September 14, 2007

Women’s Soccer Hosts Pair

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Last weekend, freshman Natalie Zandt broke a 0-0 tie in the second overtime session to deliver the women’s soccer team’s first win of the season — in front of the home crowd at Charles F. Berman Field. The team will look to build off last week’s 1-0 win when it hosts two more games in Ithaca this weekend, taking on the Siena Saints (1-2) tonight and the Lafayette Leopards (1-3) on Sunday.
Home field advantage is expected to provide the Red (1-3) a big boost. Prior to the season, rookie head coach Danielle LaRoche and her team set an undefeated home record as one of their primary goals. So far, the Red’s sole victory has come on home turf.
“There’s nothing like wearing white, having the fans behind you, and feeling the pride of playing before your own home field,” LaRoche said. “We’ve been playing on natural surfaces, and St. Bonaventure’s [artificial] field was a little bit different.”
Still, LaRoche believes the Red has been playing better each game, including its most recent one: a 4-2 loss at St. Bonaventure’s last Sunday.
“The score doesn’t show how well we played … in the first half against St. Bonaventure, the girls played the best 20 minutes I’ve ever seen from them,” she said. “They understand [my] system of play.”
From a strategic standpoint, the only changes the Red will make are mental ones. Defensive breakdowns have haunted the team in the first two weeks of the season, allowing opposing teams to score at least four goals in each of the Red’s three losses. The team is playing with a more aggressive and counter-attacking defensive line under LaRoche.
“Siena does give us more time and space to work with,” LaRoche said. “[But] we have to play from ‘the neck up,’ with a lot more mental toughness,” she said.
In contrast to other teams the Red has faced early this season, Siena relies on its defense to win games. In a surprising decision, freshman goalkeeper Elizabeth Barna got the start for the Saints last Sunday, allowing one goal and saving five in her collegiate debut. It is unknown who Siena will start at goal this week.
Lafayette is a Patriot League squad that comes into Ithaca healthy and battle-tested. Following four games in eight days, including overtime and double overtime games back-to-back, the Leopards have been inactive since last week. They opened the year with losses at Big East contenders Villanova and Seton Hall. Senior midfielder Caroline Tuttle leads the Lafayette attack, having scored in the Leopards’ last two games.
Freshman Lena Russomagno assisted for the game-winning goal against Hartford and went on to score one of the Red’s two goals against St. Bonaventure. The rookie midfielder from Wilmington, Del. has impressed the coaching staff with her field-stretching speed and her confidence to beat defenders one-on-one. Together with classmate Zandt, the explosive duo has unexpectedly lifted the offense in its first few games.
“As a team, we were definitely disappointed after the loss to St. Bonaventure’s,” Russomagno said . “We played well early and could’ve won that game … so we’re really hungry for a win now, and I think we can earn it.”