The College of Staten Island women’s soccer team wrapped up its regular season this weekend, and will look to parlay an outstanding regular season with a strong playoff run this week as part of the CUNYAC Postseason Championship Tournament. The Dolphins enter as the field’s No. 2 seed, and will play No. 3 Brooklyn College on Wednesday evening as part of semifinal play. The Dolphins have been down this road before, but the championship has eluded the squad since 2011. For first year Head Coach Giuseppe Pennetti, this week is a chance to make that right.
“Between all of the players and coaches we are ecstatic to be in the playoffs,” said Pennetti. “The team has been working very hard, putting in the time and I think we will be as prepared as we will ever be. We’ve been looking forward to this stage of the season.”
No strangers to regular season successes, CSI has posted a 32-2-2 CUNYAC regular season record since 2010, far and away the finest in the conference, but the team has been frustrated come tournament time, boasting a 0-4-1 record in the CUNYAC Championship Game since. In 2011, CSI collected the championship after a 0-0 tie with John Jay via penalty kicks. This season will play out a bit differently. For the first time, CSI enters as an underdog. The team finished 4-1-1 during the regular season, behind regular season champion Lehman College (6-0). The Lightning defeated CSI, 5-1, earlier this season, returning the favor after CSI bounced Lehman a year ago in the semifinal round of the tourney, 5-0. Together with teams like Brooklyn, the two-time defending champs and John Jay College, the race to a championship is wide-open.
“That’s the beauty of soccer,” said Pennetti. “As soon as playoffs start any team can win. Top-to-bottom all the teams are good and equally qualified and skilled enough to win. What matters now is preparing well and going out there and playing to your full potential.”
Still, CSI’s experience in the big game and championship pedigree will be looked at as a force for this tournament. The team boasts six seniors, among them fifth-year player Samantha Wysokowski, CSI’s top goal-scorer with 14 markers and CSI’s lone goal scorer in last year’s 3-1 loss to Brooklyn in the CUNYAC Final, and Danielle Alexandrini, who has poured in 13 goals and a team high six assists. Together with freshman sensation Lauren Smith (four goals, six assists), and back line mates Krysta Percaccio and Kaitlin Russo and senior keeper Kristy Colangelo, Pennetti feels that the Dolphins have the tools to compete and beat anyone in the conference.
“We have strong leadership in the senior class and they have been true role models,” told the coach. “Our preparation during the regular season and now for the playoffs is where we need it to be. So long as we go out there and play our game, we can play with anyone on any day.”
As well as the Dolphins can potentially play, the Dolphins do know full well that the CUNYAC Championship Tournament brings out the best in every team, and with an NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament berth on the line, the Dolphins expect every second to be feverish. CSI and Brooklyn deadlocked to a 0-0 tie during the regular season. Pennetti knows that the chances may be few and far between for both teams on Wednesday, meaning that the team that plays sounder fundamentally and capitalizes on key opportunities will probably be the team that draws the Final appearance on Saturday, also to be played at Brooklyn.
“We need to play hard, not to turn the ball over and constantly pressure the other team and attack when we can,” said Pennetti. “That’s our game. If we stick to our game plan and constantly attack in waves and numbers and continue with our high finishing ratio then we have a great opportunity to win these games.”
In the CUNYAC’s other Semifinal matchup on Wednesday, top seeded Lehman College will face No. 4 John Jay. The Lightning defeated the Bloodhounds, 5-0, during the regular season, part of the Lightning’s exceptional 13-2 campaign. The two winners will face off on Saturday at 2pm for the rights to raise the crown. CSI will be looking for their seventh title overall. They have appeared in 10 Championship Finals overall and are a perfect 5-0 in semifinal contests.
For Pennetti, it’s hard not to look at the next week as a win-or-bust scenario, especially after what’s happened to the team in the past. Still, the coach is happy of his team’s performance this season and is simply looking for his team to make a hard-working run towards a title.
“We have a good group who love the game of soccer, who are able to put the team first and come together and constantly improve on playing better and better and now we are peaking for the playoffs,” he said. “Our goal now is just to keep extending our season.”
CSI’s game vs. Brooklyn on Wednesday is scheduled for a 6:30pm start, but will commence after Lehman’s tilt with John Jay at 4pm. Despite the Bulldogs playing on their home field, CSI will be considered the home team for the game. Tickets to the semifinal round are FREE, but fans will need a ticket to enter the Brooklyn College facility. Tickets are available here. The game will also be broadcast via CSI SportsNet at www.csidolphins.com/CSISportsNet.