Simmons Soccer wrapped up the 2009 season on Saturday, after competing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. Led by Great Northeast Athletic Conference Soccer Coach of the Year, Erica Mastrogiacomo, the Sharks earned a national bid after capturing the 2009 GNAC Championship as the tournament's fifth seed, upsetting the #2, #4 and #1 seeds on the way to the post-season title.
Simmons took home non-conference wins over Wentworth and DeSales early in the season that built confidence and set the tone for the fall. After being ranked #8 in the preseason poll, the Sharks quickly caught the eye of the conference with a 2-2 tie against #1 ranked St. Joe's ME. This would prove to be telling of a successful season for the Sharks, who finished the regular season 9-5-3 overall, 7-2-3 GNAC.
"This season was successful both on and off the field. Our team grew together from August to November and continuously displayed courage and character through every challenge," said Mastrogiacomo. "From the first day of preseason, my staff and I agreed that this team was unique and special and could accomplish every goal we set for them through hard work and perseverance."
Junior midfielder Brooke MacKenzie (Mansfield, Mass.) led the team in scoring with 13 goals, and was a consistent offensive threat. MacKenzie converted on key free kicks and proved to be one of the most effective midfielders in the conference, earning her a spot on the GNAC 2009 All-Conference First Team.
Junior captain Katie Foley (Rochester, N.H.) played a key role as a central defender for the Sharks, organizing the defensive line while maintaining composure against tough opponents. Foley was also named to the GNAC 2009 All-Conference First Team.
Junior Allie Megna (North Hampton, N.H.) stepped up and took command of the midfield in a quiet role. She played with consistency as the team's nucleus in the central midfield. Megna's incredible technical ability kept her opponents on their toes, while her distribution was accurate and dangerous.
Simmons welcomed a strong freshman class to the ranks in 2009. Freshman midfielder Justine Beauchamp (Exeter, N.H.) was at the top of the class, earning GNAC Rookie of the Year and Third Team All-Conference accolades. Beauchamp scored five goals and tallied four assists for the Sharks this fall. Her powerful left-footed strike on the ball is one that no opponent will forget. She was often asked to defend some of the best midfielders in the conference, and exceeded expectations in this role.
Ally Ayotte (Litchfield, N.H.) used her speed and technical ability to be a versatile player this season. She was effective as an outside midfielder and an aggressive attacker. While Lian Atturio (Hanover, Mass.) did not see much action in the beginning of the season, she rose to the occasion when her team needed her most, scoring Simmons' only goals in the team's GNAC championship victory. "Her composure with the ball at her feet and excellent distribution paved the way for the coaching staff to give her the nod during the conference tournament," said Mastrogiacomo. "She lifted the team to the GNAC title." Ashley Donaghey (Framingham, Mass.) was a focused and competitive addition to Simmons' goalkeeper position. Donaghey, "worked hard all season during training sessions and grew tremendously in confidence," said Mastrogiacomo.
Simmons will graduate several key players in the spring. Senior captain Rachel Elliott (Amherst, N.H.) proved to be one of the top goalkeepers in the conference and in Simmons program history. Elliott served as a vocal leader on and off the field, and anchored the team's defense. "Her athleticism and competitive attitude were obvious to those who watched the Sharks this season. She came up with big saves in big games and propelled the team to an NCAA bid," said Mastrogiacomo.
Senior captain Emily DiNuovo (Palmer, Mass.) contributed as a midfielder and forward this season and offered both defensive and offensive strengths to the program. Kelly Muirhead (Middleboro, Mass.) was converted into a defender this season and she filled the role with determination. Her relentless work ethic strengthened the Sharks' defensive unit. Jenn Kmietek (Middletown, Conn.) provided an offensive option off the bench with her consistent distribution and pressure on opponents' defensive lines.
"When this class graduates the underclassmen will need to rise to challenge and fill the holes," said Mastrogiacomo. "The Sharks will look to Ashley Wheeler (Nashua, N.H.) to defend the goal."
Simmons is already hungry for the 2010 campaign, and the Sharks will begin preparation in February. The team will look to be more competitive in non-conference matches as more challenging opponents are added to the schedule. "I was pleased to see the leaders really take charge and build a unanimous team bond that propelled us throughout the season," said Mastrogiacomo. "It was encouraging to see the freshmen and sophomores really contribute to the team's success, scoring almost every goal in the conference tournament. This is a good sign for the future of Simmons Soccer."