Four of the team's top five scorers from last year are among the returnees, including leading scorer and Third-Team All-BIG EAST selction Katie Ritter (Hagerstown, Md.), senior forward Stephanie Soma (Franklin, Mass.) and junior midfielder Ashley Clarke (Paramus, N.J.).
The combination of adding fresh faces to a team that has gained valuable experience over the last several seasons has led to a very optimistic outlook in 2012.
"I think one of our strengths this year will be our depth at multiple positions; we have a lot more competition for playing time than we have ever had, which in turn will make us better," Tambi said. "With players competing every day in training, everyone is pushing one another to get better, and that will make us a stronger team."
That balance should be a valuable commodity for the Pirates as they face a very difficult non-conference schedule before diving into BIG EAST play. Four of Seton Hall's eight non-conference opponents were NCAA Tournament teams last season: La Salle, William & Mary, Army and Long Island. Tambi hopes the experiences gained early in the season will reap big rewards once the team finds itself in conference play.
"I want us to go out and try to take it to teams. We have a very strong non-conference schedule, but we need to be confident and come out with the understanding that we are also a very strong team and aggressively attack all of our opponents and have the mentality that we can beat them all," Tambi said.
"We're really excited about this year. I think we have a really solid incoming freshman class, they are doing very well, and when you combine that with a group that I think got some excellent experience over the last couple years that leaves us very optimistic heading into the season."
The Pirates will turn to six players to lead the offensive attack on the front line. Seton Hall's forwards will present a dynamic skillset and varied specialties that should help develop a potent and balanced offense.
Soma is the most experienced offensive player returning for Seton Hall. She played in a career-high 20 games last season, ranking third on the team with four goals and nine points, which were also career-high totals.
"We are expecting this to be Stephanie's best year," Tambi said. "This is her fifth year and she looks the best she has ever looked. I think she is using her extra experience and knowledge to her benefit and we hope that continues into the season."
Ritter led Seton Hall in scoring for the second-straight season. After scoring seven goals during her freshman campaign, she added six more to her career total in 2011, to sit in a tie for sixth place in school history in scoring after just two years.
"Katie has been a gigantic factor in the past and has impacted so many of our results with big goals," Tambi said. "We are banking on her continuing to be a big-game player and continuing to find ways to provide winning goals for us."
Sophomore Angie Shehaj (East Brunswick, N.J.) was very impactful as a freshman, seeing action in 13 games and ranking second on the team with three assists. A stint with the Albanian National Team during the summer should enhance what she can provide during her second season.
"With Angie as a sophomore we are going to definitely be expecting big things from her," Tambi said. "Beyond the experience she gained with us last season, her international experience with the Albanian National Team should also provide a big boost in her game."
Sophomore Kristin Kosch (Mahway, N.J.) missed her freshman season because of an injury, but through the spring season and early training this year has shown that she should be a key addition to the SHU attack.
"Kristin came back to have a very solid spring season when she showed her great ability to penetrate and create scoring chances," Tambi said. "We hope that continues now that she is strong and healthy and looking great in the preseason."
Sophomore Mikayla Hickey (Salem, N.H.) will be seeing a new role this season as she has moved up to play at forward where she excelled during offseason training sessions.
"Mikayla had a very good spring season; we played her up front and she looked very dangerous and created opportunities for herself and her teammates during our spring scrimmages," Tambi said. "We are excited about her improvement and the potential of her playing in a new spot."
Freshman Christie Cherup (Wayne, N.J.) comes to Seton Hall from Wayne Hills High School where she earned First-Team All-County Defender accolades for four-straight seasons. An offensive minded backfield player, she scored 11 goals as a junior and added 10 more during hersenior season.
"Christie is a tremendous athlete with a strong work ethic," Tambi said. "She brings some intangibles to the field by doing an excellent job heading the ball in the box and she should present herself as a weapon with that uncommon ability."
Seton Hall's group of midfielders will provide the team with a diverse set of talents that will make them assets all over the field. The young group, which features five juniors and no seniors, should be strength for years to come.
