SEASON PREVIEW: Young Panthers To Kick Off 2019 Season Friday

SEASON PREVIEW: Young Panthers To Kick Off 2019 Season Friday

BRADFORD, Pa. -- The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford women's soccer team will kick off its 2019 season this weekend with a pair of games at Cazenovia.

The Panthers will open up their season against SUNY ESF Friday before taking on the host Cazenovia Saturday to wrap up the opening weekend.

Pitt-Bradford is guided by Head Coach Melissa Graham, who is in her third season at the helm. 

A season ago, Pitt-Bradford picked up five wins, four of which coming in Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference action. The Panthers were in contention for a conference playoff berth up until the final day of the season.

"We're really looking to make it into the conference tournament this season," Graham said. "The last two seasons we've just barely missed out on it. We're also looking to really build and grow as a young team this year as we look ahead to return all but one player for 2020."

The young Panther squad welcomes back six players from last year's team -- five of which are back for their second season as sophomores. 

Four of transfers and six freshmen make up the 10 newcomers to the team and join the returners.

"Some key returners we'll be looking to for leadership are our captains and two of our sophomores, goalkeeper Emily Bethel and defender Katie Anderton," Graham said. "Emily started every game for us as a freshman last year and was defensive player of the week one week for the AMCC. Katie also started every game for us in the back as a freshman and is a strong leader and solid defender for us."

Pitt-Bradford returns another starter in Megan Rose in the midfield. Joining her are classmates Kaylin Kavanagh and Emily Royea, with forward Madison Feeser back as the team's lone returning upperclassman.

"Junior transfer Taylor Sutryk will be an immediate impact player for us up top," Graham added about her newcomers. "She'll be a good goal scorer for us this season and is already stepping up as a leader on the team."

"Additionally, freshman Kiley Tuttle will be a major impact player for us in the midfield as well as freshmen Emily Goetz and Brianna Campson on the defensive side of things."

Also joining the Panthers this season is sophomore midfielder Gianna Granito, midfielders freshman Cassidy King and sophomore transfer Cassidy Fenner, junior transfer forward Raven Magrino and freshmen defender Jada Luther and goalkeeper Sadie Wood.

Pitt-Bradford's schedule is made up of an even nine road matches and nine home contests at the Kessel Athletic Complex.

The Panthers will open up home action Thursday, Sept. 5, as Allegheny comes to town. The first AMCC action will take place Saturday, Sept. 21, when Pitt-Greensburg makes its way to campus.

"I think we're really focused on working to win some of the conference games that were close matchups for us last season, but didn't go our way, particularly against Penn State-Altoona and Franciscan," Graham said. "We'll need to field a strong team against the squads we snuck by with a win against last year, such as Medaille and La Roche."

Though the squad is made up of young players, Graham is confident in the leadership and talent heading into the season.

"We have a young team but we have some solid leadership and we've already started to come together," she said. "I think we need to just continue to build on what we have and grow together as a team. We're really excited and looking forward to this season."

Friday's season opener is set for a 5 p.m. kickoff.