Setting the Scene
Who:
Bucknell (0-0) vs. Syracuse (0-0)
When: Friday, August 18 – 7 p.m.
Where:
Emmitt Field at Holmes Stadium – Lewisburg, Pa.
Live Video:
Patriot League Network
Live Stats:
BucknellBison.com
Follow on Twitter: @Bucknell_WSOC

Who:
Bucknell (0-0) vs. Saint Joseph's (0-0)
When:
Sunday, August 20 – 1 p.m.
Where:
Emmitt Field at Holmes Stadium – Lewisburg, Pa.
Live Video:
Patriot League Network
Live Stats:
BucknellBison.com
Follow on Twitter: @Bucknell_WSOC

About the Bison
* The Bison return to action in 2017 after capturing their third Patriot League trophy and earning a NCAA berth for the first time since 2005.
* Bucknell set a team record in wins (16), league wins (8) and win percentage (.850) last season, while posting a program-record 14 game unbeaten streak.
* The Bison bring back 45 of their 51 goals a season ago, including eight of their top 10 scorers.
* Bucknell returns seven starters, five of whom made All-Patriot League Teams in 2016.
* The Bison have reached the Patriot League Championship game each of the last two seasons under Kelly Cook, who enters her third year as women's soccer head coach. She is a two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year and will be joined on the sidelines by David Madsen and Leigh Howard. The trio earned Regional Staff of the Year honors in 2016.
* Kendall Ham was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, given annually to the nation's best player.
* The Bison are 2-0 in season openers under coach Cook.
* Bucknell is 14-1-2 in its last two seasons at Emmitt Field.

Scouting Syracuse/Series History
* The Orange finished 8-8-3 overall last season, including a 3-5-1 mark on the road.
* Syracuse returns four of its top five scorers from 2016.
* Friday will mark just the second meeting between the two programs.
* Bucknell defeated Syracuse by a 2-1 margin last season in New York. Ham and Maddie Dano each found the back of the net to help the Bison capture their second victory against an ACC opponent. Bucknell defeated Maryland in 2008, before the Terrapins moved to the Big Ten. The Bison also defeated Pittsburgh, but that came before the Panthers changed conferences.

Scouting Saint Joseph's/Series History
*
The Hawks open their 2017 season against Patriot League-foe Lafayette on Friday (Aug. 18).
* Saint Joseph's was picked third in the Atlantic-10 Preseason Poll, while juniors Paige Bergman and Dakota Mills were named to the Preseason All-Conference Team.
* The Hawks posted a team-record 18 wins in 2016, winning their first-ever A-10 regular-season championship after going 9-0-1 in league play.
* Mills is the reigning A-10 Offensive Player of the Year, tallying 18 goals and five assists last season.
* Bucknell and Saint Joseph's will meet for the eighth time and the first since 2002. The Bison are 5-2 all-time against the Hawks.

Preseason All-Patriot League
* Bucknell tied a league-high three players honored on the Preseason All-Patriot League Team, including Karli Cirovski, Kendall Ham and Maddie Mulford, who each earned First Team All-Patriot League recognition last season. * Ham was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year for a second consecutive year.
* The Bison were picked second in the Patriot League Preseason Poll. Boston University was tabbed preseason favorites, collecting 156 points and 12 first-place votes. The Bison placed second with 152 points and eight first-place tallies, while Navy came in third with 121 points, followed by Colgate (119), Lehigh (102), Loyola (69), Army (66), Lafayette (53), Holy Cross (43) and American (19) to round out the poll.

Up Next
* Bucknell will hit the road for its next three contests, beginning with a trip to Duke on Aug. 25. The Bison will be at William & Mary on Aug. 27 and conclude the road trip with a visit to Rider on Sept. 3.

Below is an in-depth season preview: 

The Bucknell women's soccer team is coming off what many consider to be its greatest season in program history. The Bison set school records in wins (16) and win percentage (.850), hoisting their third Patriot League trophy and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.

With all of the team's success last season, the Bison were able to accomplish it all with just four senior starters: forward Alexis Gannon, midfielder Cora Climo, right back Kelsey Witt and goalkeeper Jessica Ratner. Bucknell returns seven starters from last season's championship team, five of whom were on All-Patriot League Teams, and 45 of its 51 goals, eighth-most in the country last year. With plenty of reason to believe the Bison will repeat as league champs, head coach Kelly Cook knows each year is different than the last.

“Each year is a new year,” said Cook, who enters her third season as women's soccer head coach. “We want to use the experience we gained last year, but this year is a new team and we have new goals and new challenges to face this fall.”

In addition to setting team records in wins and win percentage, the Bison also posted their longest unbeaten streak of 14 games, while winning eight games in Patriot League play.

In preparation for league action, the two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year is challenging her squad with a very difficult schedule, which features home games against Syracuse, Tennessee, Saint Joseph's, Princeton and Saint Francis (Pa.), along with road trips to Duke, William & Mary, Rider and Penn.

“We definitely stepped up our non-league schedule,“ commented Cook, who has guided the Bison to the Patriot League Championship game each of her first two seasons. “Playing schools from the ACC, SEC and Ivy League will challenge us and help us prepare for the Patriot League schedule.”

GOALKEEPER: The Bison will look to fill the void left by Ratner, who graduated as the program's all-time leader in goalkeeper wins (31) and shutouts (24). A Second Team All-Mid-Atlantic-Region honoree in 2016, Ratner became the first Bison in program history to be chosen as Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year.

