Women’s Soccer Sets Sights on NEC Playoff Return with Young Roster

BY: HEATHER KELLER

Sports Editor

After five straight games on the road to start the Sacred Heart University women’s soccer season, the Pioneers were finally able to compete on their home turf at Campus Field on Sept. 7.

Being on the road after practicing on their home field for a month of preseason had its own set of disadvantages that the athletes had to work through. The team’s upperclassmen were called upon to guide the freshmen through the process of being the visiting team.

“It’s hard to start out being away because the team is just getting into the swing of things and you have to adjust to traveling, bus rides, and sitting,” said junior captain Danielle Karpiej. “After our first away weekend we started seeing progress in our games. Now that we’ve had so many away games and we’ve gotten them out of the way, we’re really excited to be able to play at home.”

Head coach Kim Banner was aware that welcoming the underclassmen players and getting the athletes comfortable with each other before the season was just as important as playing soccer itself.

“With the team being fairly young there was a lot of focus on team chemistry during preseason,” said Banner. “We also worked on toning up the basics and made sure everyone was on the same page to start the season.”

Along with team bonding, the Pioneers have been working on cohesiveness between all positions on the field to improve their overall strategy and ability to play well.

“Playing consistently well together is one of our goals right now,” said junior captain Alex Mesropyan.

The team has faced a variety of non conference opponents during the beginning of the season, as is the case every year. The team anxiously awaits the start of conference play.

“As our record stands we haven’t been able to win many games, but right now our focus is on coming together, moving forward and dealing with those losses,” said senior captain Kim McNally.

Northeast Conference (NEC) games begin for the Pioneers on Sept. 29 at Saint Francis University. The team has their sights set on growing during nonconference games and getting back to the playoffs at the conclusion of their fall schedule.

“It was such a good feeling to get to the playoffs last year. Having such a young team means that we should be able to get back to where we were,” said Karpiej. “Everyone sets little goals at the beginning of the season and putting them into practice during games is important.”

The upperclassmen and coaches have seen the excitement of NEC playoff competition in years past and they hope to provide that same experience for the freshmen this season.

“I’d like to see the upperclassmen lead by example. We have a good team returning back from last year, so I’d really like to get back to where we were and then obviously do even better,” said Banner. “There are a few freshmen who are really stepping up and we’re excited to see how it’s going to pan out in conference play.”

The Pioneers will open conference play at home on Campus Field Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. against Mount St. Mary’s.

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