The Elizabethtown women’s soccer program has learned to build off of every prior season’s heartbreak. Two seasons ago, the Blue Jays went 10-3-6 and won six conference games to just one loss and three ties. That season ended with a disappointing loss in penalty kicks at Stevenson University in the Commonwealth Conference Championships. The team awaited an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but the Blue Jays were never announced.
Last season, the Blue Jays won 12 out of their 20 games and went 7-2 in the Commonwealth Conference to earn the number two seed in the playoffs. Once again they faced Stevenson University in the playoffs, and once again the Mustangs ended Etown’s postseason run. This time around, the Blue Jays had played well enough to catch the NCAA’s attention and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2007. The Blue Jays lost to Trinity College (Conn.) 2-1 in the first round of the tournament.
“Last year’s loss took a big toll on us, but now we know what to expect,” senior Kendra Mancino said. “To actually get a bid for the tournament was a big surprise and, hopefully, this year we can make it to the finals. We have a great team and can go all the way if we each give 110 [percent].”
The Blue Jays’ goal to play further into November seemed possible in their final scrimmage of this season against Millersville University. The Marauders beat the Blue Jays 3-0 in a preseason scrimmage a year ago, and that was on the mind of a few Etown upperclassmen this time around.
“Heading into the Millersville game, we were very anxious and excited to play,” junior Lauren Fredericks said. “We knew that it would be a tough game and we were ready to fight. We lost some key players last year during our scrimmage against them and felt that this year we wanted to show them what we were made of and get a win.”
Etown held a three-goal lead over Millersville in the second half before clearing the bench to give underclassmen playing time.
The Blue Jays carried that momentum into their season-opener on August 30 against Keystone College. With Etown scoring four first-half goals, the game was never in question. Junior Kaceyanne Cerankowski recorded a hat-trick for the host Blue Jays as they outshot the Giants 37-3 in the game. Etown had contributions from everyone as seven different players scored and six different players added an assist in the win. Their nine goals were more than any single-game total last season, and the most in a game since the Blue Jays’ 9-0 win over Immaculata in Sept. 2012.
The Blue Jays were picked as the favorites to win this year’s Landmark Conference Championship in their first year competing in the conference. Etown returns nine starters from last season’s NCAA Tournament team led by a core group of juniors. Mancino is the lone senior on this year’s squad and will be called upon as a leader for a team with high expectations for this season.
“Going into my final season, I feel like I have the responsibility to set the tone for the team and be an example for my younger teammates,” Mancino said. “As it is my last year, I want it to be our most successful season that we’ve had since I’ve joined the team and would like to further the success our team achieved last year. I know I have to come in every day and work hard to be an example for the effort that needs to be put forth by every single member of our team.”
Following their shutout against Keystone College, the Blue Jays hosted York College (PA) on Sept. 3. Once again, the defense shined, allowing just four shots on goal and two corner kicks on the evening. Junior goalkeeper Dana Robidoux recorded her first shutout of the season, making four saves in the process.
Opposite of Robidoux was York goalkeeper Melanie Glessner who hadn’t allowed a goal in the first two games of the season, a span of 180 minutes of game action. Fredericks didn’t take long to change that, putting a shot past Glessner in the third minute of the game, giving the Blue Jays a 1-0 advantage. Fredericks’ goal would stand to be the game-winner as Etown hung on for the one-goal victory.
“Scoring that goal early on felt amazing. We wanted to come out hard against York and give them a tough game,” Fredericks said. “As a defender, it helped us relax a little knowing we had a lead, but it also put more pressure on us because we still had 86 minutes left that we would have defend with everything we had.”
Fredericks joined Mancino, sophomore Caroline Novak and first-year Maria Boretti as the Blue Jays’ back line of defense against the York attack. After Robidoux was forced to make a save in the 56th minute, she didn’t face another shot until the 85th minute.
The Blue Jays’ third game of the season, scheduled for a 5 p.m. start this past Saturday at Kings College (PA), was canceled due to thunderstorms in the area. No make-up date was determined at the time of cancelation.
Etown was back in action yesterday at Franklin & Marshall for their first road game of the season. The Blue Jays shutout to Diplomats 2-0.
With a young nucleus of talented players and the leadership of one savvy senior, the Blue Jays have their sights set high in their first season as a member of the Landmark Conference.
“We’ve been chosen to win the Landmark Conference, and my mindset this year is to work as hard as I can towards this goal and reach the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row,” Mancino said. “I want to see our team come together and work hard every day until we reach these goals.”