Last year, the women’s soccer team lived and died based on the performance of forward Becky Brown ’11. With last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year having since graduated, though, the team is looking for a new strategy as it hopes to improve off of last year’s sixth-place finish.

Head coach Rudy Meredith said that one of the team’s biggest priorities leading up to the start of the season has been working on the team’s offense, especially since the Bulldogs were shutout in three Ivy League games last year.

“As a team we depended on Becky too much,” Meredith said. “I think that was an issue sometimes because if Becky scored last year, then we pretty much won; and if she didn’t, we pretty much didn’t win. That was pretty much how things went last year, so hopefully we can change that and be a little bit more dynamic with more than just one player that can cause problems. That’s what we’re hoping to try to develop this preseason — more offensive options.”

The Bulldogs open their 2011 campaign next weekend when they take on Marist and Providence as part of the Yale Soccer Classic. Yale posted an 8–8–1 overall record last year but went 3–4 against Ancient Eight opponents.

With eight new freshmen and a strong group of returning players, the Bulldogs say they are ready to return to the pitch and begin the road towards contending for the Ivy League crown.

“I think we’re a very talented team and we’ve got a lot of potential, so I’m pretty excited for the upcoming season,” captain and forward Miyuki Hino ’12 said.

The team is hoping the addition of eight newcomers to its roster will enable the Elis to have more success against the Ivy League this season.

“I think it’s going to be really surprising for the Ivy League teams that we play against because they don’t know most of the people that are going to be playing,” midfielder Enma Mullo ’12 said.

Contributions from freshmen will also be important because the team has already lost two key players to injury. Hino will be sidelined for the entire season with a torn ACL, while starting defender Shannon McSweeney ’14 will likely miss a significant amount of time due to a torn meniscus.

“Those two are very important players to our team,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “We lost those players before we even started preseason, so that was a tough, tough blow, but I give our kids credit to how they’ve handled the situation.”

Despite the loss of Brown, the Bulldogs will return forwards Kristen Forster ’13 and Mary Kubiuk ’13, who each scored four goals last year to finish tied with Brown for the most goals on the team. Jessica Schloth ’14, along with new additions Frannie Coxe ’15, Melissa Gavin ’15 and Georgiana Wagemann ’15, will also help bolster Yale’s offense.

With the injury to Hino, Mullo will be the lone senior in action and returns as a mainstay in the midfield. She is also a scoring threat and racked up three goals and five assists last season. Trish Berkanish ’13 and Juliann Jeffrey ’14 also return to help anchor the midfield.

The team also returns a number of defenders, including Torrey Leroy ’13, Anna McCahon ’14, and Lauren Mathy ’13, who all helped lead the Bulldogs to four shutouts last season.

The Elis will feature a new starting goalie as the team lost Ayana Sumiyasu ’11 to graduation, with junior Adele Jackson-Gibson ’13 expected to take over the starting role. Along with being the fastest player on the team, Jackson-Gibson also sports a 1.88 career goals against average. Newcomer Elise Wilcox ’15 also provides the team with some depth in front of the net.

The Elis will officially debut on September 2 against Marist, which Hino said the team is looking forward to.

“We’re definitely ready to start kicking some other people’s ankles and not our own,” she said.

Kickoff against Marist is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Reese Stadium. The Bulldogs will then face Providence on Sept. 4 at 2:30 p.m.