The St. Mary’s women’s soccer team is in the midst of building a powerhouse as they are finishing up the season as yet again one of the top teams in the Capital Athletic Conference. In 2012, the Seahawks finished 5-9-2, which made things look a little more bleak. However, every year since then, the squad has improved their record. In doing so, they have gone from having a losing record, to being one of the top two or three CAC teams since head coach Peter Krech took over in the 2014 season.
The 2016 season has been going just as well for our Seahawks. They are once again one of the top powers in the conference and are looking to make a run at not only the CAC championship, but a NCAA tournament as well. Senior Seahawk midfielder Claire Kostelnik stated: “Our major team goal is to win the CAC and make a run in the NCAA national tournament. To do this we want to place in the top two of the conference during the regular season in order to get a first round bye in conference playoffs.”
Last season, SMCM lost in the semi-finals of the CAC tournament to York by a score of 2-1. In order to avoid an early exit again, they have been revamping the team by adding essential players. Kostelnick explains, “We brought in some key new players this year. Then matched with our [older players] experience has helped our team reach new heights. I think we are collectively stronger than last year and a lot of people have stepped up this year and have competed for starting spots. This has helped create a more competitive atmosphere at practice and has helped us prepare for big games.”
A more competitive atmosphere tends to foster more success on the field. This year in particular, not only are our Seahawks winning, but they tend to win by large amounts by giving up very few goals. As of October 19th, they have shut out opponents six times and outscored opponents thirty to fifteen. Besides defense, they also have a balanced offensive attack. Kostelnik mentions: “We play a possession style game to open up space on the field to try to get our forwards in isolated situations where they can use their speed to take players on.”
This style of play by St. Mary’s has been evident in some of their bigger wins of the year. The game against Frostburg on October 1st, showcased how the Seahawks can not only score, but play solid defense. Kostelnik scoring (assisted by Emily Huey) on a corner pushed our team ahead. Then, 2015 CAC player of the year Gillian Sawyer scoring closer towards halftime (assist by Kostelnik). That was all the cushion the SMCM defense needed! They gave up one goal early in the second half and then finished with a 2-1 victory.
Just a few days later on October 5th, St. Mary’s took on their rival: Salisbury University. SMCM sophomore Jenna Pastel began the game quickly, scoring a goal within the first four minutes of competition (assist by Kostelnik). The Seahawks clung to their 1-0 until late in the second half when sophomore Emily Huey scored to put the game away (assisted by Sawyer). Kostelnik calls this the best part of the season so far, saying “they are one of our biggest rivals and we dominated the entire game at their home field.”
A tough match for St. Mary’s was the game on October 12th versus nationally ranked Christopher Newport University. Coming into the game, the two teams were the sole undefeated teams in the conference. It looked like CNU would run away with the game as they took a 2-0 lead into the middle of the second half. However, SMCM began to mount a comeback, with Pastel scoring in the seventy-seventh minute. Unfortunately, the Seahawks fell 2-1.
Only time will tell if St. Mary’s will have success in the NCAA tournament. Senior captain Carolyn Barranco agrees with Kostelnik that they can make a postseason run but, they will just need to do a few things correctly. She states, “We will really need to work as a team and move the ball well. We have to be the hardest working team on the field and have to show composure around the box.”