After falling one win short of a national championship last season, women’s soccer head coach Joe Russo says winning one this season is not on the team’s mind.
“We don’t talk about national championships, but we work on improving every day and if you do that, the rest usually takes care of itself,” Russo, the 17-year coach, said. “(Expectations) are the same as every year: to get better every single day we train.”
The College lost 1-0 to Messiah College in the 2005 Division III National Championship game. It was the only blemish on the Lions’ 22-1 (9-0 NJAC) record.
Despite Russo’s modesty, the Lions return a host of talent from last season and are currently ranked No. 2 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/adidas national rankings, making them a prime national title contender and conference favorite.
Helping to warrant such lofty preseason rankings are the Lions’ four returning All-NJAC performers, three of which also captured 2005 NSCAA/adidas Mid-Atlantic Regional All-American honors.
Junior defenseman Courtney Krol and sophomore defenseman Laura Delaney captured First Team All-NJAC and regional All-American honors. Krol was also named 2005 NJAC Defender of the Year. Junior midfielder Kristen Cubicciotti also returns from a strong season in which she garnered Second Team All-NJAC honors.
“Kristen Cubicciotti, Coleen Weber and Jamie Kunkel are back and playing very well as well as Allie Schilling, Christine Mullin, Erin Cunliffe and Laura Delaney,” Russo said. “It’s a good, experienced crew.”
The group is led by junior midfielder Dana DiBruno, who was also named the 2005 NJAC Player of the Year and a First Team NSCAA/adidas National All-American. DiBruno scored a team-high 48 points last year with 20 goals.
Even with all the returning firepower, the College will be hard pressed to fill the shoes of two standout seniors. Forward Brittny Boyd and goalkeeper Alissa Kacar both graduated and left quite the legacy.
“Any time you lose kids who have been with the team for four years and who have been successful it means a great deal,” Russo said.
Boyd, a three time All-NJAC performer, scored 15 goals last season and was often marked by the opposition’s best defender. Kacar was a 2005 Second Team National All-American and allowed only four goals all season with 20 shutouts. Both players were named 2005 First Team All-NJAC and Regional All-Americans.
“They’ve been part of our program but now we’re concentrating on who we have here,” Russo said. “There may be one senior in the whole bunch so it’s a good, young group and they work hard and they’re fun to be around.”
Replacing talent has never seemed to be a problem for Russo and the Lions. The College has won 10 of the last 12 NJAC championships and has earned national runner-up honors three times.
“I don’t know if you could ever replace a Brittny Boyd or an Alissa Kacar,” Russo said. “Time will tell but we have some pieces that might blend in nicely by end of year.”