by Nick Granados
Assistant Sports Editor
For the first time in three years, the East Stroudsburg University women’s soccer team was playoff bound.
The sixth seed going into the tournament, the Warriors were coming off of one of their best seasons in recent years. They finished the season with a 10-5-5 record, which was their fourth 10-win season in six years under current head coach Rob Berkowitz.
Teamwork has played a key role in this season’s success.
“Our team really connects. It has chemistry this year,” says junior goalkeeper Brittain Wagner. “Everyone who’s on the team actually really wants to be here.”
Wagner, who has a goals against average (GAA) of 0.91 and a save percentage of 0.836, as well six shutouts, was named ESU’s “Warrior of the Week” on October 17.
“It was a real honor,” Wagner said. “When you work so hard for something and get recognized, it’s always a good feeling, but if you stop working hard, it, in the long run, doesn’t matter.”
Soccer has been a major part of Wagner’s life. The Endicott, NY native began playing soccer at the age of three.
“My parents decided to make me play soccer instead of kicking bowling balls around the house,” she said, laughing.
It was not until later that she began playing goalkeeper.
“I probably started when I was like 10-12, but I was on and off in goal.”
While in high school, she was an all-conference goalkeeper, captain and league MVP as a junior; as a senior, was named to the second team all-state and posted a record 18 consecutive shutouts.
Having been a member of the ESU women’s soccer team since her freshman year, Wagner says this year has definitely been better than past years.
“With the group of girls we have, from our seniors down to our rookies, the chemistry and the want to be at practice every day and work one-hundred percent is better than we’ve ever had it before. Everyone gets along with everyone on the team.”
“It’s just one team,” she added.
Wagner says a key to this year is the team’s willingness to work together as a cohesive unit. The team has a saying they have been following all year.
“We have the phrase ‘hold the rope,’ which basically means we’re all in on it,” Wagner explained. “Everyone has to hold up their bargain and everyone has to hold their own. And if one part of it breaks and one person does not ‘hold the rope,’ then our team crumbles.”
The Warriors entered the PSAC Tournament as a sixth seed and met the third seeded Gannon.
Despite Gannon having a 27-7 advantage in shots, the score remained tied after regulation. After two scoreless overtime periods, the game was decided in a penalty shootout, where ESU scored on all five of their attempts, while Gannon scored on all but one of theirs, giving the Warriors the win.
In the semi finals against Slippery Rock, the Warriors were shutout 3-0 after goals in the 24th, 82nd, and 89th minutes and fell one win short of their first appearance in the PSAC Final since 1998. (ESU has previously won the PSAC Tournament in 1994 and, most recently, in 1997.)
While Wagner admits that the presence of the six graduating seniors will certainly be missed, she maintains a positive outlook for the future.
“We have a really good group of seniors this year that we’re going to miss,” she said. “But, we also have a really good group of freshmen.”
As for Wagner, who will be a senior next season, she would love to be a captain next year.
“I would hope to be [a captain], but whoever does will definitely do their job and do a good job with it,” she said. “Anyone on our team that becomes a captain next year definitely deserves it.”
The future definitely looks bright for the junior goalkeeper. Each day is a new day and a new opportunity for her to improve. “I always want to be better than yesterday,” she said.
With the success that Wagner and the rest of the women’s soccer team has had this year, things will only get better next season.
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