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Balanced Scoring, Solid Defense Help Johns Hopkins Women's Soccer To Top 10 Ranking

September 28, 2017
The Johns Hopkins women's soccer program has been built by productive individual scorers, and while the 2017 season has brought a new look to the Blue Jays' offense, the results look similar.

The Blue Jays will take a 7-2-1 overall mark and 2-0-0 Centennial Conference record into their Sept. 30 league matchup at Haverford. Johns Hopkins, which was ranked eighth in the Sept. 26 United Soccer Coaches national poll, had won three straight games before falling to local rival Stevenson, 3-2, in overtime at Homewood Field Sept. 27. 

The Blue Jays once relied on Hannah Kronick, a three-time All-American who set the school's career records for points, goals and assists from 2011-2014, and Meg Van de Loo, who earned All-America honors twice and totaled 25 goals and nine assists during her 2016 senior campaign, for the bulk of their scoring. But a balanced offense and stout goaltending have proved a successful formula during the Blue Jays' early-season run. 

"We had a good core group returning, and this freshman class is one of our best ever," said head coach Leo Weil, who started the Johns Hopkins program in 1992 and is in his 26th year. "We also have the most depth of any team since I've been here.

"We don't have a single dominant goal-scorer like we've had the last few years," added Weil, who has guided the Blue Jays program to 12 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, four Elite Eight appearances and the 2014 Final Four during the past 12 seasons. "Now, there is more of a team approach than when we had big-time scorers like Hannah and Meg. This year, we have a number of people who can score." 

Johns Hopkins Women's Soccer 2017: Michelle Santangelo
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics

Senior forwards Michelle Santangelo (eight goals, two assists) and Bailey Monaco (four, four) have been a part of three NCAA Division III Tournament teams. Santangelo, who was limited to one goal in 12 games during an injury-hampered 2016 season, earned Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors Sept. 25 after totaling four goals during the Blue Jays' victories against Rutgers-Camden and Washington College. 

The Blue Jays are also getting steady contributions from younger strikers. Junior forward Kristen Hori contributed one goal and five assists before suffering a serious knee injury against Washington College. Freshman forward Riley O'Toole (five goals, one assist) and sophomore forward Maddy Rocks (five goals) have emerged to help the Blue Jays overcome the graduation of the leading scorers from last year's NCAA Sweet 16 team -- Van de Loo (25 goals, nine assists) and forward Ana Bengoechea (11 goals, nine assists). 

"Riley's confidence has grown since the preseason," Weil said. "She has that take-on mentality that so many players don't have. She has a great shot and can cross effectively with both feet." 

The Blue Jays' depth extends to the goalkeeper position, where senior Bess Kitzmiller and sophomore Robyn Lipschultz have shared playing time. Kitzmiller has posted a 0.79 goals-allowed average, and Lipschultz hasn't allowed a goal in four starts. 

"It's nice to have two goalkeepers that we can depend on," Weil said. "Bess is very athletic and can really jump and cover a lot of ground. Robyn has played well and is making a lot of progress." 

Kitzmiller and Lipschultz are learning from assistant coach William Vanzela, the veteran Baltimore Blast net minder who is one of the most accomplished goalies in the Major Arena Soccer League. Vanzela is in his first year as the Blue Jays' goalkeeper coach. 

With their final nonleague match against Stevenson behind them, the Blue Jays are focused on winning the Centennial Conference championship. Johns Hopkins will be challenged by traditional league contenders McDaniel, Swarthmore, Haverford and Gettysburg.

But Weil is confident in his defensive unit, which has allowed five goals in 10 games and recorded seven shutouts. 

"One of our missions this year was to become more solid defensively, and that group has done very well so far," Weil said. "As long as we can limit the number of goals, we will be in many games." 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics