Women’s Soccer Ranks Eighth


Jessica Buffa dribbled the ball up the field past a Franklin and Marshall player.

Sean Lynch, Reporter

The women’s soccer team, now 6-1 on the season, is ranked the eighth best team in the country by d3soccer.com.

The Cougars were previously ranked 12th on the weekly poll after opening their campaign with six shutout wins in a row.

Head coach Mark Stauffer said the team tries not to pay too much attention to the national ranking.

“We simply take the rankings as someone’s opinion on how they perceive the quality of our team to be that week. We know the only ranking that matters to us is where we end up at the end of the season.”

For first year physical therapy major, Kait Yurenda, it can be hard not to feel the added pressure the national spotlight brings.

“As a first year, there’s a bit of pressure because you’ve been recruited to play for one of the best programs in the country and you want to show that you can play at that level,” said Yurenda. “But overall, the team has done a good job not dwelling on it.”

Stauffer, who is now in his 16th year at the helm, said the team’s early success comes from the attentiveness and focus on the little things.

“We did a good job of paying attention to the details and stayed focused for 90 minutes each match,” said Stauffer. “Although we have started off well, it will continue to be a work in progress.”

That attention to detail has shown for the Cougars, who have outscored their opponents 15-3 thus far. In fact, all three goals they have given up came against national powerhouse Messiah.

Not only have the Cougars outscored their opponents, they have their opponents beaten on just about every category, including shots per game, shot percentage, corner kicks, and assists.

Prior to their defeat against Messiah, the Cougars had won five games in a row on the road and followed that road trip up with their first home victory of the season against Franklin and Marshall.

Alyssa Pojero, a sophomore goalkeeper, said that although the shutout loss to Messiah was unexpected, it wasn’t the worst thing for the young team.

“It may not seem like it, but that loss helped us in a way,” said Pojero. “Before that game, we had a tough schedule but played really well. The game against Messiah, for the first time all season, brought out our weaknesses and really showed us what we need to work on if we’re going to have success in the postseason.”

Most of the team’s early wins stem from underclassmen.

Sophomore Alex Gallagher  tops the list of total point-getters for the Cougars.

Following Gallagher on the points list are three players: first year Rileigh Jo Evitts, junior Kylen Smith, and sophomore Jackie Stevens. All have accumulated five points.

Stauffer said that although this young team will show its spurts of inexperience, there is plenty of time to develop its raw talent.

“The only way for us to become experienced is to continue to throw the younger players on the field and allow them the opportunity to play their way into gaining that veteran status.”

The transformation from raw talent to seasoned vet doesn’t come easy and Stauffer relies heavily on his upperclassmen to lead by example.

“The upperclassmen simply need to live the culture that our program has been built upon,” he said. “No player on this team is bigger than the program. We are where we are today because our players are extremely disciplined; not just on the field, but in the classroom and in life.”

Experience and discipline are going to be crucial for a team that already seems poised to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

Stauffer certainly knows what it takes to coach a team to the NCAA tournament as his team has made it to four consecutive Sweet 16 appearances, including a trip to the Final Four in 2012. He feels as if he has a team just as special this year.

“This year I feel we have more depth than in the past,” he said. “We currently have some starters out of the lineups due to injuries and the look of our team will change once we get them back. We certainly have the talent to make another quality run in the NCAA tourney. That being said, we will need to improve as the season progresses and pay attention to the details each and every match.”

Pojero noted the loss of some key players.

“We lost some real difference-makers last year when we graduated Meg Mahoney, Erin Roberts, and Erin McGreal,” said the sport management major. “But a lot of underclassmen have stepped up and have filled those big shoes nicely.”

For Yurenda, the success of those who came before her and her first year teammates serves as motivation to continue the legacy of those who graduated.

“I have friends and old teammates who play for schools that are on our schedule and even as a first year, I know that a target is always painted on our back just because of how strong of a team we are and have been in the past. For the next four years, I want to make sure that target will stay on our backs.”

The Cougars have 12 regular season games as well as the MAC Freedom Championships to concern themselves with before they can look to make a run at the NCAA tournament, but that doesn’t stop Pojero from looking towards the future.

“Winning a conference championship is, and should always be, the first thing on this team’s mind. At the same time, this program has shown we can be contenders for the NCAA Title and we want to win it this year. The seniors on this team deserve nothing less than that.”