With 14 goals in three shutout wins, the Adelphi women’s soccer team is off to a blistering start and a contender to vie for the Northeast-10 Conference title after coming up just short the last two seasons.
But the Panthers’ have yet to hit the meat of their schedule, and the run through the league promises to have more challenges than the team’s three easy early season tune-ups.
The Panthers (3-0-0) jumped 17 spots in the Bennettrank rankings this week, entering the Top 10 at No. 7. It was one of the biggest upward moves of the week in women’s Division II soccer.
The Panthers started Northeast-10 Conference play over the weekend with a 4-0 win over BR-63 Southern New Hampshire, after season-opening romps over BR-230 Chestnut Hill College and BR-175 Wilmington University.
But the season is about to get harder. The conference also includes the Panthers’ biggest conference rival, BR-4 Saint Rose, which has also started strong at 4-0. The two teams will face off against each other next Tuesday, Sept. 23, in Albany, N.Y. It was Saint Rose that beat Adelphi in the conference final last year – and put the Panthers out of the NCAA as well.
“It’s a tough conference, a lot of good teams pose different types of challenges, athletically and soccer-wise,” Adelphi Coach Chris Armas said at the start of the season. “We’ll be pushed….Every game is tight, and if you’re not ready, you’ll fall behind quickly.”
Armas, in his fourth season at Adelphi, has already compiled an impressive 36-18-8 record. After last year’s 14-3-4 campaign, including a 9-1-4 record in the conference, the former LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire player who was capped 68 times for the United States, earned National Soccer Coaches Association of America East Region coach of the year honors.
But the Panthers have had to settle for being NE-10 runners-up the last two seasons. In 2012 Adelphi lost to Southern New Hampshire in the conference final. Last year, Saint Rose had Adelphi’s number: not only did Adelphi lose to the Golden Knights in the conference championship game and the regular season, but Saint Rose also beat the Panthers 2-0 in the NCAA tournament to end Adelphi’s season.
Avoiding a repeat of that is part of what is motivating the Panthers this year.
“We’ve been to the last two conference championships – we’ve lost both. We want to get back to that game and win it this time,” Armas said. “We were in the NCAA last year, we’d like to get back to that stage and make a run.”
Offensively, the Panthers are paced by Olivia Czavar, who had a hat trick against Wilmington, and Laura Gomez and Victoria Antonino, both of whom have scored a goal each in all three of the Panthers’ games so far.
The defense has been just as impressive – so far the Panthers haven’t given up a goal. Last year’s NE-10 Goalkeeper of the Year Sam Whitney is back for her senior year, but in those first three games has only faced seven shots and had to make just three saves. While several defenders have seen playing time, junior back Taylor Salmon has been a mainstay for the Panthers, as one of the team leaders in minutes.