RANDOLPH, NJ- The summer of 2017 has not been kind to the Randolph Girls Soccer team, as season ending injuries to two key players occurred before practices even began. Two additional injuries during pre-season caused starters to miss significant practice time, leaving the Lady Rams looking to youth to pick up the slack.
“We lost two starters in the summer, players who suffered ACL injuries,” said Coach Colleen Suflay. “But we will continue to work hard and create environments for all the girls to grow and develop.”
The team graduated three key leaders from last years’ team in Ashley Chipoletti, Danielle Pilla, and Alana Miniovich; all of whom were four year varsity players. In 2017, Suflay will look to her three senior captains, Erin O’Neill, Kaitlin Robinson, and Alyssa D’Egidio, all four year varsity players, to step in and replace that lost leadership.
Due to the aforementioned injuries and graduation, youth abounds on this years’ team; while some of the younger players earned their stripes on the varsity field last season, others will have to earn theirs quickly. One of those who did last year is Sophmore goalie Ellie Sciancalepore. After earning the nod to start as a freshman last year, Sciancalepore returns to man the net as the last line of defense again this season.
“We are excited to see Ellie continue to grow and develop,” said Suflay. “The expectation is that she make game changing saves and rally our defense through her positive attitude and contagious, fun loving spirit.”
Erin O’Neil, who will start on defense at Center Back, will be counted on to a leader in the Lady Rams end of the field. “Coach Suflay expects me to keep our backline organized, and to keep the Midfielders in position,” said O’Neill.
O’Neill also had positive comments about her goalie.
“Ellie has a great attitude and instinct, and has done a great job of adapting to the varsity game,” said O’Neill. The defensive line is working to protect the goal and keep the ball forward, while also teaching Ellie to be vocal and take a lead with directing players where they need to be.”
O'Neill will occasionally be joined on defense by versatile senior Kaitlin Robinson. “They are both Senior Captains who will be our commanders and leaders out of the back,” said Suflay when asked about the pair. “Their development over the years has been tremendous.”
Suflay described Robinson as “Tough, Aggressive, Intelligent, a player who takes control and is an amazing role model on and off the field.” When asked about O’Neill, Suflay said “Smart, Balanced, Intelligent. She leads her team mostly by her positive and intelligent soccer play and her kind commitment to them as people.”
Others competing for time on defense include Rebecca D'Egidio, Sophia Fucci, Hailey Tamres, and a few other younger players who may see time.
Robinson, who has played multiple positions for Suflay over the years, has also worked at Center Midfield on occasion this summer.
“My positioning will really depend on the team we are playing, I will play wherever I am most needed,” said Robinson. “What coach expects of me however, stays constant. She expects me to be a leader on and off the field, by communicating constantly with my fellow players and guiding my teammates to making quick and successful decisions.”
Others looking to earn playing time at the midfield spots for the Lady Rams are Kate O’Neill, Katherine Fairfield, Dylan Bodnar, and Jenna Olsakowski.
One of the reasons Robinson is working at Center Mid is to compensate for the loss of two year captain Alyssa D’Egidio, who started in that spot last season.
Courageous, Strong, Determined… a total team player,” said Suflay, when asked about D’Egidio. “Alyssa is sidelined with an ACL injury, so her soccer career has ended, but she hasn't missed a beat with our team. She participates in everything and continues to captain our players with honor and grace.”
Although she will not be able to help the team physically in the field, the team will still lean on D’Egidio in a different way.
“This season I will be taking on both roles as a captain and an assistant coach,” said D’Egidio. “Being able to still guide, motivate and support the team was extremely important to me even being injured. It is very disappointing not being able to play my senior year, but just being able to lead and mentor the team in general makes me ecstatic and eager for the beginning of the season.”
Up front, the Lady Rams are searching for a player to take the role of putting the ball into the net on offense. Sophomore forward Karen Hull burst onto the scene last season as a freshman, collecting nine goals to lead the team in that category. Hull is working at Striker along with Junior Amber Jacobson and Dylan Bodnar, as well as a newcomer to town sophomore Lauren Robles, who may factor into the mix at some point.
“We will score by committee this year,” said Suflay. “We have been working on developing combinations of attackers who work well together, and can effectively get into the attack and score.”
Suflay described her teams’ strength as “their desire to work hard,” and weakness as “their youth and inexperience.”
Robinson for one hopes to help her teammates overcome the youth and inexperience part.
“My goal is to help bring girls out of their comfort zone and develop their confidence more,” said Robinson. “I am a completely different person and player than I was freshman year. My confidence has helped me to control the ball and my emotions during a game. Since my experience in the program has left me with a great sense of self and more confidence, it is my greatest wish to be able to help someone else through that journey.”
When asked what coach Suflay has emphasized this summer, D’Egidio said “the importance of hard work and team unity,” while Robinson added “Always giving a 100% work ethic no matter if it is a practice or a game. The harder we work in practice, the more success we find during a game.”
The Lady Rams open their season on Friday September 8, at 4p.m. against Pope John.