Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke had the date of the first round of the 2011 NCAA tournament written in his office after his team was eliminated in the Northeast Conference tournament last year.
If he wants to achieve his goal, he’ll have to do it without three key players.
Last Wednesday the New Haven Register reportedthat midfielders Jillian Strassner and Angela Ellison, and defensive player Larissa Rosenberg will all miss the
2011 season due to injury.
All three players are listed as redshirts for the season on Quinnipiac’s athletics site.
Strassner, the Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year in 2009 and last year’s second leading scorer on the team has compiled nine goals and five assists, recording the second most points on the team each of the past two years, next to Furtuna Velaj.
But Velaj won’t be able to do it alone this season. The Bobcats will need someone else to step up and replace the production that Strassner provided.
The Bobcats have a pair of senior midfielders that will need to step up and help fill the void left by Strassner.
The play of Kristina Del Mistro and Chelsea Smith could be a key to success for the Bobcats this year.
The two, while consistently playing well for the Bobcats, will need to increase their production.
Del Mistro has scored seven goals in three years while Smith, having played a defensive midfield, has scored twice, none since her freshman year.
While Del Mistro and Smith provide senior leadership in the midfield, they will need some help from underclassmen to fill the void.
Aine McKeever is one of those underclassmen who can help ease the pain of losing Strassner.
McKeever had a solid freshman year (two goals, four assists) but will need to have a better sophomore season.
The answer for who can replace Strassner could also come from a new face on the team. Crystal Burns played for two years at New Mexico State before transferring to Quinnipiac.
While playing for the Aggies, she proved to be very talented offensively (11 goals, 12 assists). If she can continue that for the Bobcats, the team won’t miss Strassner as much.
The loss of Rosenberg on defense hurts the Bobcats’ depth on the backend and thrusts some inexperienced players into playing.
One of those inexperienced players is Taylor Healey.
Healey, a sophomore, played in just six games as a freshman but will be counted on to play more.
Ellison is one of five freshmen on the Bobcats’ roster and would have played a vital role on the defensive side of the ball.
When she signed with Quinnipiac, Clarke said that she “may end up being the best player” of his recruiting class.
Among the Bobcats’ defenders only two, Kyla Miles and Beck Kiting, have seen a lot of playing time in their careers. So the rest of the Bobcats’ defense will look to Miles and Kiting for leadership.
It will take a team effort to fill the holes and replace the production from Strassner and the rest of the injured.
If they do that, the Bobcats have a chance of making a strong run through the NEC.