Junior Brittney Albrecht (Mahway, N.J.) played in all 20 games last year, making nine starts. She scored once, the game-winner against DePaul University, and will be looking to see her offensive game evolve even more this year.
"Brittney has a wealth of potential and she is starting to demonstrate it in terms of her ability to penetrate off the dribble and score goals," Tambi said. "That is exactly what we will look for from her this season."
Clarke is an explosive outside midfielder that has proven to be one of Seton Hall's most important offensive weapons. She scored two goals to go along with two assists in each of her first two seasons. This past summer she earned All-Conference honors in the W-League.
"Ashley has been a dynamic flank midfielder for a few years and is someone that can be counted on to tirelessly attack opponents and give them fits," Tambi said. "She continues to improve and we expect her development to make us a much stronger team."
Junior Marie Klemme (Berlin, Germany) has already gained valuable experience through two seasons at Seton Hall, playing in 36 matches and making 27 starts. In the past she has played more of a defensive role, but this year it is expected that she will be looked to as a major catalyst for the offense.
"Last year because of her versatility, Marie played primarily as a defender. But this year, because she is one of our most skilled and an intelligent player who reads plays well, we are excited for her to play more of the role of an outside midfielder," Tambi said.
Junior Amie Ruhe (Monrovia, Md.) is another midfielder that Tambi sees evolving into more of an offensive threat this season. She has started 36 of the Pirates' 38 games since she arrived on campus, scoring two goals with five assists.
"Amie has been coming into her own as a player and become an integral part of our team as a playmaking, hardworking midfielder," Tambi said. "She has improved her finishing and we will be expecting her to contribute in terms of scoring more goals."
Sophomore Rachel Friedman (Bridgewater, N.J.) did not see action last season, but Tambi believes her talent offensively should result in her being a key contributor.
"Rachel is a gifted player, she is technically excellent and has a great knowledge of the game," Tambi said. "She can strike a great shot from long-range with both feet and we are hoping that as a sophomore she will be able to use those assets to help her earn an important role on the team."
Sophomore Kristina Meier (Paramus, N.J.) was a key contributor last year, playing in all 20 matches with 13 starts. She scored one goal during her freshman campaign playing mostly as a defender, but Tambi believes this year she could shine as a center midfielder.
"Kristina is one of our most composed players on the ball and is an excellent distributor which makes her potentially a big asset in the middle this year," Tambi said.
Freshman Alexis Urbanski (Aberdeen, N.J.) finished her high school career with nine goals and 30 assists at Matawan Aberdeen Regional High School. As a senior she was named First-Team All-State Group 3, First-Team All-Shore Conference and First-Team All-Monmouth County.
"Alexis is a versatile player who is savvy and sophisticated with excellent technical skills which should allow her to break into roles in the midfield and on defense," Tambi said.
Returning a number of talented and experienced defensive players from last year should prove to be critical to Seton Hall's success. The back line is also one of the Pirates' most seasoned groups, featuring three seniors in Cristina Barthel (Freehold, N.J.), Taylor Mims (Miller Place, N.Y.) and Rebecca Warrington (Magnolia, Del.), in addition to junior captain Meghan Hayes (Fredon, N.J.).
Barthel started all 20 games in the backfield for Seton Hall last year and her steady improvement over the past three seasons could lead to make tremendous contributions this year.
"Cristina has improved her technical abilities through hard work over the years and we are expecting her to have a standout season in the back as one of our veteran, experienced defenders," Tambi said.
Mims played in 17 games in 2011, making 10 starts. A productive offseason that also saw her compete in the W-League has Tambi expecting even bigger things from her during her senior season.
"Taylor is a skillful and creative player who can attack out of the backfield," Tambi said. "She has put more work in during this offseason than ever before, so we are expecting her to play a gigantic role in the back to help us compete against a tough schedule."
Warrington has worked her way through several injury plagued seasons and appeared in a career-high six games last season, after seeing action in two games in 2010 and redshirting her freshman season.
