The College of Staten Island women’s soccer team did everything to put the sting of a three-win season behind them last year, but still left a CUNYAC Championship on the table on the season’s final day, a 3-1 loss to Medgar Evers to cap the 2010 season with a record of 11-5.  The Dolphins sported a revamped lineup last year to afford them the positive surge, and under eighth-year Head Coach John Guagliardo, much of the same is expected, and nothing less than a CUNYAC Championship will do.

The Dolphins have plenty of reasons to be excited.  The team that struggled to put up goals two years back posted 3.23 goals per game a year ago, and will return seven of its top eight scorers in 2011, a collection that scattered 49 of the teams’ 52 goals.  Much of that came on the foot of 2010 CUNYAC Rookie of the Year Demi-Jean Martorano, who played every position except goalkeeper a year ago and shined everywhere, posting 16 goals and five assists for a team-high 37 points.  Fellow freshman Natalie Tombasco was just as lethal, popping in 10 goals and five goals, while returning senior captain Lauren Neglia put in 9 goals and five assists.  The scoring foundation will be banked on by Guagliardo, and will be on full display when the team opens on Thursday against NYU-Polytechnic at 3pm.

“We had scoring last year and the ability to bring them all back is exceptional,” he said.  “Adding what we did this year to what is already in place is tremendous, especially when we only stand to lose a couple of players at the end of this year.  We are in very good shape.”

While the three-headed goal-scoring monster will be at the forefront, it’s depth that the Dolphins will look to towards sustaining another quality campaign in 2011.  Dynamic midfielder Paige Buono is coined the quarterback in the middle, returning from an injury that sidelined her for CSI’s playoff run a year ago after scoring seven goals in 11 games.  Senior Christina Sgarlato set a CSI school record with 9 assists a year ago, while sophomore Cassandra Black returns from a quality freshman year.  Together with players like Christina Jacob (Jr. MF/D), Stephanie McNichol (So., ST), and shutdown defenders Nicole Quattrocchi (Sr., D) and Amanda Percaccio (Sr., D), the Dolphins should be back in business come kickoff.

“It’s nice to reach into the bench and not miss a beat,” Guagliardo said.  “Some of the girls sitting on our bench would start for teams we had in the past and that’s a nice luxury to have.  That depth is going to carry us.  We are the deepest we have been since I have been here.” 

While the returning nucleus will be overwhelming for opponents, CSI will be tested between the pipes.  The Dolphins graduated senior Danielle McLaughlin who shouldered most of the load in 2010, and freshman Victoria Donegan, who was sidelined most of last year due to injury will not return in 2011.  It was a hurdle the staff was not ready for, and the team will look to junior Valerie Incontrera, who saw some time in goal in 2009, to take over duties.  The defender has little experience, but Guagliardo hopes the improvement around her, and her ability to play above her 5-2 frame will be just what the doctor ordered.  When Incontrera is not net-minding, expect McNichol and newcomer Samantha Wysokowski to patrol the pipes.

“It’s going to be a pressure-packed position because we are teaching people to play the position and starting fresh, but the truth is, we think our goalkeepers are going to do a super job,” the coach stated.   “We are not looking as goalkeeping as a problem, because they are going to be just fine.”

As great as it is to have a strong returning squad, CSI will undoubtedly enjoy the benefits of what Guagliardo has termed to be the “best recruiting class” the program has seen, as the Dolphins get set to introduce nine new faces in time for opening day, along with a pair of players who could join the team later in the semester.  The most noted are Wysokowski, a tremendous scorer who, like Martorano, could play anywhere on the pitch, including goalkeeper.  Outside midfielder Melissa Gelardi has already displayed a powerful leg and may join Almedina Desevic as a potential starter in the midfielder.  Six-foot defensive stopper Liana DeNero is being termed as the enforcer in the back who could add an immediate spark as well.

“It is going to be very exciting,” said Guagliardo, who was notably anxious for the start of the season.  “Our new faces are going to add a lot of life to this campus.”

Off of the heels of an impressive season, CSI is looking for bigger and better things in 2011.  It won’t come easy, as the Dolphins purposely chocked their schedule full of quality competition fully expecting to be better this year.  The goal, according to their coach, is to play at an elevated level against elevated competition without their record suffering.  Of course, a win on the CUNYAC’s final day on November 5 would also be just fine according the coach.

“We always expect to battle for a CUNYAC Championship, but our best is still yet to come, we only scratched the surface last year,” said Guagliardo.  ‘I’ll tell you one thing:  I wouldn’t want to play us down the road when we start to gel.”

CSI will play a pair of home games before taking to the road September 10 against conference-rivals York College who are introducing a varsity squad for the first time this season.  A pair of games against Medgar Evers College on October 8 & 22 will be rematches of last year’s championship and are certain highlights on the schedule.  After an eight-game CUNYAC schedule the two-round playoffs start on November 2, finalizing at Randall’s Island on Saturday November 5 at 4pm.