By Eric Slack
The WPSL’s Eastern Conference is one of the largest and most competitive regions for the league. This year, it has four divisions - NEW ENGLAND, MID ATLANTIC, TRI STATE and SOUTH ATLANTIC. In two of the last three seasons, a team from the east has reached the WPSL championship game, and the quality of players in each division should give an Eastern Conference team a chance to compete for the WPSL title again in 2013.
Boston Aztec – After spending 2012 as Aztec MA, Boston Aztec returns to the WPSL in 2013 and will try to make the organization’s fourth consecutive trip to the WPSL Final Four. In 2012, the team lost in the WPSL Championship match to the Gulf Coast Texans by a score of 4-0. The team includes a number of returning players from last year’s national finalists, including University of Hartford All-American Erin Quinlan (GK) and Boston University All-American Jess Morrow (Def). Another key player making her return to the Aztecs is Morgan Andrews (Mid). The USWNT U20 star is heading Notre Dame in the fall, and she spent the 2012 WPSL Elite season with the New England Mutiny.
Boston Breakers College Academy – Although this team is new to the WPSL, the Breakers name is no stranger to the league or the sport. The Boston Breakers identity extends back to WUSA, and the WPS iteration of the Breakers had a reserve team that played in the WPSL under the Aztec banner. The Breakers played in WPSL Elite in 2012 and have moved to the new NWSL for 2013, creating their college academy team to compete for WPSL glory. The team will certainly challenge the Aztec’s hold on the division, as it includes Boston College forward Stephanie McCaffrey, Boston College midfielder Patrice Vettori, and Boston University midfielders Kylie Strom and Megan McGoldrick.
CFC Passion - The Passion have been part of the WPSL since 2010, after spending the two pervious years in the W League. Last season was a tough one for the Connecticut club, which finished at the bottom of Northeast Atlantic – North division with a 0-7-3 record. But 2013 stands to be a new era for the club. The team has a new head coach in Joe Finocchiaro and a massive roster that is a mixture of collegiate talent and players from CFC’s youth program. Among the talent on the roster is Yale forward Paula Hagopian, who recorded a goal and four assists in her freshman year for the Bulldogs.
New England Mutiny – Although the New England Mutiny first team played in the WPSL Elite league in 2012, the Mutiny fielded a reserve team in the WPSL’s Northeast Atlantic – North division, finishing second in the division. During the 2012 WPSL Elite season, the New England Mutiny pulled off the biggest upset of the season when it defeated the Boston Breakers 2-1. With the first team now back in the WPSL, the Mutiny are sure to do what they always do – compete to win the division. The squad’s roster includes defender/midfielder Tara Fraprie, defender/midfielder Kylee McIntosh, forward Brooke Murphy, defender/midfielder Kacey Richards, midfielder Nicole Rodriguez, defender Kayla Shea and forward Tori Sousa.
Seacoast United Mariners - 2012 marked the inaugural season for the Seacoast United Mariners in the WPSL, bringing the league back to Maine after a two-year absence. It was a difficult debut for the Mariners, who finished next to last in the Northeast Atlantic – North division with a 1-7-2 record. But the team has team has taken steps toward improvement for 2013, as its roster includes some noteworthy talent such as Villanova’s Caitlin Bauksbaum (Mid), University of New Hampshire’s Stephanie Gilkenson (Mid) and Providence College’s Allison Walton (Def/Mid).
Seacoast United Phantoms – The Phantoms took a strong step forward in 2012, as a 4-3-3 record was the club’s first winning season in the WPSL since entering the league in 2010. The challenge for the Phantoms now is to take the next step and become a legit contender for the top of the table. Judging by some of the players the Phantoms have brought in, they should not be taken lightly. The roster includes a number of UNH stars, Boston University midfielder Emma Clark, and former UMass-Lowell All-American goalkeeper Jamie Gillis, who had been playing professionally in Finland with Gamlakarleby Bollklubb.
Empire Revs WNY – Making their WPSL debut in 2013, the Empire Revs are an extension of the Empire Revolution Soccer Academy. In their first year in the league, head coach Chris Hershey will lead a team that will feature a roster of past and present collegiate athletes, as well as elite high school players. A USSF “A” and
USYSA National Youth Licensed coach who has served as NYSWYSA Director of Coaching Education and worked with USYSA Region 1 Girls ODP, Hershey’s leadership will be critical for the Revs as they try to get off to a good start in the WPSL.
