By Jim Fenton
The Skyhawks lost four starters from a team that went 5-11-2 last season when Alex Wilson, a former Stonehill goalkeeper, made her debut as the head coach.
EASTON – The Stonehill College women's soccer team is loaded with experience after losing only four starters to graduation.
One of the positions the Skyhawks must fill, however, is goalkeeper where Amy Wheaton played every minute the past two seasons after starting 22 games as a freshman and sophomore.
Wheaton, named to the All-New England second team and the All-East Region third team in 2013, is now a member of the Stonehill coaching staff.
"They're battling hard,'' said second-year coach Alex Wilson, a 2008 Stonehill graduate and former Skyhawks goalkeeper whose team was 5-11-2 last season. "It's very evident they worked hard over the summer.
"They're fit and their goalkeeping skills have improved. Their hands are better. They're reaching saves they probably wouldn't have last year. It's obvious they've been playing a lot.''
Wheaton, who recorded 10 shutouts the last two seasons, is working with the two goalies in her new role as an assistant.
"It's great having her perspective after having just played in the league and working with them as peers and now as a coach,'' said Wilson, whose roster includes nine seniors. "She can pick out their weaknesses and improve them to be strengths.''
Stonehill plays its first game on Friday in Manchester, N.H., against Assumption College in the Catholic Cup. The home opener is Sept. 10 against Molloy.
Senior captain Alexandra Losi will help lead an experienced defensive unit for Stonehill this season.
"I think the experience (of O'Brien and Duserick) as underclassmen paired with the experience of the seniors will really work into that back four nicely,'' said Wilson, who also has sophomore Daniella Ganiaris on defense.
The offense includes senior Meg Sullivan, who had a team-high four goals, senior Renee Trudeau, who scored three goals, and sophomore Lauren Kapatoes, who netted two goals and was on the Northeast-10 Conference all-rookie team.
"We have a lot of good forwards,'' said Wilson, "and I'm really hoping they can put the ball in the net.''
Stonehill went 5-8-1 in the NE-10, missing the final tournament spot by four points.
With so many returning players, Wilson is optimistic that there will be marked improvement this season.
"I think it's going to be huge,'' said Wilson of the experience. "They realize the talent they have. Every day of training so far has been better and better.
"The seniors know this is it. The relationship between the seniors and the underclassmen, it's the underclassmen who want to do it for them. They want to send them out by playing in the postseason.
"I think we know we have to beat the teams below us and perform well against the teams that are similar to us and steal points from the teams that are traditionally one, two, three and four in the league. If we can do that, we'll make the postseason.''
Jim Fenton may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JFenton_ent.