One of CSI’s newest programs will have a familiar goal in 2016, as the College of Staten Island women’s soccer squad will be setting its sights on yet another CUNYAC title this season. Indeed, the Dolphins have collected seven CUNYAC Championships in the past 12 seasons, but last year marked their first since 2011 and carried with it a berth into the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament. The Dolphins want to get back there, and soon.
“It was a wonderful season and a fantastic journey for us last year,” said second-year Head Coach Giuseppe Pennetti. “We achieved all of the goals that we set out to and now we are preparing to equal that excitement and reaching beyond what we’ve already done.”
Pennetti feels he has the tools to get the job done, despite a heavy turnover in personnel, fueled by an influx of incoming talent. The Dolphins lost six seniors from a year ago, all big contributors. Three, however, are back as assistant coaches, as Samantha Wysokowski, Krysta Percaccio, and current women’s softball player Kristy Colangelo will still be familiar faces on the sidelines.
From there, the Dolphins bring back just three upperclassmen in seniors Jennifer Cosenza and Senda Karagozler and junior Kaitlin Russo. The trio will be leaned on heavily to usher in the new wave of talent. Six returning sophomores add to the mix, including 2015 CUNYAC Rookie of the Year Lauren Smith, and defender/midfielder Adriana Parello, who returns after an injured 2015. The nucleus will be heavily leaned on. All of the returners know nothing but getting to a championship and competing at a high level, and Pennetti is banking on that pedigree to lift the team to greater and greater heights.
“We really like all of our returning players both from an athletic standpoint and from a leadership standpoint as well,” the coach said. “That experience and history that they have will help educate our new players and guide them. They know how difficult fielding a championship team is. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and as a coach I’m looking forward to utilizing their help to do that.”
The Dolphins are a team used to winning, compiling a 27-1-2 CUNYAC Regular Season record over the past five years. Still, the Dolphins will be tested as 13 new faces don the roster. According to the coach, all 13 will be instrumental not only in keeping CSI at the top of the standings, but carrying the mantle for future classes to shine. Look for attacking forward Krystina Rodriguez and midfielders Stephanie Lapointe to compete for quality minutes out of the gate, while midfielders Victoria Sanchez and Dimitra Tountas will provide the leadership and tenacious gameplay the coach often looks for. A host of others will be looked at as anchors on the pitch as the season progresses. As a group, Pennetti is as high as a kite on his new prospects, and it makes the 2016 season an exciting one to look forward to, to say the least.
“One thing we can easily say about all of our new players is that they have the passion, the love of the game and patience to the team that’s important to any team’s success,” said Pennetti. “We are very excited to them to be a part of what we are building here.”
With a new and developing roster on deck, Pennetti expects the gameplay to also shift according to the personnel he has on the field. If Pennetti has his way, look for the Dolphins to play a fast-paced game, switching the field and turning defense into offense very quickly.
“Our trademark is to play a high-tempo game that designed to put as much pressure on our opponents as possible,” he said. “With three or four passes we want to completely go from defense to offense and maintain a constant attack. All of our players can definitely integrate with style of play.”
No matter what the style, CSI expects to be tested. The Dolphins had lost three straight heart-breakers in the CUNYAC Final before their double-overtime win over Lehman last year in the CUNYAC’s final game, and the team dropped its first CUNYAC regular season game since 2010 last year as well. It’s a sure sign that the conference is starting to keep pace with what has been the CSI standard. According to their coach, it’s a good thing, something that helps CSI develop as a team.
“It’s definitely a lot better and there are a number of teams that all have the right to feel they have a chance to win the championship,” he said. “We are expecting a very tough battle and I believe we are up for the challenge.”
No matter the opponent, Pennetti still expects his group to be there on the CUNYAC’s final day. Given the success of the program it would be hard for the team to think otherwise. Still, the coach will employ a one-game-at-a-time mantra until that happens, and what will make him happy is an injury-free season where the Dolphins are a much better squad at the finish than at the start.
“Whenever you have about a dozen returners and an equal number of new faces you are going to have some growing pains,” he said. “We’ve had an excellent preseason, but we are still coming together. A good team is like a soup with a lot of ingredients. You have to learn how to mix those ingredients the right way, and we will continue to experiment while learning to play together to be at our best.”
The 2016 season will begin for the Dolphins on Saturday, when they travel to Northfield, Vermont, to take on Norwich University and Johnson State College on back-to-back days. CSI will tackle Purchase State in their home opener on Wednesday, September 7, before their CUNYAC opener on September 14 at the CSI Soccer Complex: a rematch against Lehman College, a litmus test for the rest of the year.
“We’re all looking forward to it,” Pennetti said. “The team is bonding well and we are wrapping up two hard weeks of preseason. Now we are ready to go play some soccer.”
All CSI home games are free and PG-CLUE Certified for all students. Weather-permitting, all CSI home games will be broadcast live in HD via the internet via CSI SportsNet and will feature live statistics, available through the CSI Women’s Soccer Schedule Page.