FC Westchester – Entering their second WPSL season after joining the league in 2012, FC Westchester is looking for a massive improvement after a difficult first year. The team finished 0-8-2 in their inaugural season. Leading the team will be Head of Soccer Operations and Director of Coaching Carlos Mejia along with coach Bailey Flood, while the team will be built primarily of collegiate players - as well as former pros - from the Northern Westchester, Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, New York Metro and lower Connecticut areas.
Syracuse Lady Knights – The Knights enjoyed a strong first season in the WPSL. The team made the playoffs and knocked off the then-Maryland Capitols FC with a 2-0 upset in the first round. Now the Knights will look to build off of that initial success, and the team features a strong core of talent to help it do just that. In fact, its roster includes midfielder Emma Firenze and forward Eva Gordon, both of whom have committed to Syracuse University, and who won a gold medal with the Region 1 Olympic Development (ODP) soccer team at the Spring Kuban International Soccer Tournament in Russia this past March.
Tri-City Celtics – Another new team, this will be the first year for the Tri-City Celtics. In its first year, the team will be mainly comprised of current and former players from the NY Elite Soccer Club, many of these who play for some of the Northeast's best Division I, II and III college soccer programs. The roster includes goalkeeper Katie Nickels, who is heading to the University of Rhode Island in the fall. Overseeing the team will be head coach Tom Rogan, who has 26 years of playing and coaching experience.
United FC Binghamton – Entering its second WPSL campaign, United FC Binghamton is excited about the possibility of building on its 3-4-3, third place season. The team was competitive in its matches, which was the club’s goal for its first year in the league. In 2013, the club has several of its core players returning. The team is affiliated with the United FC soccer club in Binghamton, and M. Shane Cook will lead the team as head coach in 2013. Cook has been affiliated with local soccer in the region for the past 20 years.
Yankee Lady FC – The Yankee club is another new entry into the WPSL for 2013. The team is affiliated with Connecticut’s Yankee United FC youth program. Although it will be in its first year, the expectations should be high for the club, as its roster is stacked with talent, much of which has come through the Yankee youth system. Yankee Lady FC’s roster includes Ohio St. midfielder Caroline Murray, as well as a number of players from Sacred Heart.
BuxMont Torch FC - The BuxMont Torch is optimistic that it can contend for the Tri-State division title this season. Returning to lead the Torch this season is head coach and president Rich Sparling, who founded the organization in 2009. The 2013 Torch roster includes nine returning players from the 2012 team, as well as new players from Temple University, Mt. Saint Mary’s University, Marquette University, Baylor University, University of Hartford, University of New Hampshire, Messiah College and Wheaton University.
FC Bucks – A 4-1-5 record for the FC Bucks in 2012 was good enough for second place in Northeast Atlantic – South division. In 2013, the club will look to take the next step toward the top of its division. Leading the team is head coach, who coaches the FC Bucks WPSL squad and Coaching Director for FC Bucks Girls. The 2012 Bucks roster included players from Virginia Tech, LaSalle University, William & Mary, Penn, Old Dominion, Villanova University, University of Vermont, Elon, Penn State, Bryant University, St Joe's University, Temple University, Duke, Dayton, Stony Brook, Hartford, Mt. St. Mary's and Rutgers. The 2013 team should be just as talented.
FC LVU Lady Sonic – In 2013, FC LVU Sonic will debut its women's team. Expectations are unsurprisingly high, as it will be the sister team of the 2012 National Premier Soccer League champion FC Sonic Lehigh Valley. The Lady Sonic will play at the sports complex at Whitehall High School and look to tap into the women's soccer talent available in the Lehigh Valley.
Long Island Fury – The Fury are one of the longest tenured and most successful clubs in WPSL history. Founded in 2005, the team has won two WPSL National Championships (2006, 2009), but 2012 was one of its toughest years as it finished 4-4-2 and out of the playoffs. But no one should ever dismiss what is a proud franchise. The team has always boasted players who have represented strong collegiate programs such as Notre Dame, UConn, Syracuse, Loyola, St. Johns, Maryland and Georgetown. The 2013 iteration of the Fury should once again compete for a divisional crown.
