“Right now we’re looking forward to our opportunity to return to training," said head coach Laurie Darling Gutheil. "Right now, our girls are getting acclimated with classes and I still have a couple that are in quarantine from traveling from Europe.”
While they haven't begun soccer activities just yet, Darling Gutheil views the time she now has with her Golden Knights as an advantage.
“This is an opportunity that we haven’t ever had before and we might never have again, so we want to make the most of it," she said
“We’re really excited to have more t...me for our players to learn our system, to have more time to teach the different fundamentals of the game and work in individual areas of development, tactical and technical development. That will enable our incomers to have a tremendous growth period this fall.”
If the NE10 and other conferences do indeed play their fall sport seasons in the spring, this time in the beginning of the academic year could definitely serve as an advantage to those teams who use it.
“Our goal, as a program, is to take advantage of the time that we have together and make the most of all the training opportunities. This is very unique for a fall sport. We are used to having a very intense pre-season and starting off right away with games. Incoming players have a lot to learn very, very quickly, but now they can get ingrained with our returners and have a lot of opportunities to learn and grow and get the most development, as well as building up the team chemistry," Darling Gutheil said.
That returning class is going to be hungry for more after falling short last season and although Saint Rose lost an extremely strong senior class, there is a lot of excitement around the incoming recruits.
"We are very excited about our new players. We had an outstanding recruiting class with some great local talent. Jada Brown (from Mechanicville) is going to be someone locally that I think is going to be a very positive addition. Izzy O’Clair from Rotterdam is someone we’re excited about too.”
Those new additions to the Golden Knights include Jada Brown (Mechanicville, NY), Sidney Burcato (Holliston, MA), Anna Maria Dzyadyk (Surrey, London), Lexi Grassia (Bay Shore, NY), Taylor Gray (Elmira, NY), Caroline Halvorsen (Randers, Denmark), Elizabeth Mattair (Easton, PA), Sabrina Mazza (East Longmeadow, MA), Janina Mueller (Sinsheim, Germany), Isabella O’Clair (Rotterdam, NY), Zahra Ouannass (Quincy, MA), Agnes Persson (Danderyd, Sweden), Haley Tracy (Chicopee, MA), Carolyn Brussel (Baldwinsville, NY), and Samantha Diaz (Ogden, Utah).
All but one of those new additions were able to make it to Albany for the fall semester and while some may still be finishing up their quarantines, they are happy to be back. Perrson plans on joining the Golden Knights in January, after encountering some difficulties attempting to travel to Albany.
“We were able to do uniforms last Sunday and get team gear out to a good portion of the team. Then we have a little bit of time and our hope is that we’ll be able to get back on the field soon," Darling Gutheil said.
"We really want to give our freshman players something to look forward to again after they had so much taken away from them at the end of their senior years."
While nothing is a guarantee, Darling Gutheil and her coaching staff are seeing positive signs around the soccer and sports communities as others begin their return to play
“High schools are returning to competition and you’re seeing shifts with Division 1, with respect to football. I’m hopeful that come March and April that we’ll have an opportunity to play. We also have some international students who have already returned to play in their home countries," she said.
"Nina (Predanic), who signed a pro contract, is over in [Austria] playing right now. I think there are a lot of examples that show it can be accomplished, just as long as we’re following the guidelines.”
Darling Gutheil continued, providing an update on each of her graduating seniors, including Morgan Burchhardt, who was just named as the Grand Collegiate Women of the Year.
“I think we’ve been very fortunate that they’ve molded some wonderful underclassmen and they’ve done an outstanding job in their transition to leadership roles. They are very committed to being their very best. They are excited to do their part in helping us get back on the field," she said
Another positive she sees in the delay to the 2020 fall season is for those who have been dealing with injuries the past few months.
"We have a few girls coming off of knee surgeries, so for them, this extra six months is beneficial," she said.
Even though human nature often starts with optimism, it came as no surprise when the NE10's Council of Presidents cancelled competition for the fall season.
“I think the reality and challenges the virus presented to the medical community and public safety, you could see the possibility that we wouldn’t be through this by the fall, but I don’t think anyone could have foreseen where we are right now," Darling Gutheil said.
“We don’t want our return to play to put a greater strain on the medical community, who has been working to fight this thing off since March.”
In order to succeed in that goal, there needed to be some tough conversations since so much of the return to play hinges on the success of returning to class and the college campus.
“We’ve had a lot of honest, heart-to-heart conversations about the importance of keeping each other safe and doing your part for the greater good of the college campus. A lot of these players travel from great distances to return, which is a significant accomplishment to be able to return to Albany for this semester. They’ve endured a lot to be here, and the last thing they want to do is be a part of something that negatively impacts the college community and the team.”
Darling Gutheil continued, discussing her approach when the shutdown initially started and how her team was able to deal with the challenges it presented.
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