Stauffer and Co. Head For Glory

Donya Forst, Print Editor

The women’s soccer team found it wasn’t too sweet to lose against Middlebury 5-1 in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament last season so they are looking to take a berth in the NCAA tournament even farther to win the National Championship. They ended their season with an impressive 19-3-2 record, going an undefeated 7-0 in Freedom Conference play and winning the Conference Championship.

Head Coach Mark Stauffer believes they have a shot.  Stauffer said  preseason work focused on players’ mental focus, requiring them to push as close to perfection as they can get.

Senior captain Megan Mahoney expects senior midfielder Megan Lannigan, senior midfielder Erin Roberts and junior goalkeeper Maureen Ciccosanti to make the biggest impact out of the sixteen returning players from last season. Stauffer adds Mahoney, senior Erin McGreal and All-Conference selections junior Jess Buffa, junior forward Meghan Antrim and sophomore back Kylen Smith to his list of key returners.

“We are the only team in the nation to return five players that were either NCAA All-Region or All-American selections, so our experience should help us,” Stauffer said.

The team also includes 16 first year players, some who will make an immediate and strong influence in the team’s play, and a few others who will have to wait their turn. “Numerous players from this group came in with already having high level club experiences, which will help their learning curve with progressions. I look for many of them to make an immediate impact in one form or another. They have trained hard and came in with great attitudes which certainly help with their daily preparation,” Stauffer said.

First year Emily Szeflinksi looks forward to testing the team’s abilities and having a shot at a National Title. “I expect that it will be challenging at times but nothing that we can’t handle,” said Szeflinski.

Mahoney is impressed with the level of commitment from the first year players. “I am definitely excited about the talent that they bring to the team, and I’m looking forward to watching them develop further,” she said.

Szeflinski said she had to adapt to the speed of play and the dynamic of the team. College play is faster and more advanced than high school, and the dynamic of every team is unique. Mahoney said it is important that first years understand their style of play so everyone is clear on game day. “We are always looking to improve all facets of our game. Speed of play is something we always stress and plan to improve consistently throughout the season so we are in top form come November,” Stauffer said.

Stauffer believes returning players with National Final Four experience is a big strength. “That along with a great work rate and speed give us the tools to be successful. Now we just have to prepare daily at the highest levels to ultimately have a chance to compete for a national championship in December.”

However, the Cougars will play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country yet again this year.  The schedule includes match-ups with multiple teams that are currently ranked in the top 30 in the country. Those programs are Messiah, Gettysburg, Stevenson, Ithaca and Cortland. Other top teams Stauffer looks forward to playing are Arcadia, Elizabethtown and Stockton, to name a few.

Mahoney looks forward to taking the path towards a National Championship.

“We have the talent and coaching staff that can make this happen, and I’m really excited to see where our season takes us,” she said.

The Cougar’s preseason included a scrimmage against NCAA Div II opponent Bloomsburg University, which resulted in a 3-0 victory for the Cougars.

“I’m proud of the commitment and attention to detail that this team has shown in preseason. Not only was I proud of the final result, but I was happy to see the commitment to our ball movement and our drive to defend with passion. I look forward to watching this team develop over the course of the season,” said Stauffer.

The Cougars open against SUNY- Cortland at home Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. at Manglesdorf Field and open Freedom Conference play King’s College Oct. 4 at 4 p.m. at home.