The Montclair State University women’s soccer team has started the season red hot, being undefeated with a 10-0 record and steamrolling through the competition.
Head coach Patrick Naughter isn’t the only person to contribute to this outstanding start. There are three other names on this coaching staff, all three past players and only one recently graduating just last year.
Catherine Carnevale, who was a part of the 2021 squad that played in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament, saw the open job position and took the opportunity. With Naughter going into his 13th season head coaching, he needed a group that could help him, not just with soccer, but with the connection between the players and himself.
“I wanted to bring in people who were passionate, knew the game, who cared about the kid,” Naughter said. “I know it’s really important to have coaches who they can relate to and connect with. It’s been a long time since I was a college kid, so that’s one of the things that’s becoming increasingly difficult to relate to them on a non-soccer basis.”
Naughter also had a ton of praise for the former player and knew right away she would be a perfect fit for the coaching staff.
“To have someone like [Carnevale] who knows these kids, [I know] what kind of player she was, what teammate she is and what kind of person she is, it was a no-brainer,” Naughter said. “[Carnevale] has a ton of experience when it comes to Montclair State women’s soccer, playing for me, playing here, coming to school here and she’s one of the best players to ever play here.”
During Carnevale’s playing time at Montclair State, she was named to the Second-Team All-NJAC team three times, named to the First-Team All-NJAC team and in that same season in 2020, she won NJAC Midfielder of the Year. With all of that success, she wanted to continue her involvement with the team.
“It kind of just worked out perfectly,” Carnevale said. “I knew that all the other coaches left, [but] I still wanted to be a part of the program in some way because I loved it here.”
Carnevale isn’t just a soccer coach. She juggles being a coach and also being a full-time nursing student at Caldwell University. Even with the prior experience of being a student-athlete at Montclair State, it was tough to navigate at first for Carnevale as a coach.
“It’s definitely hard, the first couple weeks were an adjustment,” Carnevale said. “Being a student-athlete prior, I needed to figure out how to balance both. So I go to school in the morning then I come here for practice and then I have to figure out when to study [and] do the homework.”
Moving into the next phase of life is difficult for anyone but for Carnevale, she still has that Red Hawk mentality and so far she is figuring it out once again as a part of the women’s soccer team. When she finds the time to be on the field, Carnevale loves seeing how the first-year players are improving so quickly.
“I wouldn’t say it reminds me of myself, but especially the freshmen that step up and just watch them be a key player on the field,” Carnevale said. “Also, playing with some of the older kids and watching them grow is more rewarding than comparing me to them. Just seeing individual success and like as a team, being 10-0, I never had that, so it’s awesome in that way.
The Red Hawks have only conceded five goals on the season compared to their 22 goals against opposing teams. Naughter had lots to say as to why this team and its coaching staff are 10-0 to start the 2022 run.
“The team has defended really well, pressing the ball and making the [other] team very uncomfortable,” Naughter said. “We move the ball really well, lots of kids are able to attack, so I think it is a pretty diversified attack and they’re just [a] really hard-working group overall.”
Being one of the best players to play, not only for the Red Hawks but also for the NJAC, Carnevale has left a stamp on her playing career. Now, she looks to continue to leave a stamp on her coaching career here at Montclair State. And winning all 10 games in your first season as a coach is a pretty good start.