BOSTON, Mass. - Depth might just be the number one key for the Simmons College soccer team. The Sharks could have one of their most balanced programs in recent years and return seven starters from last year's squad. With just one senior, one might think that Simmons is lacking in
experience and leadership, but the Sharks also feature 11 juniors, including four All-Conference honorees from a year ago. The newcomers that Simmons has brought into the fold comprise one of the strongest recruiting classes in recent memory. The Sharks were selected fifth in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Coaches Poll, but should challenge for the league title.
With increased numbers and skilled players, the Sharks will look to turn up the level of play with the ability to substitute often to keep them fresh on the field. Simmons will look to pressure the defense with an aggressive offensive attack, while also remaining relentless on the defensive side of the ball to take opponents to their limit.
The Sharks return their top scorer from 2013 and also welcome a pair of impact first year players to key a crop of strong newcomers at the forward position.
Junior Greer Gilbert (Falmouth, Mass.) started all 20 matches for Simmons last year, while leading the team with 22 points, including 10 goals. She is one of the fastest players in the league as well as one of the most lethal scorers in the GNAC. The Sharks are looking for her to build on her All-Conference campaign from last year and emerge as one of the premier players in the league. Freshman Kashka Gammon (Nashua, N.H.) is a good candidate to crack the starting lineup and has good speed. The first year also has the ability to finish on a breakaway and is also looking to create a scoring opportunity off a defender mistake in the backfield. Fellow first year Erin Montambault (Watertown, Conn.) will also vie for a starting spot on the wing. The rookie holds the ball well at her feet and is a very good distributor with her back to the goal. Sophomore transfer Emily Gubbins (Westmoreland, N.Y.) started nine of 19 matches she appeared in last year for New England College, while racking up seven points on two goals and three assists. She should provide a spark off the bench for Simmons and could serve as either a focal point up top or in the center midfield. First year Kali DeNisi (Killingworth, Conn.) could be an integral piece to the Sharks' offensive attack. She's a solid player, who receives and distributes the ball well with the ability to turn and shoot from anywhere in the offensive zone.
Simmons will be extremely versatile in the midfield in 2014 with an excellent mix of offensive and defensive skilled players.
Ali Berkman (Natick, Mass.) tallied 16 points on seven goals and a pair of assists and joined Greer on the GNAC's All-Conference contingent. She can play on both sides of the ball and will start in the center midfield. The junior started all 20 contests last year and is a good one on one defender as well as a good shooter from the outside. Classmate Alexis Eusebio (Dartmouth, Mass.) will also start in the center of the field and look to key the Sharks' offense. She started 10 of 19 matches last year and registered six points, including a pair of goals to stand fifth on the team. Junior Tegan Dougherty (Northfield, N.H.) started 20 matches in the center backfield last year and will move up to the midfield as a defensive center mid. A tough player, she competes for every loose ball and can take a hit, while remaining very consistent. First year Gabriella Davis (Duxbury, Mass.) will also look to start in the center midfield on the defensive side of the ball. A versatile player, she could also see time at outside back. Davis steps to the ball well and has good instincts to read play on the field. Her ability to anticipate and possess the ball makes her a viable threat to intercept passes and turn it into an offensive opportunity. Junior Co-Captain Victoria Russo (Braintree, Mass.) has missed the past two seasons due to injury, but should be ready to take the field by mid-September. She will be an integral piece to the Simmons center midfield upon her return and increase the depth in an already talented midfield. First year Gabrielle Klane (Franklin, Mass.) can play on both sides of the ball, but might see the majority of her time on the wing. She's a quick player with good composure and distributes the ball well.
Junior Ainslie Gibbs (Forestdale, R.I.) will look to return during the season after recovering from an ailment. She started nine of 18 contests last year and will look for time at outside back or on the wing. Sophomore Elise Nothacker (Philadelphia, Pa.) is a smart player, who played in six matches a year ago and reads the game well. Sophomore Kristina Anne Alex (Rockport, Maine) and junior Alexa Faria (Cumberland, R.I.) will provide good depth in the midfield for the Sharks. Alex has a good work ethic and saw action in 15 games last year, while making a start and Faria appeared in a pair of games in 2013 for Simmons. Junior Hillary Matthews (Colchester, Vt.) started two of seven matches she appeared in, while notching an assist last year, but will miss the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.
The depth in the Sharks' backfield has allowed them to strengthen their midfield, but also provide a solid defensive front, anchored by a First Team All-Conference player.
Junior Issy Verrilli (Naugatuck, Conn.) was a First Team All-GNAC selection last year and is arguably the best defender in the league. The right back should play every second of every match for Simmons and is a gritty player, who communicates extremely well. A physical player, who plays hard every second and challenges every ball, she will control the backfield for the Sharks. Paige Wilcox (East Sandwich, Mass.) is the only senior on the team and returns after taking a year away from the program. She started 18 of 20 matches in the backfield as a sophomore and will be counted on to help lock down the back line. She's probably the best-conditioned athlete on the squad and can run down any attacker. A good communicator, she will help organize the backfield for Simmons. Joining Wilcox is sophomore Tasha Friedman (Phoenix, Ariz.), who started 18 of 19 contests she appeared in last year, while notching an assist. The second-year player has good speed and is good in the air. First year player Jessie Pratt (Westfield, Mass.) should get the starting nod at left back for the Sharks. A consistent player, who keeps everything in front of her, she uses her keen sense of deception to defend against offensive opponents. First year Liz Donovan (Nashua, N.H.) has the ability to start and will vie for time at outside back. The rookie is extremely fit and keeps her composure well. She is consistent and very reliable. Classmate Alyssa Marceau (North Adams, Mass.) will provide depth and look for time coming off the bench for Simmons.
The Sharks are fortunate to have not only the best keeper in the conference, but one of the best in the nation. Simmons also has a pair of goalies, who are very capable of performing when called upon.
Junior Captain Briana Hayes (Manorville, N.Y.) ranked 14th in the nation with a sterling .882 save percentage last season, while posting a 1.20 goals against average en-route to being named First Team All-Conference by the GNAC. Hayes allowed one or fewer goals in 13 outings and recorded four shutouts to match her career high. The netminder also stopped 179 shots and posted double-digit save marks in nine contests, including a career-high of 20 on two occasions. She is a leader on and off the field and is fearless in net for the Sharks.
First year goalie Casey Halle (Watertown, Mass.) will back up Hayes and compete for time in net. A good athlete, she is quick off her line and uses her size well. Junior Amber Verrill (Windham, Maine) has good technical skills in net and saw time in a match last season. She will look for time during the season after overcoming an injury.