For the first time in forever, the College of Staten Island women’s soccer team will be entering their competitive season as a marked underdog, but the four-time defending CUNYAC Regular Season Champions have no intention of slowing down, and under new head coach Giuseppe Pennetti, the team will be looking to improve on its 2014 installment.
Postseason success will be critical for the Dolphins. CSI hasn’t lost a conference regular season game since 2010, and have made five-straight CUNYAC Championship Finals, the longest run in conference history, but are just 0-4-1 in those games. That run included a 1-0 loss in last year’s Final to Brooklyn College, tabbed as the Preseason favorites in this year’s CUNYAC Coaches’ Preseason Poll. The ECAC Postseason has been equally frustrating. CSI is 0-5 all-time in the tournament, including a tough, 3-2, overtime loss to The Sage Colleges a year ago. Pennetti knows that despite being the newer kid on the CUNYAC block, expectations are high to get the team over the hump.
“As a staff it’s a wonderful opportunity to be part of a successful program and one that continuously strives to be the best,” said Pennetti. “As far as expectations go, all of the players have expressed a deep desire to take that final step and push through to the Finals and to achieve victory in that title game. I know it has given us as a staff the passion to work harder and do everything we can to help achieve that goal.”
With Championship thoughts in mind, the focus will be on improvement in 2015. The Dolphins finished 9-9-2 overall, and graduated a core of exceptional talent, including all-time assist leader Melissa Gelardi and stalwart keeper Victoria Donegan. That said the Dolphins do bring back a good core, one that includes 2014 leading scorer and senior Danielle Smith, and goal-scoring dynamo Samantha Wysokowski, a fifth-year senior who lost her 2014 season due to injury. Together with returning stars like Danielle Alexandrini, Stephanie Rivera, Senda Karagozler and Jennifer Cosenza up front and in the middle, Kaitlin Russo and Adrianna Parello on the back line and Kristy Colangelo between the sticks, Pennetti is comfortable with the talent and experience he has in place in 2015.
“Any head coach desires a deep nucleus,” Pennetti remarked. “Returning players provide immediate stability and it’s a pathway to success on the field. Our returners have all stepped up, have taken an interest, and are eager to assist in incorporating the new players. They are constantly looking to improve the team and advance us along and that is very encouraging.”
Like many CSI teams of the past, much success will also center on whether CSI’s collection of new faces can make an impact. In a season that features many games in a condensed period of time, Pennetti knows that the contributions made by everyone will make a difference and he is banking on players like Lauren Smith, a playmaker in the center midfield, Catherine Mulligan, a smart and physical central defender, and Anna Karen, an attacking midfielder, to add immediate dividends, representing a group of first-year players who plan to lift CSI to new heights.
“We had a wonderful recruiting class here at CSI, and every freshman or new player will have an immediate opportunity to potentially start or have a heavy impact on our program,” Pennetti said.
More than gameplay, leadership will be the key focus for the Dolphins to be successful in 2015. According to Pennetti, the rather small unit will need to stay together, keep their conditioning, and play to improve with each minute on the pitch. When the Dolphins do take the field Pennetti promises an up-tempo style of play, focusing on ball distribution and pressure in the offensive zone.
“We want to be a quick team that will attempt to distribute the ball all over the field and send players flying up the field and into the box at all times,” he remarked. “We want to put our opponents under constant pressure and make them fear our attack more and more.”
Championship aspirations are the norm at CSI. For a rather young program embarking on just its 11th competitive year, CSI boasts 9 winning seasons in that span, and own a 43-4-4 record within conference play in that time. It’s natural to think CSI will be a contender again in 2015; the question is whether or not they can marry that success into the postseason. Pennetti would like to think so, but he is also quick to take the one-game-at-a-time approach.
“The ultimate goal is for every player on the team to say at the end that we played our best and we achieved our goal at the beginning of the season,” Pennetti emphasized. “As a coach I’d like for every player to simply play their best and hopefully hoist a bigger trophy.”
CSI will open its season against New Jersey City University on its home field on September 1 at 4pm; they will then host Sussex CC and Old Westbury on Labor Day Weekend for its annual Fall Classic. The conference schedule commences on September 16 against Medgar Evers College, and finalizes against conference-champion Brooklyn on October 17. The CUNYAC Postseason Tournament takes place at Brooklyn with semifinal play on November 4 and the Final set for November 7.