The Felician University women's soccer team has qualified for the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference postseason tournament in nine of head coach Thomas Notte's first 10 seasons. None of those teams, however, have won the conference, either in the regular season or the playoffs.
While Notte feels it is too early to declare that his 2018 version of the Golden Falcons is the one to break the spell, he is also of the opinion that is it far past time for his program to raise its level of expectation.
"We return a lot of defenders and midfielders, and we have a strong group that has jelled quickly," Notte said. "Everyone is already working at 100% effort. We have the foundation to perform well in every game. If we consistently compete hard, there is no reason why we can't finish in the top five in the conference."
In the past, Notte has not heavily relied on transfer students, preferring to build with four-year players. This year's roster, however, has four newcomers with some form of experience at other institutions, the most in his tenure.
"It's been a combination of plan and circumstance," Notte said. "Overall, we just wanted players with good experience, no matter where it came from. This year quallity transfers became available at a time where we could make them a strong offer. Our freshmen and our transfers together give us more freedom with putting players in different spots."
The Golden Falcons scored only 17 goals in 2017, then graduated players who tallied 14 of them. It's not a surprise the coaching staff is concerned about from where offense will come.
"For the season to be successful, we'll need to increase our speed of play," Notte said. "And we'll definitely need to get better at finishing in the offensive third."
GOALKEEPERS: Sophomore Jamie Kazenmayer (Forked River, N.J./Lacey Township) earned the top spot in goal a year ago, and Felician will begin 2018 with her between the posts. However, sophomore Brooke Garofalo (Ridgefield, N.J./Ridgefield Memorial) is much-improved.
DEFENDERS: The Golden Falcons will look to a veteran foursome on the back line. Senior Michelle Montefinese (Eatontown, N.J./Monmouth Regional) and sophomore Claudia Engels (Lyndhurst, N.J./Lyndhurst) are the probable starters at center back. The leading candidates on the outside are juniors Katie Paz (Bethpage, N.Y./Island Trees) and Joanne Arvanitakis (Lyndhurst, N.J./Lyndhurst).
Freshman Alexa Fischetto (Wallington, N.J./Wallington) has shown promise as a central defender option. Walk-ons Ashley Canizales (North Bergen, N.J./North Bergen) and Genesis Yepez (North Bergen, N.J./North Bergen) provide depth at outside back.
MIDFIELDERS: Golden Falcon fans can expect to see seniors Giana DiTonto (Lyndhurst, N.J./Lyndhurst) and Sami Lederle (Brick, N.J./Brick Memorial) and sophomore Nikki Bisesi (Monroe, Conn./Masuk) as regulars in the middle of the park. Lederle is the only player on the current roster to score a goal for Felician last season, tallying twice. Sophomore Camryn Jenkin (Pompton Lakes, N.J./Pompton Lakes) is likely the first midfielder off the bench, and freshman Yosseline Marquez Perez (North Bergen, N.J./North Bergen) will fight for playing time.
Junior Jenna Fischetto (Wallington, N.J./Wallington) and sophomore Vanessa Driskill (Old Bridge, N.J./Old Bridge) return at outside midfield, with both looking for expanded roles. They face challenges from several newcomers, including transfer Kiara Martinez (San Pedru Sula, Honduras/Sacred Heart Academy) and freshmen Amy Aguilar-Almazo (Clifton, N.J./Clifton) and Valerie Adamo (Hicksville, N.Y./Hicksville).
FORWARDS: Notte is entertaining the idea of starting the season with a one-target system. Junior transfer Danielle Jenkin (Pompton Lakes, N.J./Pompton Lakes) will likely spearhead the attack. Sophomore Paloma Garcia (Union City, N.J./Union City) is hopeful of working her way into quality minutes, and Jenna Fischetto is capable of pushing forward as well.