Just Four Seasons Old, Suffolk Lady Rams Soccer Continues to Impress
Making it to the post-season after just four seasons of existence, the Suffolk University Women's Soccer Team has far exceeded the expectations of many.
When a new program reaches varsity status it usually takes a few bumps at the beginning as they get used to the competition. With the Suffolk University Women's soccer team, however, success came much earlier than anticipated.
Despite their 3-1 loss to Emmanuel College on Sunday night, the Lady Rams exceeded many expectations when they captured the Great Northeast Athletic Conference regular season crown when they defeated Norwich last weekend. That win was just one of nine consecutive victories for the Lady Rams.
Emmanuel's Saints broke the Rams' streak on Sunday at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, making their first post-season appearance a short one. But the Lady Rams head coach says the team has really exceeded expectations in its short history.
"We took a few bumps in our first season," head coach Ernst Cleophat recalled. "As expected we didn't make the playoffs that year. But as I noted after the season, once the word gets out then I knew we would have had more experienced players to represent the program. In 2008 we missed the playoffs by one loss and after our finish last year we proved that we would be a force to be reckoned with this year."
"We had some trouble at the beginning as we nearly had enough players to play or just had one bench player available, but that didn't reflect the talent that we had," added senior goalkeeper Emily Joyce. "We had a lot of games that went into overtime or double overtime and losing by one-goal didn't really reflect how good of a team we were."
Now that they've been able to recruit, the Lady Rams were able to add some depth to their roster.
"Everything's been able to blend together with contributions with some of our new players and some of our previous players," Joyce said. "We have a lot of good players and we have a lot of depth and we've been able to play well."
After a 4-0 loss to Lasell back in September, Cleophat made some necessary lineup changes to give the team a lift. One of those changes was moving junior captain Leslie Hayden from forward to midfield.
Hayden responded to the change quickly. Not only is she the all-time leading goal scorer in the team's brief history with 50 goals, but she also leads the country in assists as she has recorded 17 assists so far in the 2010 season.
"I felt the moves were necessary for everyone," Hayden said. "It helped my game to because I can distribute the ball more as a mid-fielder. Our transition game on defense has gotten stronger during the year and everyone is so versatile, which I think makes us such a good team."
While the Lady Rams have had their success on the field, they have also had plenty of success off the field, particularly in the classroom.
In his first season as coach, Cleophat emphasized the need for a good education over success on the field. In his first season the Lady Rams were one of 259 teams in the country that earned a Team Academic award by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America with a cumulative GPA of 3.25.
That message still hasn't changed since day one as they found out about their ranking in this year's Coaches Association poll at a recent practice, which helped in the decision of next year's co-captains - Hayden and Christina Michael.
"After we found out about the NSCAA rankings recently, I appointed Christina Michael as one of the captains for next year," Cleophat said. "She's a very bright student who has good character. She maintains a 3.655 GPA. As a team, that's why I made sure the school became a member of the NSCAA so we can be recognized for their contributions in the classroom."
"I think a lot of our success this year has to do with our coach," added Hayden. "He always makes sure that school always comes first and he doesn't mind us missing workouts or practices if we have a class. He wants to make sure that we settle things in the classroom before we settle things on the field, and as a team I think it helps us bond together."