purple adidas trainers Knights to open regional play
ALBANY The College of Saint Rose women’s soccer team has put together some impressive numbers this season. A school record 21 0 0 season, a No. 2 ranking in the NSCAA/Adidas Division II Poll and a third straight Northeast 10 Conference title.
Those gaudy numbers earned the Golden Knights their seventh NCAA tournament appearance in eight years and the top seed in the NCAA East Regionals.
Behind the perfect record and flashy numbers lies the foundation for the Knights success. It’s a team that prides itself on keeping opposing offense’s off the scoreboard.
“We have always put a lot of emphasis on having a tremendous defense,” said Saint Rose head coach Laurie Darling Gutheil. “That’s been a focus of ours for a long time and we’ve really built our program around relinquishing very few goals and trying to do our absolute best to build from our defensive unit forward.”
The Knights have surrendered just five goals all season, none in the first half, and posted eight straight shut out wins before allowing a second half goal in a 2 1 victory over Franklin Pierce in the Northeast 10 Conference finals. They posted shut outs in 13 of their last 15 games.
The Knights have rotated three players in goal with Susan Cowan, Shannon Murphy and Deanna Esposito all seeing action. Cowan, a sophomore from West Boylston MA, has shouldered most of the work and has been brilliant between the pipes. She’s allowed just two goals in 1188 minutes of action. She boasts a miniscule goals against average of .15 and has a .956 save percentage.
“All three keepers contributed to help us get where we are right now and they’ve all had a huge impact on this team this year,
” Darling Gutheil said.
The Saint Rose defense features junior backs Katie Whiting, Kelly Guerin, Coco Ebersole and freshman Meagan McKinney. They’ve formed the kind of solid defensive unit Darling Gutheil looks for in a team.
“This year is a reflection of many years of development and the players are having an exceptional amount of success,” she said. “They have a lot that they’ve accomplished. They play very well together but they’re individually incredibly talented.”
Everyone contributes on defense for the Knights no matter what their listed position. The goal scorer’s take just as much pride in not allowing goals as the backs and keepers. It’s a team first mindset that Darling Gutheil has embedded in the Saint Rose program in her 14 seasons as head coach.
“The whole team takes pride in that,” she said. “We expect our forwards to play just as hard if not harder than our defenders so it’s all the way through.”
With the top seed in east regional the Knights earned a first round bye and will play conference opponent Merrimack for the third time this season. Saint Rose won both previous match ups 4 0 on Sept. 19 and 2 0 on Nov. 5 in the conference semifinals. Merrimack defeated four seed UMass Lowell on penalty kicks in the first round.
If the Knights get by Merrimack and continue to win they will host games at The Albany Academies up to the final four. The Golden Knights made it to the final four last year and they’d like to get there again.
Saint Rose lost in the national semifinals to West Florida last year, the school that currently sits above the Knights with the country’s No. 1 ranking.
That experience on the big stage has served the Golden Knights well this season and should help them make another deep run in the tournament.
“We really try to make our kids mentally strong and as intelligent as a unit they can be,” Darling Gutheil said.
The team watched the first round game together on Friday. If they needed a refresher of how important defense is in the tournament they got it a witnessing a scoreless tie that ended on penalty kicks.
“It makes it very real for them what they’re playing for,” Darling Gutheil said. “The level of intensity that comes along with a postseason run and they have to be ready and be a team collectively to make sure that we can do our absolute best on Sunday.”