The more things change with College of Staten Island, the more they seem to stay the same. In familiar style, the Dolphin women were tabbed as preseason favorites in the CUNYAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, and will look to be among the most formidable foes inside the conference this season. That seems par for the course for a side that has not lost a CUNYAC Regular Season contest since 2010, and yet the Dolphins are three years removed from a CUNYAC Postseason Championship, and the goal this year will be to settle unfinished business.
“We are still pretty sore from the loss last season,” tells 11th-year Head Coach John Guagliardo, who eclipsed the 100-win milestone in 2013. “Our goal from the beginning was a title and an NCAA Tournament bid, and we came up short. Now, it’s all we think about.”
The postseason defeat, a 3-1 affair against Brooklyn College, knocked CSI out of contention for the conference’s first NCAA automatic bid a year ago, sending them into ECAC Metro NY/NJ play, where CSI subsequently lost again, 2-1, in the quarterfinals to St. Joseph’s College (LI). Those were a part of just three losses all season, as the squad finished a program-best 16-3-1, a string that included 16-straight games without a loss to start the season. Along the way, CSI senior Demi-Jean Martorano rewrote the record books, finalizing her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer and shot taker, en route to Player of the Year honors. Martorano has since graduated, and the Dolphins will have to face 2014 without their goal scoring dynamo.
That doesn’t mean the Dolphins will be empty-handed. The squad has CUNYAC Preseason Player of the Year Samantha Wysokowski manning the front line, and school all-time assist leader and NCAA single-game assist record-holder Melissa Gelardi dishing out the ball. Together with the return of back-liner Danielle Smith, who returns from season-ending injury a year ago and fifth-year senior Victoria Donegan between the pipes, there’s enough reason why the Dolphins will be looked at as the front-runner this season.
“There are big things in store for our team this year,” said Wysokowski, who enters her senior season as the school’s second all-time leading scorer with 53 total tallies. “We have a great group of talented players, new and old, who have been working so hard to prepare for an amazing season. Our eyes are set on a championship trophy and an NCAA bid; if we continue to work hard and stay dedicated I don’t think anything can stop us.”
That said; don’t expect the Dolphins to take the competition lightly in 2014.
“The word this season among the team is annihilation,” said Guagliardo. “We want to have that mindset going in. It’s not about wanting to embarrass our opponent; it’s about going in with the mindset that we need to control the game from start to finish. We had a lot of success last season, but people will always remember the end, and that’s what we remember: standing by while watching another team celebrate. We want to change that in 2014.”
Guagliardo is keen on his team this year, but he knows the loss of Martorano and other leaders will force the team into some growing pains this year. That will be magnified by the fact that while the team’s calling card in recent seasons has been its prolific offense, Guagliardo wants to see the team excel better defensively. The 2013 Dolphins gave up a stingy 16 goals last season, but half of those came in the squad’s three losses, and 11 came in the team’s final six games. For the team to reach its full potential in 2014 that will need to improve, according to the coach.
“I want to see us improve dramatically on defense,” he said. “We are going to have a brand new back line, and we have a lot more size than we used to so we aren’t going to get muscled off of the ball. It always takes time and game experience to get better, but that will be our main focus this year.”
Guagliardo does have the personnel to make good this season. Defenders Nina Chaiken, Alyssa Colasurdo, and Nicole Molinell provide the experience and tenacity the coach is looking for, while midfielder Deanna Kvetkoff will quarterback the team alongside Gelardi. Up front, Guagliardo expects players like Danielle Alexandrini, Kathryn Dowling, Senda Karagozler and Gabriella Romero to take on more goal-scoring duties.
Alongside the veterans, the incoming talent could be enough to tip the scales this season. The coach is extremely high on newcomer Stephanie Rivera (MF/D) to see early time, along with defender/sweeper Kaitlyn Russo, and midfield/defender Adriana Parello. Net-minder Kristy Colangelo will push Donegan for positioning at keeper and CSI will benefit from the 1-2 punch at the position.
All told CSI has the makings to be a championship team in 2014. The team has won 18-straight CUNYAC regular season games since 2010, but is just 3-2-1 in the CUNYAC postseason since that time. For Guagliardo, the focus this year will be on the finish.
“It’s an honor to have the coaches select our team at the top at the top of the preseason poll,” he said. “But we have to live up to what is expected of us at the end. We have a lot of business at hand and while this is very humbling and means a lot, what matters most is how we finish.”
The road to the fantastic finish will start this weekend. The women face off at 2pm on Saturday, August 30, vs. Illinois Institute of Technology, and will then face off against New Jersey City University on Sunday at 4pm. The schedule features rematches against Old Westbury (10/2), St. Joseph’s (10/14), and Brooklyn (10/18), who defeated the Dolphins a year ago. All CSI home games are free and PG CLUE Certified for all CSI students. All CSI home games and select road games are available via free webcast at www.csidolphins.com/watch or by simply clicking here.