Women's soccer team has high hopes for an NCAA tournament berth

With three-straight berths in the ECAC tournament finals, including titles in 2007 and 2008, Brandeis women's soccer head coach Denise Dallamora is hoping her 31st season will be the year the Judges break through to the NCAA tournament. The Judges, who finished 10-6-5 overall, and 3-3-1 and tied for fourth in the University Athletic Association rankings last season, have all but three starters returning in 2010.

Though they have to replace two of the program's all-time leaders — first-team All-UAA forward Melissa Gorenkoff, who was 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.

Returning to the Judges' back line are two honorable-mention central defenders — senior Taryn Martiniello and junior Ali Maresca.

"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 was fourth in shutouts with nine, 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 Sax '09 – for the starting spot between the pipes.

The Judges open the season Sept. 1 at 4 p.m. at MIT, then host Babson College, William Paterson University and Ithaca College in the Brandeis Invitational on Gordon Field on Sept. 4 and 5. The Judges play at 11 a.m. both days.

Their UAA opener is on Oct. 2 at 11 a.m. against Case Western Reserve. Brandeis also faces a pair of nationally-ranked teams in conference play — NCAA tournament runner-up Washington University, which is ranked second by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America to start the season, and the University of Chicago, which is ranked 22nd. The Judges travel to St. Louis and Chicago over Halloween weekend.

For more information on women's soccer and all Brandeis sports teams, visit the Brandeis Athletics Website.

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