Women’s Soccer Shows Offensive Prowess In Win

The Colgate Women’s soccer team opened its season on a high note, defeating Niagara University 4-3 on Sunday afternoon. The victory was the first step in the Raiders’ campaign to become outright Patriot League Champions after sharing the title with Lehigh in 2005.

Niagara began the scoring with a goal in the first minute of play, when the Purple Eagle’s Stephanie Gartley got off a well-placed shot after drawing Raider junior goalkeeper Carly Sousa out of the net. Two minutes later, senior Jackie Burch responded for the Raiders with an arching shot that settled in the back of the net to even the score.

Colgate then took the lead with a little help from the Purple Eagles. Senior Kelly Niland’s free kick deflected off of a Purple Eagle defender and into the Niagara net, counting as an own goal (Jeff: OWN GOAL?). The Purple Eagles then provided a bookend to the half when they scored goal with a minute left before the intermission to knot the score at two.

Once the second half commenced, Colgate responded with force by scoring twice in the first eight minutes of play. First, junior Franny Iacuzzi scored off of a pass from first-year Jessica Bitsack. Bitsack controlled the rebound on her own shot and sent the ball to Iacuzzi, who beat the goalie. A few minutes later junior Jaime Dennison scored an unassisted goal to put the Raiders two scores ahead. The goal would turn out to be the winning score.

At the 70 minute mark, Niagara scored its third goal of the game to pull within one, but the Raider defense kept the Purple Eagles from scoring in the last 20 minutes of play to preserve the victory.

The Raiders hope this game is an indication of things to come for the season, with first-year players and a handful of players that missed portions of last season with injuries contributing on the field.

“Both the first-years and the players coming back from injuries all made transitions well,” head coach Kathy Brawn said. “[Seniors] Kelly Kuss, Megan Bergman, and Niland were all back on the field and had a good return after working hard at rehab. The first-years rose to the occasion in their first game.”

The Raiders showed a little rust against Niagara, and will look to improve for the next game.

“The bright spots [in the game] were very bright, and the less than stellar spots should be easily fixed,” Brawn said. “There was nothing where I said ‘Oh my God, how are we going to fix this?’ We have players that have the ability to sharpen everything.”

The team’s chief concern is loss of three-year starting goalie Luisa Miller to graduation last year. In Sunday’s game, Sousa started and played every minute of the close contest, but Brawn indicated that it was still an open competition for the starting goalie spot between Sousa, junior Brittany Pearsall, and first-year Carrie Glass.

“It is a competitive situation for the goalies right now, but with three keepers we came into the season well prepared. [Glass] suffered an injury in the preseason, which is just a little setback. [Pearsall] and [Sousa] came in ready to go, which made it a tough decision, but Carly played well in the game. The decision is not final and we will continue to evaluate each player.”

This season the Raiders are expected to finish near the top of the Patriot League, especially after winning the League crown in 2004 and finishing as regular season co-champions last year. In a preseason coaches’ poll, Colgate was picked to finish second in the league behind Lehigh and garnered only two points less than Lehigh’s 89. The Raiders were ranked ninth overall in the northeast by soccerbuzz.com.

“We have had very high expectations coming through the preseason, especially with the talent and work ethic that we have displayed,” Brawn said. “We are optimistic for a successful year.”