By David Pavlak
Senior Abi Cottam took the MAAC conference by storm last year with an offensive season that will be tough for other opponents and teammates to ever duplicate. Now in her final year of collegiate soccer, Cottam is trying to find a way to make that magic reappear for the women’s soccer team as they dive into the heart of their conference schedule.
Cottam finished the 2011-12 season near the top of many NCAA offensive statistics: sixth in points per game, eighth in assists per game, 14th in goals per game, 17th in total assists, 19th in total points and 28th in total goals.
Now that Cottam’s MAAC opponents have figured out how skilled she is offensively, they have begun to double-team her in order to slow her down, resulting in a different-paced game for the Leominster, England striker.
“We’ve lost a few players from [last season] and we’re just adjusting to conference play, which obviously is a big change as well,” Cottam said.
Always a top performer on the field for the Broncs, Cottam has been able to continue to find consistency with her teammates even with the turnover of seniors leaving and freshmen coming in.
“We have a lot of experience on our team, not just in the seniors, but those in their younger years are experienced [as well],” Cottam said. “The freshmen coming in fit in very well with our team and everybody is at a very high level so when you replace one player, the other is just as good. It’s not as if you are stepping down.”
Even with the increased attention from her opponents, Cottam feels her duty on the team has changed slightly on the field.
“My role is different this year,” Cottam said. “Last year we finished eighth, but I scored 14 goals. Personally, I’d sacrifice every one of those goals to finish first. This year I see myself more as supporting the team rather than being the one person who scores a lot of goals. When I play now, I focus on trying to make it more of a team effort up top.”
Head Coach Drayson Hounsome appreciates the effort and skills put forth by one of his strongest players.
“It is incredibly tough when a team has you marked out for special attention and at times [it] can be very hard to play,” Hounsome said. “Her role hasn’t changed, but it has become more difficult for her to capitalize on her strengths with multiple defenders covering her. Abi is a great athlete who attacks at pace. Those players on our team who are dynamic naturally stand out and therefore attract attention from the other team.”
As a captain, Cottam takes a hands-on approach with her leadership by showing how things should be done rather than explaining.
“As a player, I lead by example,” Cottam said. “I don’t shout very much, I’m not always the most positive person ever, but I work very hard and I hope that sets a good example. The freshmen that came in work very hard and are very easy to talk to and get on your side. Everyone in our year are all leaders, so it is much easier that way.”
Seniors Kate Stevens, Demi Mello and Meghan Mohr were also named captains alongside Cottam.
“Leadership is an evolving process and it is very rare to find all the attributes of a good captain in a single person, so we have a balanced group of seniors who all bring the necessary leadership to the team,” Hounsome said. “Abi is part of that group of players and one of the key aspects that she brings to the table is her nonstop effort on the field in practice and in games.”
In addition to on the soccer field, Cottam has also excelled in the classroom. A psychology major, she was named to the First Team CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-America® and the NSCAA Women’s University Scholar All-East Team last season. Cottam is also a senior CLASS award candidate, which is national award given to a senior student-athlete who excels in the community, the classroom, in character and in competition.
“It’s good that I can manage my time to succeed in both [athletics and academics],” Cottam said.
No matter what the task is that lies in front of Cottam, she tries to take everything head-on in order to prove she can do whatever is placed in front of her.
“I look ahead and I look at the next challenge,” Cottam said. “I ask people and those around me what I can improve to make myself better and I just work hard.”
With her final year of soccer at Rider over in a few months, Cottam is undecided upon her future plans, but hasn’t ruled out trying to continue to play soccer.
“I don’t really know,” Cottam said. “I might go home, I might stay in America and go to law school. It’s kind of up in the air. I’ve thought about [playing]. If there are any opportunities I might definitely consider it, but it just depends what comes up. If I could play here, I would play here. The standard is better and it is much easier to play here. I play at home and it’s also very good. Its hard to decide.”
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