Women’s Soccer Preview: Refreshed Red Foxes Ready to Make Noise

Women’s Soccer Preview: Refreshed Red Foxes Ready to Make Noise

When the Marist Women’s Soccer Team lost in the MAAC Quarterfinal ten months ago, it was another season with the same story. It’s been three seasons in a row with an overall record of .500 or below and three seasons in a row ending with a one and done trip to the MAAC Tournament.

As the 2023 season starts kicking into full swing, the outlook on Marist’s season is much more positive.

“Through preseason, we put a lot of work into our culture,” said head coach Nicole Pacapelli. “I think it’s really been paying off.”

Pacapelli was hired in January after taking over Brittany Kolmel’s two year tenure. A former head coach, assistant coach, and player; Pacapelli has a wealth of experience to look back on in this new role.

The Red Foxes were ranked seventh in the MAAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll and through three games  are still working out the kinks of learning a new system. Marist opened the season with a 3-0 loss to Villanova but showed improvement a week later, earning a 0-0 draw against St. Bonaventure.

Pacapelli was candid when analyzing what the team needs to work on after the first two outings, “We’ve gotta put the ball in the back of the net.”

Despite not having scored yet, outshooting the Bonnies 11-6 was a step in the right direction for Marist. 

“We had a lot of opportunities; it’s just that final ball in the back of the net,” said Pacapelli. “We’re working on our final passes, crosses, finishing, and combining with each other a little better.”

While still searching for their chemistry on the field, the team has become more unified off the field than in previous seasons, helping build confidence for the players as individuals and as a unit. 

“I told coach before I came back, I’m usually super anxious to come back for preseason,” said graduate student defender Samantha Sturno, “but I was super excited for this year.”

Pacapelli expressed the emphasis this season of working on building the right team culture, not just since preseason, but going back to last spring when she arrived on campus. Sturno, now in her fifth season on the team, reiterated how the increased comradery is making a difference on the pitch.

Sturno, who was named to the preseason All-MAAC Team, will lead the Red Foxes as captain alongside fellow graduate student Brooke Cergol and senior Amanda Caldarelli. With 18 upperclassmen on the team this year, leadership will not be in short supply.

But what will define Marist’s season, as does for every team, is how they play on game day. Pacapelli shared that playing structured and organized, especially on defense, will be a key for them and allow them to take control and play their game.

‘Their’ game focuses on two areas of the pitch. First are the outside back positions, set to be held by Sturno and senior Samantha Caldarelli. Pacapelli praised their ability to defend one-on-one situations and use their speed and athleticism to move the ball up field, knowing that could be what adds punch to their offense.

“I was a center midfielder, so I never want to skip the midfield,” said Pacapelli when asked which part of the field will be most impactful to the team’s success. “I want to keep the ball on the ground as best we can, and I want to keep possession.” 

The Marist Women’s Soccer Team has been putting in a lot of work since their new coach’s arrival on campus. There are two ways to frame the outlook on this season: a last hurrah for the ten seniors and four graduate students who have seen three different coaches since 2019 or as a first step for a new era of the program. Either way, adapting and executing a new system will be pivotal for picking up points in conference play that have slipped away in previous years.

Though the Red Foxes fell to Cornell in their home opener Wednesday night, they host Seton Hall and face UConn on the road before opening MAAC play against Rider on Sept. 9th. A trip up north to play Niagara on Sept. 23rd will be circled on the calendar as Marist will seek revenge for last season’s playoff exit. The Red Foxes will also be tested in mid-October when they play the top two ranked teams in the MAAC–Quinnipiac and Fairfield– in three days.

This is a team with a lot of talent and potential that they have yet to reach. Playing as a collective and surprising opponents with a new look and energy to their game will be the recipe for success to win games and advance in the postseason.

Edited By Dan Aulbach and Ben Leeds

Photo By Brooke Burrows

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