The Montclair State University women’s soccer team is looking to prove to their rivals across the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) this season that their 2021 championship run was no fluke.
Hearts were shattered at the end of last season as the Red Hawks were knocked out of the NJAC Tournament in the semi-final round to a score of 1-0 against Rowan University.
However, for this upcoming season, the women’s soccer team looks poised to return to their tactical and disciplined knowledge of the game.
Going into this season, the Red Hawks were placed third in the NJAC Preseason Coaches Poll, with the Lions of The College of New Jersey in first, and the Rowan Profs right above Montclair State. As they showed last season, they are primed to keep up a top-three conference performance.
Also returning this season are seven seniors, including graduate student and defender Kylinn Kraemer, defender Jessica DeSarno and defender and midfielder Kerri Driscoll, who scored her first goal last season.
Head coach Patrick Naughter was very pleased to see the team work effectively with “set pieces” last season. He mentions the team’s success came off free kicks as well as corners, which he also looks to include in the tactics of this year.
He feels his young core coming in will be the best advantage to this season.
“It feels like they’ve been here for a while already,” Naughter said. “They fit in. They work hard. They’re coachable, they’re humble kids and they’re good. They’ve put in a ton of work to come and are ready to play as a group.”
Of course, what turns these young players into stars are the veterans that have seen quite a lot under Naughter.
Players like junior defender Tara Lambert and junior midfielder Aileen Cahill are some of the many players with experience on this team that can guide the underclassmen into key roles.
“Some of the strengths we have are that we’re a young group, but our backline and our goalkeeping position are a bunch of kids who are not only very good players but have been around the block a little bit,” Naughter said. “I think we could have the best goalkeeper, back four and midfielders in the conference.”
The praise Naughter sets for his back four is glorified by senior goalkeeper Haley Martin. Her communication with the 10 other women in front of her view on the field is what she believes makes her job easier.
The vocality Martin has from her position is what sometimes amplifies her teammates to make great attacking runs or cut lanes on opponents.
“It’s like moving the chess pieces and putting your players where they should be and if [the opponents] stop there, now we can come through here,” Martin said.
Being one of the many special talents on the team, Martin acknowledges the accomplishments she has had in her soccer career so far. However, her focus is on the team’s success.
One of the candidates on the team in store for a great season this year is Cahill. She racked up seven goals last season, which was the second best mark on the team, while also setting her teammates up with five assists.
Her control of the game was key for the Red Hawks, but this season will be crucial, as Cahill hopes her leadership will be the driving force of everyone’s success.
“Being one of the older players I feel like I need to encourage the younger ladies to know what they’re doing and to feel comfortable and be [confident in] their skills,” Cahill said.
The women’s soccer team came up one game short of playing in back-to-back title games last season, but Naughter embraces the upside of last season’s players and the team’s overall knowledge of his game plan.
The team looks to run a similar game plan alongside the new freshmen players and the same great talent that has proven how good of a team they can be. This season, it may be good enough to clinch a conference championship once again.
The Red Hawks face Alvernia University in their season opener at Montclair State Soccer Park on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 1 p.m.