As students return for the Fall 2016 semester, the women’s soccer team has already been hard at work at the College preparing for its upcoming season.
The team has endured months of offseason training and two exhibition games against New York University and Swarthmore College. Now, the 2016 season is ready to kick off under coach Joe Russo.
After an impressive 11-0-3 start to the 2015 season, the Lions slipped up, falling in two of their last three games and losing the top spot in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) to Rowan University. In the playoffs, Rowan got the better of the women, beating them 2-1 in overtime. The Lions were also eliminated in the NCAA Tournament’s second round by Williams College.
Now, the team is ready to rebound for 2016, and senior defenseman Brianna Petro sees the team changing its ways.
“If we continue to do what we’ve always done, we are going to get what we’ve always got,” Petro said. “This year is about change, starting with the way practice is conducted, players on the team, formation, team chemistry and mindset.”
Petro said the team has been emphasizing chemistry both on and off the field. Last season, the team chemistry worked well throughout most of the regular season. The Lions defense only allowed seven goals during the regular season, with the first coming after seven straight clean sheets. Senior goalkeeper Jessica Weeder, who earned All-NJAC Second Team Honors, dominated the season and earned 12 shutouts and 31 total saves.
The offense also synced, scoring 49 goals all season, including one 12-0 routing of Penn State Harrisburg on Wednesday, Sept. 16, at home. Junior midfielder Elizabeth Thoreson led the team with 11 goals and eight assists last season, and she will be looking to dominate once again this year.
The Lions are also welcoming a new freshman class, and Petro sees them as one of the key pieces of the new team.
“The freshman class has provided depth to the team, which is exciting,” Petro said.
In total, the team has 15 freshmen joining the squad, including seven new midfielders, such as Haley Bodden and Despina Liandis.
Weeder will also have the chance to train new faces as the team welcomes two new freshman goalkeepers, Sam Carney and Nicole Dispasquale, to the team. Petro believes that as a senior, she has a responsibility to help lead these younger players and set an important example for them to follow.
“As a senior captain on the women’s soccer team, the example I set on and off the field for the younger players is extremely crucial,” Petro said. “Being a role model vocally and leading by example is a characteristic I will abide by throughout the duration on the season.”
The Lions play their first game on Friday, Sept. 2, against Virginia Wesleyan College Marlins in Norfolk, Va. The Marlins will pose a challenge for the newly adapted Lions. Chemistry will be key. Last season, they only lost two games at home and won seven.
Petro believes that after everything she’s mentioned, the team has all the pieces to succeed this year.
“With these changes, I know we are going to achieve great things this season,” Petro said.