After securing the two-seed, Lady Owls have their sights set on top ranked nemesis U-Mass Boston
A record of 14-4-1 is allowing the sixth ranked women’s soccer team to expect to make some noise not only in the Little Eastern Conference tournament but the NCAA tournament as well.
“We’ve had a great season, we’ve played well and we know we’re sitting in a good position right now,” head coach, Denise Lyons, said.
Keene State College has secured the second seed in the LEC and will host a semifinal match-up at home November 7. If the University of Massachusetts Boston loses or ties against the LEC’s worst team, Rhode Island College, the Owls will take the top seed and host the tournament at KSC.
“It’s a rewarding season, especially since we didn’t know how we were going to play with losing four of our key players to graduation, but we’ve come away with wins and capitalized on things and I think that’s been good,” senior back Kelsie Bailey said.
With eight seniors on the Owls roster with experience and leadership qualities, Lyons thinks her squad is ready for the playoffs.
“The seniors are hungry, they want to go to the NCAA [tournament],” Lyons said. “I think they’re ready to make that next step, they’re very capable and excited.”
“It would be awesome for us seniors to end our careers going to the NCAA,” Bailey said.
The seniors have also showed up and led by example. Senior Jessica Berthiaume leads the Owls with 10 goals, 25 assists, 40 shots on goal and has started in every game this season.
“Our coach says we should be at our peak towards the end of the season and I think we’re ready, we’ve been playing well, a couple downfalls here and there but we’ve all played together for four years,” Berthiaume said. “We know how each other play so there is no excuse.”
Five of the eight seniors are in the top five in points this season for the Owls: Hayley Kenyon, Brittany Boscarino, Kara Pavlidis, and Kristen Huckins have all produced solid numbers for the team despite various injuries.
“It’s pretty sweet, we’ve played so much better this year and there is so much potential on our team, it feels good to be in this position and I just hope for the best,” Berthiaume said.
“With eight seniors this year, a lot of girls who have been around for a while and know what if feels like to not make it and get so close,” Bailey said. “Knowing that feeling and wanting to go for it, I think this is one of the best teams we’ve had and I think we could [go far in the NCAA tournament].”
Women’s soccer hasn’t been in the NCAA tournament since 2004, when they lost against Middlebury 2-0 in the second round.
However before they think about matchups for the NCAA, the Owls are preparing themselves for a rematch against rivals University of Massachusetts Boston in the LEC, and the team agrees the Beacons are the team to beat.
“Not only because they beat us this year, but because they also beat us last year, so it’s more of revenge. We always get so hyped to play them, we let it get away from us,” Berthiaume said.
The Owls have lost to U-Mass Boston three times in a row dating back to last year, including two shutout losses, 3-0 and 5-0, in 2012. With their team surging and only losing by one (3-2) against the Beacons this year, the Owls think U-Mass Boston can be beaten.
“We’re a different team now if we get matched up with them. They’re beatable; we had some key players out that are back now,” Lyons said, referring to Huckins and Kenyon missing this year’s U-Mass Boston game.
“I’m not nervous to play them, I’m actually excited, it’s always hard to beat the same team twice in one season, so if we’re drawn against them I think we’ll do good. They’re a very strong team but on any given day anyone can beat anyone,” Lyons said.
Their top goal would be to shut down the LEC-leading scorer, Krista Ledin, who has 29 goals in 18 games and leads the LEC in almost every category besides assists.
Ledin also put two in against the Owls in the 3-2 victory for the Beacons October 19.
“We didn’t capitalize on things that we should have, if we make it that far against the LEC we’ll have to capitalize on every opportunity and every shot in order to win and clinch the conference,” Bailey said.
Having Bailey back on defense to rely on is crucial for the Owls since she is a four-year starter who has played in almost every game since her freshman year.
Alongside her has been Jennifer Wilson, Marissa Costello and D-II transfer Maggie Grayson.
Keeper Torrie Crenson, who has been lights out all year with a 0.97 goals against average, 72 saves (.800 save percentage), six shutouts and 14 wins, should be no different when the pressure is on.
“I think we need to come out hard the whole time, but we can’t let the hype get to us,” Berthiaume said.
Stephen Aruilio can be contacted at email@example.com