Women’s Soccer Gets Defensive

Third-year Midfielder Emily Rokitowski goes to play the ball during practice.
Third-year Midfielder Emily Rokitowski goes to play the ball during practice.

With the dawn of a new season, Colleen Bruley already knows the New Paltz Women’s Soccer team will be fighting for the SUNYAC Championship.

Bruley, who has been Head Coach of the team for 15 seasons, said that with new players coming in and being able to close the holes the team had last season, New Paltz has produced “a complete package.” The team currently holds a record of 3-2-0, leaving third-year goalkeeper Stephanie Vega impressed with what she has seen so far.

“The team’s play this season is getting better and stronger each day as we continue to practice and play against more challenging teams,” said Vega. “I am impressed by our work ethic and how everyone as a team wants to perform better.”

Fourth-year defender and Captain Shannon Cobb said that while the team did not start off the way they wanted, they’re now on the right track towards competing at a higher level than they were last season.

“We got off to a rocky start with our first few games,” said Cobb. “However we are coming off a great weekend and we are playing like we knew we could.”

The team has recently gotten back from the Scarlet Raider Soccer Classic at Rutgers-Newark, where they were able to secure the Tournament title after a 4-1 win over Carthage College. The win over Carthage lead the team to the Tournament Title and placed four of its members on the All-Tournament team. Third-year forward Shelby Kondelka was named Tournament MVP. In Bruley’s eyes, Saturday was an important day for the Hawks.

“Saturday it really started to click and they started to feel and they started to understand that this is how we need to play and are now becoming more comfortable with one another,” said Bruley. “…Defensively we played outstanding and we scored goals so we’re putting it all together.”

However, Bruley said the beginning of a new season has brought its challenges. Fitness levels and offensive play, she said, have slowed the team down.

“Our fitness level has definitely been a challenge,” Bruley said. “Most players came back in good shape but there’s been a couple of key players that we needed to get back into game shape and they’re getting there. Our biggest challenge is to continue to score goals. Defensively we’re really strong…We just need to continue to score goals.”

The Hawks offense is headed by Kondelka, who has scored goals in three of the five games the Hawks have played so far. Offense, as Bruley said, was an area with open positions and she and the team have been relying on first-year midfielders Eleni Anselmi, Rebecca Rothman and forward Sarah Painter to help make New Paltz, as Bruley put it, a “complete” team.

On defense, Cobb is heading the charge with Vega already putting forth an impressive season. Vega was one of the four players named to the All-Tournament team this weekend at Rutgers.

“Vega has really stepped it up this year, so we definitely need her to continue her strong level of play,” said Bruley.

Like Bruley, Vega said that defense is the team’s strongest aspect against their competitors.

“The team’s key strength is our commitment and determination to improve day by day,” said Vega. “Our defense is our strongest aspect, they control the field in ways some may not think of. We are a team that can win or lose and still have the urge to want to keep going. Our team is comfortable on and off the field together, allowing us to overcome any obstacle.”

Bruley and Cobb also said the bond the 2011 Hawks share is key to their success and one of the reasons why they could go all the way this season.

“We have a great team on and off the field this year and I think that the close relationships that are built throughout this team this year will be the deciding factor in how well we do,” said Cobb.

In her 15 years, Bruley said without hesitation that this is the best team she has put on the field.

“They’re a family and we didn’t really have that last year,” said Bruley. “We’ve been looking for a year where they combine the skill and the closeness of a family unit and they’re it. This is, by far the best team we’ve ever had. They can win and beat anyone…They just need to believe that.”