UWS East Conference Week 1 Preview: Two newcomers face a tough two-game road trip on opening weekend
The second season for United Women’s Soccer kicks off this weekend, as the East Conference will once again commence the action in the national pro-am league.
Two of the newest UWS East members – the Western New York Flash and the Rochester Lancers – will jump from the frying pan right into the fire as they both face a two-game road trip this weekend. Defending East champion New Jersey Copa F.C. will host the Lancers on Saturday night as they look to retain the conference crown and qualify for the four-team UWS National Championship Tournament (July 21-23).
SATURDAY, MAY 13
Long Island Rough Riders vs. Western New York Flash
5:00 PM EDT – Saint Anthony’s H.S.
For the second straight season, the Long Island Rough Riders will host the official kickoff match of the UWS campaign. In 2016, the long-standing women’s soccer organization came out on top over newcomers New Jersey Copa FC, netting two first-half goals en route to a 3-0 victory in the UWS Inaugural Game. It was the only regular season loss that Copa would suffer in 2016 as they went undefeated right up to their double-overtime loss to the Santa Clarita Blue Heat in the UWS National Final.
Team captain and Long Island soccer legend Sue Weber-Alber returns for her eighth season with the club and has been a mainstay at the center of defense over that time. The 31-year old logged a team-leading 813 minutes in nine games in 2016 and was named to the UWS East All-Conference Team. Forward Christina Bellero (2016 All-East Conference Honorable Mention) also returns after leading the team with six goals (12 points) last season. Melissa Guglielmo had a strong 2016 in goal for Long Island but will certainly be tested as U.S. U-23 international Diana Poulin returns to the Rough Riders.
Its been a dramatic offseason for the Western New York Flash, as after winning the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Championship, they sold their NWSL rights to the North Carolina Courage. UWS stepped right in and the Flash will look to capture their fifth national championship in their fifth different league in team history. Head Coach Gary Bruce – an assistant on WNY’s NWSL title-winning squad – will have the talents of Florida State forward Maddie Pezzino to rely on, who is the most prolific goal scorer in New York State girls soccer history (251 goals).
New Jersey Copa FC vs. Rochester Lancers
7:00 PM EDT – Saint John Vianney H.S.
As a first-year team last summer, New Jersey Copa FC took the soccer world by storm and almost reached the summit in UWS action. Following their highly successful inaugural year in the East Conference last season, Copa will make the move to Saint John Vianney High School in Holmdel, NJ for their 2017 sophomore campaign. After spending their first season playing out of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor Township, the 2016 UWS East Conference champions will be closer to their Metuchen, NJ home and their fan base.
NJCFC will have the return of four stars from last year’s UWS National Finalists squad to count upon this summer: forwards Krystyna Freda (who will re-join the team next week after her pro stint for Apollon Ladies) and Jeanine Nunez, midfielder Jackie Bruno and defender Rebecca Raber. Freda, Bruno and Nunez were 2016 All-UWS selections while Freda captured UWS Player of the Year honors. Raber was tied for most caps on the team (10) and played a team-high 856 minutes which earned her a place on the UWS Iron Woman of the Year Team.
The Rochester Lancers have returned to the U.S. soccer landscape in 2017 and will field a men’s team in the NPSL and a women’s side in the UWS East. The Lady Lancers first-ever player signings were goalkeeper Caitie Broderick and forward Alexa Antetomaso. Broderick earned Second-Team NJCAA All-America honors at MCC and will suit up for the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks this upcoming fall. Antetomaso played four years at the University of Georgia, moving from defense to forward. Alexa took part in 13 games last fall and scored the final goal in UGA’s 3-0 win over Ole Miss.
SUNDAY, MAY 14
New York Surf vs. Western New York Flash
2:00 PM EDT – SUNY Maritime
It will be a quick turnaround for the Western NY Flash on Sunday, as they will make the short road trip from Long Island to Reinhart Field at SUNY Maritime in the Bronx to take on fellow UWS East newcomers in the New York Surf. NWSL connections abound with both teams, as the Flash won the league championship last year while the Surf announced in April that they will serve as the amateur affiliate of Sky Blue FC this year. The New York Surf UWS coaching staff includes two current college head coaches and three current college assistant coaches.
The Surf will have the experience of Tatiana Saunders in goal, as the four-year letter winner at Dartmouth College was selected All-Ivy League on multiple occasions. Midfielder Furtuna Velaj will provide vital experience as the Albanian international (24 caps) has had a whirlwind professional career in Europe since being a member of the Boston Breakers in 2012. The multi-dimensional Amy Marron will also be a part of the Surf. The SUNY Purchase Head Coach signed a professional contract with Alamein FC of the Playstation 4 National Premier League in Australia last year and was the team’s first international player.
New England Mutiny vs. Rochester Lancers
3:00 PM EDT – East Longmeadow H.S.
When compared to the WNY Flash, the Rochester Lancers will have an even shorter time to get prepared for their second match of the weekend and an even farther road trip when they travel to western Massachusetts from New Jersey to take on the New England Mutiny. The Mutiny finished in second place last summer in the UWS East but that accomplishment is a bit skewed: the long-standing organization lost both of their games to East champion NJCFC and it took them until the final game of the season to capture runner-up status.
New England captain Kate Howarth returns for her fifth season. Howarth led the team in points last season (nine goals, four assists) and was second in league scoring, behind UWS Player of the Year Krystyna Freda. Kate also surpassed former USWNT defender Meghan Schnur and took over second-place on the all-time Mutiny scoring charts (32 goals, 12 assists). She is now behind top franchise scorer Mary-Frances Monroe (36 goals, 21 assists) in career points. The Mutiny will also have the services of 2016 All-UWS Honorable Mention midfielder Stephanie Santos and All-East Conference defender Jennifer Cafferky this summer.