Flashback Friday looks at the top moments from the 2016-17 athletic year at the College of Staten Island. This week, we usher in the top half of grand moments, and we stay with the championship theme, this time when the Women’s Soccer team captured a 2-0 win over Brooklyn College in the CUNYAC Championship on BC’s campus.
#5 – Women’s Soccer repeats as CUNYAC Champs on the road against Brooklyn
Date: November 5, 2016
Who: Women’s Soccer
Where: Brooklyn College – Brooklyn, NY
What Happened: The College of Staten Island women’s soccer team came onto the Brooklyn College field defending a CUNYAC Championship, but facing the top CUNYAC side, having fallen to host Brooklyn College during the regular season 1-0. Given the Dolphins history against Brooklyn on their own field (1-2 @ Brooklyn in the Tournament), the chips were stacked against the Dolphins. But after a wild, 4-2, win over Lehman in the semifinals, optimism was running on high, and it was reinforced in the 25th minute, when junior Kaitlin Russo slipped in a goal from the left side on a Lauren Smith feeder. The Dolphins clamped down defensively from there, forcing a normally defensive Brooklyn side to push up and attack. That led to quality counter-attacking CSI measures, and with 20 minutes to play, freshman Natalia Sandor added an insurance marker to help CSI secure a 2-0 win. Russo was named MVP, and CSi punched their ticket to a second straight NCAA National Championship Tournament with the victory. The one-sided CSI win saw them hold a 22-3 edge in shots and an 11-1 edge in corner kicks. For CSI it was their seventh CUNYAC title overall.
Q&A…with Kaitlin Russo
So, after a bit of a drought, you guys won the CUNY in 2015 and came into 2016 as the defending champs. What did winning the championship from the year before do for the confidence of this team coming in? Winning the CUNY championship in 2015 was definitely a huge confidence builder for our team. It reminded us that hard work pays off in the end, and that we need to work even harder for the 2016 season to achieve the same goal.
Although you had the championship pedigree coming in, the team did go through a fair amount of turnover from the year before. You graduated a great senior class and there were a lot of new faces on the team. How well do you think the team was able to come together during those first weeks of training and games? After graduating a great class of seniors and gaining many new young players, the team had a lot of adjusting to do. We had to learn everyone’s style of play and then figure out how we could best mesh together so many new players in the starting line-up. We eventually figured it out and it worked well for us.
Obviously when it comes to CUNYAC, CSI is always expected to be one of those teams that plays championship-caliber soccer. On the field itself, what do you try and do to set the pace of the game and wear down your opponents? We play a high-pressure system and use many of our subs to have fresh legs, especially for the wing midfielders. This helps us attack hard the whole game and eventually wear-down our opponents, who usually try to keep their starters on the field most of the game.
This team only lost one game during the year to a CUNY school and that was against Brooklyn on a bizarre day when the team had transportation issues. Coach Pennetti said that the loss may have turned out to be a good thing because it made the team want it that much more come playoff time. Do you agree? Yes I agree. As unfortunate as that loss was, it made us push harder at practice and want the championship that much more. Considering the team’s past with Brooklyn, the loss only fueled our fire that much more.
So to get to the Championship first you had to go against a tough Lehman team in the semis. Tell me a bit about that game. You took a huge lead but Lehman put a definite scare into you guys coming back in the second half. After coming out strong in the first half with a 3-0 lead, I think the team relaxed a bit after half time. This hurt us. When Lehman scored two goals in the second half, we began to panic a bit. We couldn’t let this game slip from our fingers when we were so close to the championship. Once we scored the fourth goal, we had to play more defensively and keep Lehman away from our net to hang onto the lead.
One thing about your games against Brooklyn is that they are always defensive games, usually 1-0 games and the chances are limited. So your goal in the 25th minute absolutely changed the complexion of the game. Tell me about the goal, what you saw and how it played out. I feel that my goal in the 25th minute gave the team a burst of confidence that was needed to play a championship game. Everyone was nervous at the start of the game and I feel the goal helped my team calm down a bit and focus. When I was put into the game halfway through the first half, I felt the adrenaline running through my veins; I was nervous but also pumped to finally get in there. As the ball made it down the right side of the field, I ran down the left side toward the goal. Krystina (on the right side) got a touch to Lauren (who was in the middle at the top of the 18). Once I saw the ball going into Lauren’s feet, I saw a lane open between two of Lehman’s defenders. I called Lauren’s name for the split, ran onto the ball, and just took the left-footed shot without thinking about it. Everything happened so fast that it took me a second to realize I just scored a goal. It felt nice to take the lead against Brooklyn so early in the game.
The game changed from there. Brooklyn was out of their comfort zone and had to really push the ball. Did that change your style of play too? We had to push more defensively, but I don’t think it changed our style of play to keep up with them.
Natalia added a goal late and you hung on to win 2-0. What was it like to defend your championship and hearing your name called out as the MVP of the tournament? Once Natalia scored that second goal, it felt like we really locked in the win. I’ve never seen a score with more than one goal against Brooklyn with our team. Having my name called out as MVP of the tournament was an amazing feeling. It definitely helped top-off an already unforgettable day. I can’t thank my team enough for helping me achieve this goal in my career at CSI.
You end up representing again against Messiah and a tough loss in the NCAA’s, but what does an experience like that do to help you moving forward? Playing Messiah in the first round of NCAA’s a second year in a row helped show us that we have improved as a team. We were able to play a stronger game the second time around, and even though we lost, we knew we played well as a team and tried our very best. Now we know what else we need to improve to help us play a higher level of soccer this upcoming season.
So now heading into your senior year, what are your thoughts going into 2017 and some of the goals you are targeting, both personally and as a team? Going into my senior year, I have personal goals of being a more confident player, and leading my team to another championship. As a team, we have a lot of new faces coming in again and we are hoping to learn each other’s styles and mesh faster than last season to become an even better team. We want to take home the CUNY Championship of 2017, go to the NCAA’s again, and maybe even make it to the second round. That would definitely be a great ending to my last season of soccer.