"Rebecca unfortunately has suffered through some injuries but she has never stopped working hard or continued to improve," Tambi said. "We hope that she is healthy enough this year to allow her to compete at the level she deserves to be at."
Hayes has proven to be a reliable asset for Seton Hall through her first two seasons and was selected as a junior captain for this year's team. She has started in 37 of the Pirates' 38 games since she arrived on campus and has shown an ability to play almost anywhere on the field.
"Meghan is a great team player and from day one she has been able to accept a number of different roles for us," Tambi said. "She has had the maturity and sophistication to make adjustments and always be someone that looks to improve everyone around her."
Sophomore Alyssa Stipcak (Mt. Airy, Md.) saw action in six games last year and made one start in the backfield. Her improvement since arriving on campus should lead to even more playing time this year.
"Alyssa initially came in with a great mentality in defending and being aggressive and an awesome ball winner," Tambi said. "Over the last year we have seen her improve and as a result she should be in a position to really impact the defensive unit."
While the defensive unit features a number of veteran players, Tambi also added three impressive freshman that are expected to make it a competitive position with a lot of depth heading into the future.
Melissa Blevins (Laurel Springs, N.J.) was a First-Team All-Conference selection at Highland Regional High School as a senior. She scored a career-high 12 goals as a sophomore and added seven more as a junior and four during her senior season.
"Melissa is one of the most athletic players in our group with tremendous speed and agility," Tambi said. "She also has an excellent tenacity in one-on-one defending. As she gets more experience we expect her to become an impactful defender."
Emily Hansinger (Mount Laurel, N.J.) received First-Team All-State and Third-Team All-South Jersey accolades as a senior at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School. She played for several top-level club teams including eight seasons with NJSC Real Power and one each with NJ Select and NJ Blaze.
"Emily is a versatile defender who can play on the inside and outside," Tambi said. "She brings forth a tremendous athleticism and maturity level. She also has an excellent work rate for a freshman."
D'Yonna Riley (Washingtonville, N.Y.) was an All-American defender at Washingtonville High School. She earned National Soccer Coaches Association of American (NSCAA) All-America honors as senior, one of just seven defenders nationally to do so, and was an ESPN Rise Third-Team All-American.
"D'Yonna is a unique player in that coming in as a freshman she has great athleticism, technical skills, creative ability and knowledge," Tambi said. "We expect her to make an immediate impact."
The Pirates have four goalkeepers on the roster for this season but still should be seeing several new faces in the nets. Senior Jennifer Pettigrew (Kearny, N.J.) is still recovering from an offseason injury, after making 11 starts and posting a 1.58 goals against average with three shutouts last season.
"Jenn Pettigrew was our top goalkeeper in the past and has been an All-BIG EAST selection," Tambi said. "We are not certain about her timing but we are hoping to have her back as soon as possible."
Alyssa Kelly (Southampton, N.J.) comes to Seton Hall from the University of Vermont where she lettered for three years. She started 16 games as a sophomore when she made 107 saves, the ninth most in a single season in school history.
"Alyssa comes in as a transfer and what she brings to the table is a tremendous work rate, experience and composure which I think will really help us defensively," Tambi said.
Freshman Gina Maiorana (Street, Md.) enjoyed a record-breaking career at The John Carroll school, where she graduated as the all-time leader in starts (70) and career-save percentage (.905). She was named to the Maryland Association of Soccer Coaches All-State Team in 2011.
"Gina is very athletic and she has great range and also a strong mentality," Tambi said. "She shows a lot of poise in goal and is more developed than a typical freshman."
Sophomore Peggy Nicolle (Wenonah, N.J.) did not see action as a freshman last season and has been fighting through a number of injuries as she competes for playing time in goal.
"Peggy is very talented and we feel that she has a bright future," Tambi said. "Unfortunately she has been hurt, but even when she is not playing she is a great supporter and teammate and that is vitally important to our team."