Women’s Soccer Kicks Off Season With High Ranking

Mitchell Frantz, Staff Writer

The women’s soccer team begins its season ranked sixth on the United Soccer Coaches poll.

The team came off a very impressive 2018 season and looks to continue the momentum into 2019.

The women have done a great job proving the voters right so far, as they have jumped out to a 2-0-0 start on the season with wins over SUNY-Oneonta and SUNY-Cortland.

The university has a strong  number of returning and experienced upperclassmen, including 2018’s MAC Freedom Rookie of the Year Kaylee Sturans, All Mid-Atlantic Third Team and All MAC Freedom first team goalie Alexis Benedetto, All MAC first team forward Jeanna Orfanos, as well as a pair of All MAC Freedom second team midfielders in Michaela Fasolino and Kendall Pearage.

The team is still stacked and has a lot of talent, but it will need to replace both the MAC Freedom Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in Hannah Larkin and Kristen Ritter, respectively. Larkin and Ritter have been two major players for the Cougars for the past four years, meaning that replicating their abilities will not be easy.

If anybody can lead this team back to the NCAA Elite Eight and potentially even further it is Head Coach Mark Stauffer, the reigning MAC Freedom Coach of the Year who has guided the Cougars to three straight MAC Freedom Championships, as well as six championships in the past seven years.

Junior goalie Alexis Benedetto has high expectations for this year after a surreal 2018.

“Last season was unforgettable. Coming off that, I think I can speak for us all that we want more. We strive each day at practice to get us to that next level. We have very high expectations for ourselves and each other. I think that is the key to keeping us motivated,” she said.

Coming off of such a successful season, the United Soccer Coaches poll recognized the talent the Cougars have coming back this year. Because of this, it would be easy for the team to sit back and become complacent.

However, this Cougar team is wired differently and uses its past as fuel for consistent greatness. On that same note, being nationally ranked to start the year is an honor to the women, but not something they take lightly.

“Starting off the season ranked sixth in the nation definitely gives us confidence in our game,” said Benedetto. “It also makes us a target for other competitive teams; therefore, there is no room for let downs. We know we have to give it our all every time we step on the field which motivates us everyday.”

Being ranked so highly in the preseason rankings is very exciting to these ladies, but the team wants more and has high aspirations for this season, according to Benedetto. The Cougars want to take the next step and bring Misericordia its first team national championship in school history.

“Our ultimate goals are winning our conference again and winning a national title. In order to do so, we set smaller goals and strive daily to improve one rep at a time,” said Benedetto.

Optimism for the team is high in the locker room as well as on campus, but only time will tell if the team is able to end the season as a champion. The squad is already off to a strong start on its goals and has no signs of slowing down anytime soon.