United Women’s Soccer: East Conference Recap

United Women's SoccerThe United Women’s Soccer East Conference saw a team shake off an early season setback to make an impressive run for the championship this season.

New Jersey Copa F.C. (8-1-1) finished first in the conference, but started their first season at the pro-am with a 3-0 loss to Long Island Rough Riders. NJCFC would follow that match with a win over TSF Academy Valkyries and then had to hold on for a 1-1 draw vs. Long Island at home.

At 1-1-1, UWS East Coach of the Year Roberto Aguas went on a run and won their next three matches by a 12-0 margin over New York, TSF Academy and Lancaster and would finish the season with seven straight victories.

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A big part of New Jersey’s success was forward Krystyna Freda. She translated her goal-scoring prowess from her time in the collegiate and professional ranks to the pro-am ranks. She was named UWS East Player of the Week three times and won the league scoring race (15 goals, three assist, 33 points). The Somerset, NJ-native was named the conference Player of the Year.

The New England Mutiny (6-4) played a major part in the organization and development of UWS, and looked to duplicate their 17 years of success in the new national pro-am league. Their season started well with a 3-0 win over New York Magic in front of a capacity home crowd. A tough 3-2 road win over Lancaster (5/22) foreshadowed their first loss in the home rematch vs. the Inferno (6/4). From there, they went 2-2 in their next four games and issues on set-piece defending began to plague the team. And in their two opportunities to catch up to Copa, the Mutiny would lose both encounters against them by a goal.

But one result that truly foretold New England’s fate was a 3-1 loss to TSF Academy on June 19. After scoring the first goal, the Mutiny were overrun by the Valkyries, allowing three unanswered tallies to what was at that time a low-scoring team. But even though team defense was an issue this year, the individual talent the East runner-ups possessed was recognized by the league. Defenders Allyson Swaby and Jennifer Cafferky were named All-East and that bodes well for their defense in 2017. Team veterans Kate Howarth (second in scoring in UWS) and Stephanie Santos would also receive conference honors. New England finished third in UWS scoring (21 goals).

The Long Island Rough Riders (4-3-3) had the best success against the East champions of all the teams in the conference, going 1-0-1 against NJCFC. But it was their old W-League rivals in the Mutiny that proved to the thorn in their side this season. They lost both games to New England which would cement their third-place finish. Long Island had the second best defense in all of UWS this year (10 goals allowed) but couldn’t muster enough consistency in attack (+6 goal differential). Forward Christina Bellero would be selected to the All-East Team for her efforts, but it was a pair of veteran defenders — conference Defensive Player of the Year Kelly Eagan and Sue Alber — who were named to the First Team.

The improvement from their 2015 WPSL season to the 2016 UWS East campaign was tangible for the Lancaster Inferno (4-5-1), it was just simply a matter of not putting enough positive results in a row for the fourth-place side. After losing their home opener to the Mutiny, Lancaster started June with a strong weekend of two 1-0 wins over New England and Long Island. But the Inferno would than lose their next three games. Wins over New York (6/25) and TSF Academy (7/9) picked them back up again but a 0-1-1 finish to 2016 dropped them back down. Two players would be honored by the league office, as Costa Rican international Carol Sanchez made the All-East First Team while Trisha Clark was an Honorable Mention selection.

The TSF Academy Valkyries (3-4-3) can certainly look at themselves with a measure of pride, especially after the way 2016 ended. TSF could only manage one win in their first six games — a strong effort vs. East contender New England that saw midfielder Nickolette Driesse be named conference Offensive Player of the Week — but went on a solid 2-1-1 run (2-0-1 at home) to complete their slate. The play of midfielder Alana O’Neill would be recognized as she was named to the All-East First Team while teammate Jen Andresen was awarded Honorable Mention honors.

The New York Magic (0-8-2) – another long-standing women’s soccer organization — were the lone team in UWS to not notch a victory. New York scored the second-fewest goals in the league (11 in 10 games) but allowed the most (34) which spelled their doom in last-place. But that was not the fault of Magic goalkeeper Samantha Depken, a veteran leader for the team who ended the season making the most saves (67) in UWS and would be named UWS East Defensive Player of the Week two times. She would receive an All-East Team accolade for her resoluteness in goal. Shani Abrahams would finish the year tied in fifth place in the league in goals scored (5).

EAST CONFERENCE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Week 1:

Christina Bellero – Long Island Rough Riders (Offensive)

Cailynn Harding – New England Mutiny (Defensive)

Week 2:

Kate Howarth – New England Mutiny (Offensive)

Kristyn Shea – New Jersey Copa F.C. (Defensive)

Week 3:

Krystyna Freda – New Jersey Copa F.C. (Offensive)

Callie Duliba – New Jersey Copa F.C. (Defensive)

Week 4:

Teresa Rynier – Lancaster Inferno (Offensive)

Carol Sanchez – Lancaster Inferno (Defensive)

Week 5:

Krystyna Freda – New Jersey Copa F.C. (Offensive)

Samantha Depken – New York Magic (Defensive)

Nicole Bates – New Jersey Copa F.C. (Defensive)

Week 6:

Nickolette Driesse – TSF Academy Valkyries (Offensive)

Melissa Guglielmo – Long Island Rough Riders (Defensive)

Week 7:

Jeanine Nunez – New Jersey Copa F.C. (Offensive)

Alexandra Plantive – Lancaster Inferno (Defensive)

Week 8:

NO WEEKLY AWARD

Week 9:

Krystyna Freda – New Jersey Copa F.C. (Offensive)

Jennifer Cafferky – New England Mutiny (Defensive)

Week 10:

Christina Bellero – Long Island Rough Riders (Offensive)

Erin Neville – Long Island Rough Riders (Defensive)

Week 11:

Kate Howarth – New England Mutiny (Offensive)

Samantha Depken – New York Magic (Defensive)

Information provided by United Women’s Soccer.