Perhaps the best word to describe head coach Joe Russo’s women’s soccer teams is: consistent. Over Russo’s 24-year stint as head coach, the Lions have won three Division III championships, 16 NJAC conference titles, and have appeared in 23 consecutive NCAA tournaments.
And 2013 was no different. The Lions finished the regular season
with a stellar 18-3-2 record en route to yet another New Jersey Athletic Conference title. The Lions outlasted fifth-ranked Montclair State in the title game, winning 1-0 on penalty kicks. The Lions advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual national champion William Smith College by a score of 1-0. Earlier in the season, the College handed William Smith its only loss of the season.
That was last season, and the team is training harder than ever to get back to the NCAA tournament and bring home the women’s soccer program’s fourth ever title.
“Our goal for this season is the same as the previous season, as we practice every day to win a National Championship,” said last season’s leading scorer sophomore Christine Levering. “There are smaller goals along the way which we hope to achieve, such as win the conference (NJAC), and the regular season.”
Levering, led the team with 11 goals and 26 points as a freshman last season. The 2013 NJAC Rookie of the Year will look to build on last season’s campaign with help from her teammates.
“My success comes with the team’s success and when we’re on our game it makes it easier for me to get opportunities to score,” Levering said. “I think to keep up my success we need to work together to possess the ball and make as many scoring opportunities as we can so I can do my part and put the ball in the back of the net.”
However, not all is golden on the offensive front. The team will be without two of its top three scorers from last season.
On the plus side, the Lions are gifted with an abundance of senior leadership this season. The team is returning six seniors, including defender Jordan Downs. The awards and honors continued to roll in throughout the summer for Downs, including NJAC Defensive Player of the Year, an ALL-NJAC First Team selection. She was even chosen as an NSCAA Second-Team All American.
The Lions were recently ranked 10th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division III Preseason Poll. NJAC coaches predicted, however, that Montclair State will overtake the College for the NJAC Conference title this season.
The team opens up its season at home Friday, Aug. 29, at 5 p.m. with Cedar Crest College.
With a balanced and experienced offense and a defense lead by Downs, the Lions look to add to their winning history and win a National Championship.