By Hayden Choate
The Springfield College Women’s soccer team is ready for a new season. This year’s team brings a lot of talent and potential to the table and is ready to battle any team that they face.
The 2018 season went well for the Pride as they finished with a 15-6-1 record, reaching the NEWMAC championship game, and achieving individual success within the team. However, the team fell short in the NEWMAC championship losing to MIT and losing in the ECAC tournament second round to Wilkes, both games by one goal. The Pride hope to turn the page on last year’s end result.
“We’ll deal with each game as it comes, there’s lots of tough games, so we just take each one as it comes,” said head coach John Gibson on his team’s ‘one game at a time’ mentality.
Despite graduating key seniors including forward Amanda Wright, defenders Aly Morell and Rachel Feliu, along with goalie Izzy Inglese, the Pride return some important players to the lineup such as Chrissy Conley on defense, Kaleigh Dale at midfield and Sara Swetland at forward. In addition to the returning starters, the team will get contributions from the freshmen.
“We’ve got some talented freshman…there’s probably four or five that could really help.” Said Gibson, referring to forwards Adalia Malick and Nicole Sweeney and defenders Hannah Sullivan and Christina Syryla. Sophomore forward Maggie Barden and goalkeeper Emma O’Sullivan are transfers who will also have an impact this season.
“I think we have picked up a lot of talent.”
Returning scoring threats are midfielder Kaleigh Dale, forward Sara Swetland, and forward Mackenzie Luiz. Along with Malick and Barden, the Pride will be able to generate great offensive chances and maintain pressure on the oppositions defense.
On the back end, senior captain Chrissy Conley, who earned NEWMAC first-team all-conference honors last season, will lead the defense. Sophomore Heather Jennato will also play a huge role in the defensive unit this season. Junior Christy Russo who missed the entire season due to injury last year will also help shut down opposing team’s offense. Freshman Hannah Sullivan will also have a role on the defensive unit that looks to keep the 1.03 goals against average from last year.
Players to watch
Kaleigh Dale returns for her Sophomore season after not only earning 2018 NEWMAC rookie of the year, but breaking the Springfield College women’s soccer single-season scoring record as a freshman. Dale scored 20 goals last year for the Pride highlighted by four game-winning goals.
“If she has another season like last season then she should be an All-American,” said Gibson.
The question is will Dale be able to continue her scoring success now that she is the opponents focus on defense? Keeping the “one game at a time” mentality is something that Dale wants to work on this season.
“This year something I want to work on is not letting anything get to me, just focusing, taking it game by game, playing with my team and putting the team first,” said Dale, who had a total of 44 points last year.
“It’s just something I try and focus on every game, not only trying to help my team offensively, but just getting back on defense because obviously you can’t win games without defense,” she said.
Although Gibson would like Dale to focus on her offense by “damaging the other team,” he admits that she can play on both halves of the field:
“She does defend well, she’s good in the air, she’s got an incredible work rate, she never complains about anything, we have to tell her when to not work so hard.”
This year’s team has their eyes set on getting back to the NEWMAC championship and winning their first title since 2015. Gibson believes one of the biggest keys to victory is going to be how the team comes together.
“It’s got a lot of potential, we need to mold it into a team to make sure we’re not beating ourselves in any kind of way,” he said.
The level of optimism is through the roof at the start of the season.
“I’m really excited,” said senior captain Chrissy Conley. “We have a lot of depth on the team […] everybody’s super motivated and we’ve got a really good coaching staff to help us through.”
“We definitely want to pick up where we left off last year,” Dale said. “Working towards winning our conference this year.”
“We just need a lot of grit. We have to be able to fight, fight for each other…we just have to find that fire in us to ignite it and bring it all the way home,” said Conley.
The Pride have a tough road ahead of them. Three-time national champion Williams College is coming to town on September 15th. Then the Pride will play host to Coast Guard on Sept. 21 in their first NEWMAC action of the season.
The team also has road games against Wesleyan (Sept. 17), Castleton (Oct. 1), Amherst (Oct. 14), and a rematch of last years NEWMAC championship game at MIT (Oct. 26).
The 2019 Springfield College women’s soccer team is gearing up to make a deep run this season with the ending of last year as a chip on their shoulder, if they are able to stay healthy and produce offensively, the end result should be in favor of the Pride.
Gibson said, “Last year was the first year for six years we didn’t win anything, and we didn’t like it.”
Photo courtesy of Jack Margaros