Season Preview: MCCC Women's Soccer

West Windsor, N.J. - Head coach Jodie Ricciardi shrugs off the two losses that her Mercer County Community College women's soccer team suffered in its opening games of the 2009 season. She remains steadfast that this year's team is as strong as last year's 17-4-1 squad that finished one victory shy of reaching the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Championships.

The Vikings played well enough in their opening games against high-quality opponents, including a 2-1 loss to fifth-ranked Monroe Community College, that Ricciardi believes the team's talent level and early work ethic will pay off. The third-year head coach and her squad will play their home opener Saturday, September 12 against Manor College (noon start).

"The team chemistry is great," says Ricciardi, whose 2008 MCCC squad improved by 10 wins from her rookie season in 2007. The Vikings won their first Region 19 Tournament title since 2002 and reached the NJCAA District G title game before falling to that same Monroe squad, 3-2 in overtime.

"They are just literally a fun-loving group. They have so much fun, they love playing the game and they all get along. They come out every game and they work hard - 110 percent for all of them."

MCCC is expected to have a dynamic offense. The front line features three returning sophomores, led by Kasey Kenny (Staten Island, N.Y.), who had 29 goals and 12 assists when earning NJCAA All-American Second Team honors as a freshman. Erika Juricic also made the All-Region 19 First Team (East Windsor, N.J.), with 12 goals and six assists. Carolyn Walters (Hamilton, N.J.) also returns, after totaling six goals and eight assists last season.

All-American Kasey Kenny
Erika Juricic in last year's Region 19 final.

Nearby Hightstown High has been particularly good to MCCC. In addition to Juricic, its graduates include starting goalie Brianna Byrne and Marissa Segal, another freshman who may be the leader of the backfield. Byrne began playing goalie as a senior at Hightstown and, Ricciardi says, "Instinct-wise she does really well considering she's only played for two years. We expect a lot from her." Segal, Ricciardi adds, "is so aggressive back there and she reads the plays. As they're developing, she just anticipates exactly what's going to happen. She's very vocal back there. That's exactly what we need."

Other starting defenders are sophomores Angelica Modica (Manalapan, N.J.), Kelsey Capuano (Ewing, N.J.) and Brittany Usarzewicz (Hamilton, N.J.).

The midfield boasts sophomore center midfielder Caitlin Wilson (West Windsor, N.J.), and freshmen Samantha Biondi (Hamilton, N.J.) and Jaclyn Tellefsen (Hamilton, N.J.).

In addition, Ricciardi is pleased with the players who come off the bench, including freshmen Sheila Frank and Jessica Villalba, former teammates at Bordentown High School.

"The skill level of this team is definitely high," Ricciardi says. "We have three or four girls on the bench who can come into the game and we don't miss a beat, which is awesome. We have some depth this year."

The Vikings will play 11 home games. They also have an important weekend trip to New England during which they will face the Community College of Rhode Island (Sept. 19) and Dean College (Sept. 20).

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