On Sept. 1, the Montclair State University women’s soccer team will open up the 2021 season in Pennsylvania, facing off against Alvernia University. This will conclude one of the shortest offseasons for the program due to their shortened schedule last spring, which isn’t such a bad thing coming off a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship victory in April.
Head coach Patrick Naughter, who is entering his 12th season as head coach, understands this is an entirely new season.
“We are 0-0. You don’t start in first place, you start with everyone tied at 0-0 and you get what you earn,” Naughter said.
With so much to hang their hat on last season, Naughter knows his players have even bigger goals heading into this season.
“We gotta get back to the NCAA tourney,” Naughter said. “Yes, we wanna win the NJAC. That’s an unbelievable accomplishment, but these guys gotta get into the NCAA tournament.”
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Division III women’s soccer tournament was canceled, making it the one missing piece from this past season’s resume. The Red Hawks are hoping to make their first appearance in the tournament since 2016. With many similar faces sticking around and some new players added, the sky’s the limit for this 2021 team.
Leading the charge and captaining the ship for another season will be fifth-year senior Catherine Carnevale and senior Emily DeGeyter. The two did a fine job leading their team through a pandemic-stricken season and capturing the title in the end.
Carnevale said fairly early into the offseason she would use her extra year of eligibility to play another season. The midfield/captain duo are the perfect on-and-off-the-field pair to lead a veteran team like this.
Carnevale and DeGeyter are not the only two coming back for an extra season. Defensive duo seniors Lexington Wolf, who was the NJAC Defensive Player of the Year last season, and Laura Noseworthy will also be joining the Red Hawks for another season.
If anything was clear last year, it was that the Red Hawks were a force to be reckoned with on defense. Joining those two at midfield will be DeGeyter and Carnevale. Naughter calls the Red Hawks’ defense their “bread and butter.”
On the offensive side of the ball, they will bring back sophomore Aileen Cahill, who had a dazzling 2020 season. She earned Rookie of the Year honors in the NJAC and had the second-most goals and points on the team.
Alongside her will be junior Sofia Ambrosio, the team’s leading goal scorer last season. Ambrosio was the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year this past season.
“We have a lot of talented kids going forward, a lot of kids who can create plays and create goals,” Naughter said.
A couple of newer faces will be sophomore transfer student Ness Rodriguez coming from Iona College as well as graduate student Zoe Steck. Steck played at the Division I level at the University of Connecticut and led the state of New Jersey in goals she scored her senior year of high school.
“This is another recruiting class I am very excited for,” Naughter said. “Transfer-wise we are crushing it.”
A notable nonconference game to be on the watch for should be the team’s first home game against a tough Cabrini University team on Sept. 3. They open up conference play against Rutgers-Camden on Sept. 18, a rematch of the NJAC championship. The College of New Jersey, which was tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the NJAC, will visit MSU Soccer Park on Oct. 2 in what could be the biggest game of the season.