Sophomore Dani Kaufman is the front-runner to replace Ratner in 2017. Kaufman played sparingly last year, seeing action in three games, but made the most of her time, making five stops while posting a perfect save-percentage and contributing to a pair of shutouts. Kaufman gained valuable experience in Israel over the summer, competing at the Maccabiah Games.

Classmate Theresa Adu-Attobrah will be vying for playing time, as the two continue to push each other throughout the preseason.

“With each having one year of experience, they are competing everyday and pushing each other to be better,” said Cook, who will be joined on the sideline by David Madsen and Leigh Howard, a coaching staff that received Regional Staff of the Year accolades in 2016. “Neither of them has seen a lot of game minutes, so it will be a challenge from that standpoint, but I think both of them have the abilities to step up and get the job done for us.”

DEFENSE: The Bison back line remains one of the most experienced position groups on the roster, returning three of their four starters that competed in the NCAA Tournament First Round game at Penn State. Bucknell's defense was among the stingiest in the country, posting 10 shutouts while allowing the fewest goals in the Patriot League.

Despite losing Witt, a Patriot League All-Tournament Team honoree last season, junior Maddie Dano returns to the Bison lineup after missing the final nine games of the year to injury. She was having a fine sophomore season, tallying three goals and three assists.

Senior captain Karli Cirovski, a First Team All-Patriot League selection last year and a Preseason All-Patriot League honoree in 2017, will anchor the Bison back line, along with classmate Jackie Ham, who earned Second Team All-Patriot League status last season. Sophomore Ali Russo returns to the lineup after a fantastic rookie season that landed her Third Team All-Patriot League accolades.

Bucknell returns juniors Camille Andrews and Melissa MacPherson along with sophomores Julia Rotatori and Lilly Courts to provide depth, while welcoming newcomers Sarah Hazard and Chloe Christakos.

“Our back line is very experienced,” said Cook, named one of “Five D1 women's soccer coaches you should know” by TopDrawerSoccer.com. “We have a strong returning group, along with some young players that have stepped up and will be challenging for playing time.”

MIDFIELD: Bucknell will miss the presence of captain Cora Climo, the 2016 Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player after knocking in the golden goal to help the Bison clinch the league trophy, but return plenty of veterans in 2017.

Senior Meghan Holtz, a Second Team All-Patriot League performer last season, will provide leadership as a two-year team captain.

“Holtz provides a ton of leadership for us,” said Cook. “She really sets the tempo for us and we're fortunate to have her in there this season.”

Senior Gabi Rosenfeld, who joined Kaufman at Maccabiah Games, returns to the fold this season after providing a boost at the position in her first season with the Bison.

Junior Riley Coopersmith returns to the lineup after missing all of last season with an injury, while Russo also saw game action in the midfield in 2016. Junior Casey Gray will see minutes with the midfielders this season, while senior Carolyn Casey and junior Carly Baggott will provide veteran options. Three rookies join the group, including Alexandra Catanzarite and Tia Zajec.

“It's a group that has some experience, but also some young blood,” commented Cook. “It's a deeper midfield than we've had in the past.”

FORWARD: Bucknell boasted one of the top offenses in the country in 2016, ranking fourth in scoring offense (2.55), fifth in points per game (7.45), fifth in assists per game (2.35) and eighth in total goals (51). A big credit to that was the Bison's strong group of forwards, highlighted by Kendall Ham and Maddie Mulford, who each earned First Team All-Patriot League recognition a season ago and were named to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team.

Ham is perhaps the most feared striker in the Patriot League last year, leading the league in points (35), and goals (15) and game-winning goals (5) en route to being named Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year. Recently named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, Ham earned First Team All-Mid-Atlantic-Region honors last season while becoming the first Bison women's soccer player ever to receive All-America recognition. She was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year for a second consecutive season.

Mulford provided a great 1-2 punch, finishing second behind Ham in points (26) and goals (9), while her eight assists led the Patriot league.

“Returning Kendall and Maddie is big for us,” said Cook. “They are two of the top forwards in the Patriot League and they provide a threat that's a constant danger, but they're both seniors. Coaches have seen them now for three years and we have to keep being creative with how we're finding our attack.”  

The Bison will look to fill the void left by Alexis Gannon, a Second Team All-Patriot League selection last season, but Bucknell has plenty of returners ready to step up for the challenge.

Sophomores Bailey Hurst and Gabby Bair are coming off strong freshmen campaigns. Hurst scored the third-most goals on the team last season (5), while Bair scored the fourth-most (4). The Bison also return junior Shelby Roberts, while welcoming freshmen Jenna Marek and Brianna Kropinack.

“I think we have the potential to be really explosive offensively, but we definitely have some challenging opponents along the way,” noted Cook.

The Patriot League schedule starts on Sept. 16 at Lafayette. The Bison will host American, Army West Point, Lehigh and Boston University at Emmitt Field this season, while making trips to Loyola, Holy Cross, Colgate and Navy.

The Patriot League Tournament will begin on Halloween (Oct. 31), followed by the semifinals on Nov. 3 and the championship game on Nov. 5. The top six teams will qualify for the postseason tournament, with the top two seeds earning quarterfinal byes. The No. 1 seed will host the semifinal and championship contests, with the tournament champion receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.