New Jersey Blaze – Heading into the 2013 WPSL season, the New Jersey Blaze has put an impressive squad together. Head Coach Paul Iannaccone is in his first season in charge of the squad and believes the team is deep in all positions. Leading the team will be captain Kerry Glynn, a defensive-midfielder with the University of Vermont. The roster also includes goalkeeper Hannah Steadman of the University of Tennessee, defender Connie Gormley from Binghamton, Farleigh Dickinson midfielder Lindzy Williams, Vermont midfielder Alexandra Dezenzo and defenders Frantzia Francois and Patricia Cardona, who play for Haiti and El Salvador respectively.
New York Athletic Club – It seems like New York AC gets stronger and stronger each year. In 2012, the NYAC ladies not only finished with an 8-1-2 record in WPSL play but also advanced to the final of the US Women’s Open Cup (NYAC won the 2010 Open Cup). The team has featured players such as Pittsburgh alumni Maura and Katie Caslin, and there is little doubt that the 2013 edition of NYAC will once again compete for glory inside and outside the WPSL.
ACF Torino USA – The name might be new, but expectations of excellence are not. Formerly the Maryland Capitols FC, ACF Torino USA formed after the organization affiliated with ACF Torino of the Serie A Femminile League. In 2012, the club won the WPSL’s Northeast Atlantic South Division with a 7-1-2 record. The team should be a contender in the South Atlantic division this year, as it boasts an array of talented players including a strong contingent from the University of Maryland. Among the Terps on its roster are UMD alums Ali Andrzejewski (Fwd), Bailey Bodell (Def), Emily Janss (Def) and Olivia Wagner (Mid), and current UMD players Rachelle Beanlands (GK), Kayla Clarke (Def), Alex Doody (Fwd) and Amanda Gerlitz (Def).
ASA Chesapeake Charge – The Charge return to the WPSL after spending 2012 in the WPSL Elite league, finishing 6th in the 8-team league with a 2-3-9 record and missing the playoffs. But in returning to the WPSL, the team should turn into a South Atlantic division contender. Returning players for 2013 include Hopkins alum Jessica Hnatiuk (Def); West Virginia University alum Laura Kane (Fwd); current University of Maryland players Alexis Prior-Brown (Fwd), Riley Barger (Mid) and Marissa Kresge (Fwd); Towson alumni Brittany Hadaway (Mid) and Cheyenne Skidmore (Fwd), as well as current Tiger Erin Quinn (GK); George Mason star Lyndse Hokanson (GK); Hofstra’s Caylin Dudley (Fwd); Florida Tech alum Jennifer Gillette (Def); UMBC’s Alexa Quaranta (Def); and incoming Loyola University freshman Nicole Wojcik (Mid).
Lancaster Inferno – Another rebranded side in South Atlantic division, the Lancaster Inferno is returning to its original identity after being known as the Penn Legacy Inferno for the past two seasons. The organization is looking to build off of a 5-4-1 campaign in 2012 that saw the team finish in third place in the Northeast Atlantic – South. An extension of the PA Classics soccer club, the Inferno is hoping that 2013 will be the season that recaptures its glory days of 2008-2010, when the organization went 21-4-7 in the league and finished in first in the East-MidAtlantic division in 2010. Leading the way from the sideline will be head coach Doug Harris, who enters his sixth year as head coach of the squad.
Lions Swarm – A new entry in the WPSL, the Lions Swarm is a member of the Lion Soccer Club based out of Southern Maryland. At the helm is Myron Garnes, a USSF "A" licensed coach with a combined 30 years of experience playing and coaching. The Swarm is looking to get off to a good start in their debut season by bringing in players such as Jasmine Sampson (Mid/Fwd), who has played for Syracuse University and the Trinidad and Tobago U17 national team.
Philadelphia Fever – Another team in the division that is coming into the WPSL after a year in WPSL Elite, the Fever were established last season and struggled in the Elite league, finishing near the bottom of the table with a 1-11-2 record. But the transition into the WPSL should help the team to be more competitive and push for a spot near the top of the South Atlantic division. In December, the club announced that Seamus O’Connor would take over as head coach after serving in the 2012 Fever front office. O’Connor has previously coached in the league with the AC Diablos, Philadelphia Liberty and CDSA Future, and he is currently an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Temple University’s women’s soccer program.
Tidewater Sharks – The Sharks were new to the WPSL in 2012, finishing at the bottom of the Northeast Atlantic – South division with a 2-5-3 record. Owned by Premiere Sports, LLC, the club believes it can take a major step forward under the leadership of coach Kevin Darcy and player assistant coach Kellie Jenkins in 2013 by bringing in a blend of college, former college and top youth club players. The team will play their home matches at Williamsburg's Cooley Field.