By Maria Sassane
SC Contributing Writer
The ESU women’s soccer team is heading into the 2015 season as defending PSAC champions. It was on Nov. 8, 2014 that the team made history and beat Kutztown University to win its third ever PSAC championship.
They then made a run in the NCAA DII Atlantic Regional playoff tournament but fell short during the semifinal game. Nonetheless, they had a historic season last year and hope to repeat last season’s success this year.
The team is led under ninth year head coach Rob Berkowitz. Coach Berkowitz has had tremendous success here at ESU. Overall, he has led the Warriors to an 89-51-17 record and also five PSAC tournament appearances.
In addition to coaching the women’s soccer team, he also coaches the men’s soccer team.
When asked about how he thinks his team will do this year in the PSAC conference, he said, “The hope and expectation is to compete for a conference tournament berth. Hopefully, we can build off the success of last year, but we have a new team, and last year is now behind us.”
ESU is ranked number two in the PSAC preseason poll while West Chester is ranked number one.
Coach Berkowitz was asked if he thinks West Chester is their biggest opponent this year.
He said, “West Chester is the defending Regional Champions. Historically they are always one of the toughest teams in the league. There are many teams that will be in the hunt for a conference championship. ESU was picked eighth last year in the preseason poll, so we don’t put a lot of weight on the preseason poll ranking.”
Coach Berkowitz was then asked if he thought his team has what it takes to be back-to-back PSAC champions, and he responded, “Yes, I believe we have the talent and ability to repeat, but we have a long way to go. Much of it will depend on how we improve as the season goes on, avoid injuries, and get a fortunate break or two along the way.”
It seems that ESU’s women’s soccer team is in great hands under Coach Berkowitz’s leadership and coaching skills.
This year, the team has seven returning starters including midfielder and first team All-American junior, Shea Neal, as well as Daktronics second team All-American junior center back, Laurel Neira.
When asked about this upcoming season and if they could win another PSAC championship this year, Neira said, “I definitely think we can. It will take hard work on and off the field, but I believe it is possible.”
This year, the team will only face PSAC schools in the regular season. Their season opener was held this past Thursday at Eiler-Martin Stadium in East Stroudsburg. They faced Lock Haven, who is ranked fifteenth in the PSAC. The Warriors beat Lock Haven with a score of 1-0.
The only goal of the game came from senior forward Sammi Jo Hughes, early in the second half. In the middle of the second half, officials decided to delay the game due to lightning.
The game was on hold for a total of one hour and twenty-five minutes. The game then resumed with about twenty-six minutes left to play. Lock Haven was not able to score a goal in the remaining time making the Warriors winners.
The team then played their second game on Saturday against Shippensburg. The game was played on the road at Shippensburg where the Warriors fell to the Raiders with a score of 3-2.
Shippensburg was able to score two goals late in the second half and was able to come away with the win.
The loss ended the Warriors’ winning streak at 22 games. This was the second longest winning streak in PSAC history, and the longest winning streak in school history. ESU’s winning streak was also the longest active winning streak in Division II.
The Warriors now have a record of 1-1 with fourteen games left to play. Nonetheless, this team is definitely capable of making another run at the PSAC Championship.
Despite a bumpy start to the season, it seems like the team is determined and really wants to defend its PSAC title.
The Warriors played Mansfield at home on Sept. 9.
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