Michael Beecher, Staff Writer
It has been a challenging start to the season for the Lady Bulldogs as injuries and cancellations have plagued it so far.
The women’s soccer team opened the season with three losses, each by a margin of five goals or higher. Despite the rough start and a depleted roster, Coach Toni DiFranco remains optimistic and set upon building a foundation for the program.
“We are having a rough start out of the gate and [want to] get all our players healthy and just regroup,” Coach DiFranco said. “We are still building up this program and we will take it one game and practice at a time and get our feet under us,” she continued. This year is her third year as the team’s coach. The team is young, the entire roster consists of eight freshmen who are getting their first taste of collegiate soccer, as well as four sophomore players.
The team is in rebuilding mode and are missing a few players, including their goalkeeper, Irini Drakopuolos. The goalkeeper position is currently being played by sophomore Hadassah Haricha, who is used to playing midfield, as well as freshman Melanie Canaveral-Agudelo.
This has left them with an empty bench, meaning each player has to play a full 90 minutes.
Soccer games are physically taxing, and it only gets worse when a team lacks depth on the bench. Luckily, these injuries will not last the whole season. Several players are set to return next week.
“We’ve been having bad luck this season. Hopefully, that’ll change next week,” said Athletic Director Jorge Hernandez. “It’s just like any other job. When you lose an employee, you have to pick up the pace. It’s difficult,” added Hernandez, who admitted that several games had to be postponed because the team does not have enough numbers yet.
Once the injured players return, the team will finally have a substitute, allowing players to get rest to compete later in the game.
“When we have our injured players back in the next week I really think we are going to be able to do a lot more,” said Coach DiFranco. Rebuilding a soccer program can be difficult but DiFranco remains hopeful.
Despite conceding goals, the defense has shown discipline. In their game against Sussex Community College, they were able to catch the offense offsides a number of times in the second half alone.
As the sports world begins to put more emphasis on statistics, it can be easy to write off a team because of a few tough losses, but Coach DiFranco sees promise. “We’ve mastered catching [opposing teams] offsides in all our games. Our strength will come when we have numbers back,” she added.
The new additions due to return are coming at a tough time in the schedule for the Lady Bulldogs. Only two of their eight remaining games are at home and soccer is a war of attrition, especially on the road. They’re going to need all the help they can get.