With three-straight berths in the ECAC tournament finals, including titles in 2007 and 2008, Brandeis women's soccer head coach Denise Dallamora hopes her 31st season is the year the Judges break through and reach the NCAA tournament. The Judges, who finished 10-6-5 overall, 3-3-1 and tied for fourth in the UAA in 2009, return all but three starters in 2010.
Though they have to replace two of the program's all-time leaders in first-team All-UAA forward Melissa Gorenkoff - a third-team National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American – and second-team All-Association goalkeeper Hillary Rosenzweig, three of the team's top four goal scorers and four players with at least three assists are back, as is the entire back line.
Leading the way up front is senior forward Tiffany Pacheco. The UAA leader in shots attempted and among the top 10 in the association in goals (9), assists (6) and points (24), Pacheco is a two-time UAA honorable mention selection. Classmate Sofia Vallone, who is third among returning scorers with six goals and 15 points, joins Pacheco to make a potent one-two punch.
"Tiffany is our 'power hitter'," Dallamora says. "She can strike rockets from long distance to create goals. Sofia is more of a finesse player, who scores with an accurate touch in the box."
Brandeis also got solid scoring from their midfield, where honorable mention junior Mimi Theodore led the team with 10 goals – tied for fifth in the UAA - and matched Pacheco with 24 points. She is joined by junior Fran Shin, an honorable mention All-UAA selection, senior Ellie Einhorn and a talented crop of rookies and sophomores who will look to make an impact.
"Taryn and Ali are great at coordinating the back line," Dallamora says. "They win a good share of 50/50 balls and can really control a game.
Dallamora hopes junior Jessica Schulman can return from an injury to rejoin to the starting lineup, but her loss means classmate Ali Theodore – Mimi's twin sister – could settle into a new role on the back line. The Brandeis defense ranked third in the UAA with a 0.76 goals-against average and fourth with nine shutouts, but they will have to replace a four-year starter and the program's all-time leader in wins in net in Rosenzweig. Sophomore Francine Kofinas will battle newcomers Katie Weil and Leah Sax – sister of former Brandeis track standout Ali '09 – for the starting spot between the pipes.
The Judges open the season Sept. 1 at 4 p.m. at MIT before hosting Babson College and William Paterson University (along with Ithaca College) in the Brandeis Invitational on Gordon Field on Sept. 4 and 5. The Judges play at 11 a.m. both days. The UAA opener is on Oct. 2 at 11 a.m. against Case Western Reserve. Brandeis also faces a pair of nationally-ranked team in conference play, including NCAA tournament runner-up Washington University, who is ranked second by the NSCAA to start the season, and the University of Chicago, ranked 22nd. The Judges travel to St. Louis and the Windy City over Halloween weekend.