league victories both tied program bests. Predicted to finish fourth according to the MAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, the Saints return an experienced veteran squad as Siena welcomes back nine starters, nearly 90% of their scoring, and their entire goalkeeping corps from last season.
The Saints' strength rests with its midfield where it returns all four starters and is anchored in the middle by 2017 Preseason All-MAAC and 2016 First Team All-MAAC selections in senior captains Michele Tremblay and Madison Vasquez. The duo each amassed 15 points last season and Tremblay, a two-time MAAC Offensive Player of the Week, tied for third in the conference in game-winning goals (three) and tied for 10th in goals (six), while Vasquez tied for eighth in the MAAC with five assists. Rounding out Siena's midfield are juniors Gabby Albano and 2016 MAAC All-Tournament Team selection Olivia Stegner who both enjoyed breakout seasons last fall, and combine with Tremblay and Vasquez to forge arguably the MAAC's best midfield corps.
The Saints did graduate highly decorated seniors Tara Sobierajski and Kristen Connors from the center backfield, but do return Preseason All-MAAC selections in junior Amanda Holtzman and sophomore Hanna Longendyke to anchor the unit which ranked second in the MAAC with a 0.96 goals against average last season. Sophomore Taylor Dorado returns in goal after earning Second Team All-MAAC honors last season in which she posted a sub-1.00 goals against average.
Siena boasts several options up front led by senior tri-captain Kelsey Horst who is coming off a breakthrough 2016 campaign in which she led the Saints with 18 points on six goals and six assists. Siena scored 30 goals last season - an average of 1.58 per game - and returns players who accounted for all but four of the team's goals in 2016.
The Saints' season opener at Seton Hall begins a challenging stretch for Siena which is set to play six of its eight non-conference matches on the road. The Saints 10 true road dates this season tie for the program’s most on the regular season docket since playing 11 during the MAAC Championship year of 2010.
Seton Hall returns nine starters, 16 letterwinners and 75% of their scoring from last year's squad which posted a 5-11-1 overall record, including a 1-8 mark in the Big East. The Pirates hosted both teams which appeared in last season's MAAC Championship Match, defeating Quinnipiac 2-1 and losing to Monmouth 1-0.
Seton Hall was projected to finish 10th and last according to the Big East Preseason Coaches' Poll, and is led by 2016 All-Big East Freshman Team selection Marissa Aniolowski, and goalie Anna McLean who started all 17 matches and made 85 saves last season. The Pirates won both of their preseason exhibitions, defeating both Stony Brook and Lafayette by identical 1-0 scores. The Saints will host the Leopards in Sunday's home opener.
Siena does have some key history with the Big East Conference, both with current and former league members. During the Saints' storied MAAC Championship season of 2010, Siena defeated both former league member UCONN as well as Providence en route to a perfect 12-0 start, and later faced Georgetown in the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The Saints have only faced three current league members - Georgetown, Providence, and St. John's - amassing a 2-8 record with both wins coming against the Friars (2009, 2010).
Following tonight's season opener, the Saints will return to Loudonville to conclude their opening weekend with a home match against Patriot League foe Lafayette Sunday at 1 p.m. at Siena Field.