A heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Quinnipiac in the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament is the bitter final memory the Marist women’s soccer team has from taking the field last season.
Flash forward ten months, and the Red Foxes are excited and ready to start their season. The team arrived on campus on July 31 and began training for the season on August 1.
“Everybody was looking forward to getting back. We did Red Fox summer groups, so they have been bonding with each other,” Marist head coach Brittany Kolmel said.
The team enters the 2022 season with a roster overhaul, as they graduated almost a full team of players and brought in 13 freshmen to help fill the gaps. Getting new players up to speed with the Division I level can be a tough task, but Kolmel is ready for the challenge.
“We brought in basically what we graduated last season, and we also brought in two new keepers,” she said. We are trying to push their development, and it’s about building a culture with them.”
However, Kolmel will have strong upperclassmen in leadership roles that can help the newcomers this season. Returning graduate student goalie Natalie Kelchner is a big boost for the Red Foxes as she was the MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year last season. Senior Samantha Sturno and junior Amanda Caldarelli are also important returning players who will help lead the way for the Red Foxes. All three players were named to the Preseason All-MAAC team.
“I’m grateful that I get to be here as a graduate student. It gives me a different perspective being one of the oldest on the team,” Kelchner said. “It’s a different mentality this season. I’m focused on being a considerate teammate and hyping my teammates up.”
Kelchner’s decision to return to school took some time, but she decided Marist was the best opportunity for her to continue playing. Along with winning Goalkeeper of the Year last season, Kelchner was also twice named MAAC Defensive Player of the Week. She finished last season with a save percentage of .872 percent.
“I had a lot of options up in the air, but ultimately it came down to my teammates. I couldn’t turn down the option to play with the girls again,” Kelchner said. “It was a no-brainer when I thought about it.”
Caldarelli will also be an important piece in the midfield for the Red Foxes this season. In 2021, Caldarelli started 13 games as a sophomore and recorded a team-high four goals. She is taking on a more enhanced role this season, and she is ready for the challenge.
“It’s really simple, the girls around me are the people that are going to push me,” Caldarelli said.
Kolmel has also made changes to the coaching staff this season, and she has added former defender Deanna Lomino as her assistant coach. Lomino played for four years at Siena before transferring to Marist for a fifth year to play for Kolmel last season. She brings tremendous experience to the team as in her five years, she had 6,326 minutes of game time, and she started the majority of the games.
“Deanna has done a phenomenal job. She’s been able to play at this level, and she has playing experience. Her career speaks for itself, and the players are excited to have her,” Kolmel said.
Lomino will help maintain the strong defensive foundation the Red Foxes have, while Kolmel looks to help revamp the offense. The Red Foxes’ offense struggled to produce last season, failing to score more than twice in each of their 15 games, which put more pressure on the defense and led to losses.
The offense has been a primary focus during the first weeks of training. The team has been practicing their offense since last spring, and the new additions should spark a change in the attack. Caldarelli will also be relied upon this season to produce offensively in an enhanced role, and she is looking to score more goals this season.
“Whenever my teammates give me the ball, I think I have the capability to do something with it,” Caldarelli said. “We are going to be an attacking-minded team, and we are all going to be aggressive.”
The Red Foxes were voted in a tie for fifth along with Iona in the MAAC Preseason Poll after posting four wins, four losses, and two ties in conference play last season. This is a good place considering all the new faces that need to be integrated into the squad. The team is motivated to go further in the MAAC Tournament this year and improve their skillset.
“We have to build off of our defensive foundation and add pressure by attacking this season,” Kolmel said.
“It is definitely a little bit of pressure coming off of the Goalie of the Year, but I hope to do the small things and be a good teammate,” Kelchner said.
As the season draws closer, the Red Foxes will look forward to nonconference matchups against Cornell, Binghamton, and UMBC before heading into MAAC play. There is no surprise what MAAC matchup they have circled on their calendar.
“Of course we want Quinnipiac. We had difficulty with them last season, but it is always a really big game,” Kelchner said.
The Red Foxes will open the season on Thursday, August 18, at 7 P.M. at Tenney Stadium against St. Bonaventure. It will be the first of a three-game homestand to start the season for the Red Foxes. Marist will begin its conference slate with a trip to MAAC newcomer Mount St. Mary’s on September 17.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Header Photo from Bridget Reilly for Center Field