Flashback Friday is looking back at the top moments from the 2018-19 athletic year each Friday over the summer at the College of Staten Island. It’s time to look at our runner-up for the top moment of the 2018-19 athletic year, an early year confrontation between CSI and John Jay in the CUNYAC Women’s Soccer Tournament Championship.

#2 – Women’s Soccer pours on the goals in 4th-straight CUNYAC Championship
Date:  November 3, 2018
Who:  CSI Women’s Soccer
Where: Brooklyn College – Brooklyn, NY
What Happened:  After a five-goal outburst in the CUNYAC Semifinals, CSI followed suit with an offensive showcase in the CUNYAC Championship against John Jay College, looking for their fourth-straight title on neutral turf at Brooklyn College.  Senior Lauren Smith picked a perfect day to have her first multi-goal game of her career when she scored not once, but twice in the game’s fourth minute.  Samantha LaValle would score in the 28th minute before Smith would net a first-ever half hat trick, helping CSI to a 4-1 halftime lead, and a 6-2 final score.  LaValle would add another goal and Adrianna Parello would also score to secure CSI their 4th-straight CUNYAC title.  It was the first-ever collegiate coaching championship for first-year Head Coach Brittany Casares, and fittingly, Smith was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.  The Dolphins went on to the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament the following weekend.

15995Q&A…with Head Coach Brittany Casares

Brittany, this was your first season with the Dolphins.  What was it like to take over the unit and accomplish all that you did this past season?
The first feelings I had were just excitement.  I was excited for the opportunity to come into an already successful program but to continue it and take it to another level.  Having been able to follow the team from years past, watching video, I felt our style of play last year was the best I’ve seen.  I thought we did a good job last season on possessing the ball better, attacking better, defending better, and getting better tactically with our approach.  I’m definitely grateful for the support from our staff and administration in helping us achieve all that we did.  It was great knowing we had that support behind us the whole way.

On the first day of the Tournament, you guys ripped through Lehman College, 5-0, after squeaking by them in the Regular Season, 2-1.  How much confidence did that give you going into the Championship game?
A ton!  We were ready to go, and at the end of the day we just wanted it.  We emphasized the focus being completely on us, the things we could control.  Working hard, working together, playing as a team, if we get scored on, staying together.  We were so focused in on those principles that we really came out strong.  

You learned that your opponent for Championship Saturday was going to be John Jay College.  You beat them during the Regular Season, 3-0.  What were your takeaways from that game that got you prepped for the Championship?
There were a couple of things.  We knew they had a great keeper and a couple of really skilled players and we were able to focus and key in on those players.  We watched a lot of film and saw how those players were progressing and we were prepared for lineup changes and formation changes they would try and throw at us.  I definitely tried to do my homework and we were able to see a lot of things coming.  That level of preparation helped us.

In soccer getting off to a good start is key and scoring the first goal in often critical.  Knowing that, how important was that opening goal by Lauren Smith off the deflection?
Just thinking about it I still get those excited feelings about it.  It really set the tone right away.  It helped us establish momentum.  The fact that we were able to come right back and score again says a lot about our team.  We kept our composure, we reset and got right back into playing and we got another one quickly.  It changes the game and it’s what the team has done well all year.  

Like you mentioned, you caught John Jay flat-footed and 34 second later, Lauren added another on a rebound off the keeper and just like that, you’re up 2-0.  That has to make you feel secure going forward, knowing that JJC has to push forward more, leaving them susceptible in the back.
It’s a great feeling .  It takes the pressure right off of us.  When you go ahead like that it makes it easier to fall into a more comfortable groove and settle in.  Because of that we were able to continue to attack confidently, and you can just see that the team was feeling good and wanted to keep the momentum going.  We were well-composed and continuing to move forward.

As a coach you don’t really prepare to have such a big lead early do you?  So how then does the strategy change?
The biggest thing when you get a lead like that is staying composed.  You stress not letting your guard down or giving up something easy.  Our goal is always to approach the game like its 0-0.  I thought we did a nice job of that.  We played small, knocked the ball around quickly and nothing really changed as far as our mindset.  The goal the whole game was to keep possession, keep momentum, play our game and keep the pressure on the opponent.

Lauren added another goal to put you up 4-0, but John Jay did get that big goal right before the half to gain a little momentum.  What did you guys talk about at halftime to make sure you kept the pressure on? 
We just talked about little things, little improvements we could make.  The goal John Jay scored was on a set piece, so we emphasized the importance of being better on the set pieces, staying composed, staying organized.  We’re you’re up by that margin, you want to play quick and not give your opponent time to be creative.  Play quick, get a good first touch out of pressure.  We preach those little things all year long so it wasn’t that different than what we talk about normally. 

The second half was a little more even because you put a lot of resources into you defense, but that allowed you to counterattack and you guys scored twice.  What was it like to know you were on the way to a title?
I think its just an exciting moment for everyone associated with the program.  The way we won says a lot about our program.  Winning a Championship four years in a row is hard to do, and we did it the right way, our style and doing it the right way.  

Lauren got the MVP and deservedly so, can you talk about how the veteran leadership really helped you in this first year of collegiate coaching for you?
Absolutely.  I thought she did a great job that game and it was obvious, a well-deserved award.  To see what our upperclassmen did all season, it makes sense to see what we did that day.  They do a great job of keeping that composure.  Having a group that has been to the championship game four years in a row has a calming influence on the rest of the team.  It helped us stay calm and cool and confident the entire way, and then to see them perform the way they did was fantastic.

Despite what the team has achieved, there is so much more promise in store for the team with the move to Division II and new players joining the team always makes for exciting times.  After all that’s been accomplished what are you most looking forward to as CSI turns the page to the future?
We’re just going to keep building the program.   The excitement is to keep building and to continue to make CSI a high-level program.  We are going to be competitive, we are going to win, and we are going to perform well in the classroom.  We are identifying players that are going to work to compete at a high level on the field of play day in and day out, in the classroom, and involved on and off campus.  That has me very excited about the future of our program. 

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