LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Bucknell women’s soccer team returned to the training grounds on Wednesday, as head coach Kelly Cook’s squad began its pursuit of a second straight Patriot League title in 2017. The Bison are coming off arguably their greatest season in program history, setting school records in wins (16) and win percentage (.800), while knocking off Lafayette and Boston University in the Patriot League Tournament to capture their third league trophy and a NCAA berth for the first time since 2005.

After reporting back to campus for team meetings on Tuesday, the Bison began their title defense bright and early with fitness testing Wednesday morning, and the two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year was pleased with the conditioning status of her team.

“I was really happy with how prepared the women came in,” commented Cook, who will be joined on the sidelines by David Madsen and Leigh Howard. “The fitness testing went well and I’m now looking forward to focusing on more soccer-specific training.” 

The Bison continued their day with a morning training session and later returned to the pitch for an intrasquad scrimmage. 

Bucknell, who finished 16-2-2 overall and 8-1-0 in the Patriot League in 2016, returns seven starters and 45 of its 51 goals from a year ago, but the Bison welcome six freshmen to the roster and Cook knows the importance of getting the newcomers acclimated to the team culture.  

“Every year is a new year,“ says Cook. “Last year was an awesome achievement with a great group and we return a lot of them and that’s the exciting part about this year, but we know we have to put the work in to get in a position where we are competing with some of the great teams in the league. We have six newcomers joining us, and the quicker we can get team chemistry going, I think we can compete for a title, but there’s plenty more to focus on before reaching a championship.” 

Bucknell will compete in a pair of exhibition contests – Aug. 9 at home against Robert Morris and Aug. 11 at St. Bonaventure – before opening the 2017 campaign against ACC opponent Syracuse on Aug. 18 at Emmitt Field, which will broadcast on the Patriot League Network.