After scoring nine goals in its final three games last season with just one senior on the field, Molloy College’s men’s soccer team is looking to carry some momentum and confidence into 2014.
The Lions, who finished 5-9-3 overall a year ago including a 3-4-3 mark against East Coast Conference rivals, will be counting on chemistry to make a difference in close games according to coach Danny Longo.
“The guys have been working hard all summer,” Longo said. “We’ve been competitive every year, but we need to find a way to get it done in close games. We have quite a few seniors and they want to go out winners.”
Molloy went 4-6 in one-goal games in 2013 and will need a bunch of offensive contributors, Longo said, after graduating its leading scorer — Dan Brown — from each of the past two seasons. Of the returnees, only senior Hamza Elotmani and junior Ryan Fackner, with two apiece, found the net more than once last year.
“We don’t have any proven goal scorers, but we’re looking to be scrappy and get opportunities from outworking the opponent,” Longo said. “I don’t know if we’re as talented as we’ve been in recent years, but chemistry can go a long way.”
Junior Lucas Munoz, a transfer from Nassau Community College, is expected to bolster the forward group. Fackner may also see time up front along with junior Ibrahima Diarra and sophomore Chris Ernest.
The midfield boasts three important pieces to the puzzle: Elotmani, Lester Franco and Joey Pinto. Longo said Franco is the Lions’ top talent, while Pinto is a weapon on set plays.
On the defensive side it all starts in goal with senior keeper Justin Corke, who posted three shutouts last season. “He’s very determined and better than he’s ever been,” Longo said. “I feel he’s the best keeper in the conference.”
Four-year starter Dane Leavy is an attack-minded fullback with an outstanding fitness level, and the defensive unit is sure to benefit from the return of hard-nosed sophomore Steven Jiminez.
Fresh start for Lady Lions
Longo, who pulls double duty as Molloy’s women’s soccer coach, said he sees no reason why the Lady Lions can’t rebound off back-to-back tough campaigns to be .500 or better in 2014. He’s looking for a strong recruiting class, a more experienced group of sophomores, and the return of the program’s top player to make a difference after a frustrating 3-13-1 (3-5-1 ECC) season.
“We never really jelled,” Longo said. “We lost a couple of tough ones early and everything seemed to snowball.
“We’re excited to have a fresh start,” he added. “We should be tons more competitive than we were last year.”
Getting redshirt junior Annette Mims back in the lineup to anchor the defense from the center position is the biggest difference for the Lady Lions according to Longo. “She’s our best player overall,” he said. “She’s very fast, anticipates well and has a strong left foot.”
The coach added he’s eager to see the pairing of Mims and senior Chelsea Bauer in the back row. Bauer is an aggressive defender who keeps the defense organized, Longo said. Senior Jacqui Valentine, a starter since her freshman year, is another important ingredient to the unit.
“Our defense had a tough time last year, but I think things will be different,” Longo said.
In goal, senior Nicole DellaPorta enters the season as the returning starter and has plenty of experience but she’ll be pushed by freshman Paige Salmon, who starred at Kellenberg.
The midfield is anchored by sophomore Gianna Jennosa and junior Christina Restivo. Leading scorer Allison Sloper (five goals, four assists) is primed for a big senior year and likely to see time in the midfield as well as up front. Junior Alicia Mercurio scored twice last season and is a speedy weapon, and Longo believes sophomore forward Danielle Valente will benefit from last year’s experience and provide additional offense.
Molloy starts the season with four straight road games before hosting Mercy College in the ECC opener on Sept. 20.