Entering his third year as the Adrian College women's soccer head coach, Ali Alamdari has already done things with the program that is turning heads. Alamdari's teams over the past two seasons have compiled a record of 21-12-5 including a MIAA record of 10-6-2. When you place those numbers against the history of the program, it is truly a success story. Between 2000-2008 the Bulldog women's soccer program had just one winning season (13-7 in 2002) and had never finished above .500 in the MIAA standings. In two seasons, Alamdari has guided the program to 21 wins while the previous eight years yielded a total of 34 wins.
The encore of 2009 will be tough as the Bulldogs lose a lot of scoring output from a team that went 11-6-2, 6-2 in the MIAA and finished second in the conference standings, which was a school best. The two leading scorers in the history of the program are gone as Lindsay Chitwood and Sarah Evans combined to form a dynamic scoring duo. Chitwood totaled 41 goals and 16 assists in her career graduating as the school's leading scorer. The good news is that she will be joining the coaching staff and will assist Alamdari and his mission to bring home conference titles to Adrian College. Evans had a career-high eight goals as a junior in 2008 and had four goals and six assists in 2009.
"Losing offensive production was the number one thing that needed to be addressed heading into the offseason," said Alamdari. "I feel like we have some players back in Courtney Pomeroy, Bethany Cousino and Samantha Bono who will be ready to step up this year. We also have a solid freshmen class that features Anika Johnson and Sam Barker, who I feel will make an immediate impact and be solid four-year players for us."
Pomeroy, a sophomore midfielder from St. Clair Shores (Lake Shore H.S.), played in 16 matches as a freshman off the bench and finished with two goals and one assist. Her highlight of the season came against Alma when she scored the game-winner in a 1-0 win over the Scots. She also scored a goal at Anderson and had an assist at Trine. Cousino, a senior forward from Monroe (St. Mary's Catholic Central H.S.), was limited to just four matches and made one start as a junior. She picked up one assist at Anderson and was slowed by injuries. Bono, a senior forward from Oxford (Oxford H.S.), ranked second on the team with six goals and 15 points as a junior. She played in all 19 matches and made 17 starts. Bono netted a hat trick in the team's third match at Anderson and also scored a goal against Huntington, Trine and Rochester.
Johnson and Barker are both supreme talents that had offers from bigger schools. Johnson attended Stevensville Lakeshore High School and was named honorable mention all-state as well as all-region and all-conference in 2009. Barker had a Division I scholarship offer but decided to attend Adrian College. She attended Temperance Bedford High School and was a scoring machine for the Kicking Mules.
"Johnson and Barker are exceptional players and we are blessed to have them here at Adrian College," said Alamdari. "I feel like they have the ability to be special and set records along the way. The ceiling is so high for them and they could be the future of the team."
Also returning to the team as an all-around midfielder is sophomore Lauren Cozzi (Roselle, Ill./St. Viator H.S.) who was named Second Team All-MIAA a year ago. Cozzi ranked fourth on the team with 10 points as a freshman and was one of three players to start in all 19 matches. She had one assist in three straight games from Sept. 12-16 and also scored a goal against Anderson, Trine and Olivet.
"Cozzi is one of the top five technical players in the MIAA," said Alamdari. "Her strength on the ball is remarkable and she is a tireless worker. She has been working on her communication skills on the field which is huge because while she can score, she also is a great playmaker and can set up our attackers."
The Bulldogs will also look for continued production from Tessa Kellar. Kellar, a senior from Novi (Farmington Hills Mercy H.S), played in all 19 games and made 14 starts as a junior midfielder. She scored a pair of goals and also dished three assists. She had a three-point game at Anderson and also scored the game-winner on Oct. 14 at Albion.
Newcomers Jordan Wolf (Portage, Mich./Central H.S.) and McKenzie Doda (Holland, Mich./West Ottawa H.S.) have played together for TKO Premier Soccer Club and each had solid prep careers. Wolf helped lead her team to a Division I state championship in 2009. Both will look to contribute immediately.
On the defensive end, the Bulldogs have a stout nucleus of players who coach Alamdari think are the best unit heading into the season. Kellie Irwin, Sabrina Fortney and Katie Caruso were very potent in heading off potential trouble and making the goalkeeper's life a little easier. Adrian yielded just 13 goals in 19 matches last season. Irwin, a junior from Kentwood (East Kentwood H.S.), was named First Team All-MIAA a year ago and justifibly so after helping lead the Bulldogs to a 6-2 mark in league play. Fortney, a senior from Spring Lake (Spring Lake H.S.), was named Second Team All-MIAA as a sophomore in 2008 and continued her steady play into last year. Caruso, a sophomore from Novi (Novi H.S.), saw action in 18 matches and made 13 starts as a freshman.
"Our defense has been our trademark since I arrived here at Adrian College," commented Alamdari. "We want to be own as a balanced soccer team this year and hopefully our defense will carry us until the offensive pieces come together."
The goalkeeping situation is also a positive for the Bulldogs as they return Second Team All-MIAA performer Steffeny Burns. Burns, a junior from Trenton (Trenton H.S.), made big strides in net as a sophomore. She started all 19 matches and posted six shutouts. Her goals against average was a paltry 0.68 and she had a .881 save percentage. Also hoping to see time in net is Chayna Wallace and Jessica Toth. Wallace, a sophomore from Toledo, Ohio (Bedford H.S.), appeared in five matches as a freshman and will likely see a lot of action in the early part of the season. She made 11 saves and allowed one goal in 159 minutes. Toth, a freshman from Kalamazoo (Mattawan H.S.), also played for TKO Premier Soccer and will likely play during reserve games to get acclimated to the collegiate level.