Molloy looking to build on success

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In its first season under coach Steve Price, Molloy women’s soccer team posted a winning mark (5-3) against East Coast Conference rivals and earned its first berth in the ECC Tournament since 2011.

“We’ve been trending up for some years now and we’re looking to build off the success,” Price said. “We’ve got a difficult schedule, but I prefer it that way.”

The Lady Lions, who finished 8-8-2 overall, return four All-ECC selections and feature a roster bolstered by nine newcomers — two transfers and seven freshmen. Molloy was picked fourth in the conference preseason poll. “The talent level in the ECC is up across the board,” Price said.

Opponents will be game-planning to contain Molloy’s Dana Poetzsch, who dazzled as a freshman with a conference-leading 16 goals. She earned Rookie of the Year and All-ECC First Team honors. “Dana is fast and strong and creates so many problems for a defense,” Price said. “Everyone is aware of how dangerous she is.”

Another key sophomore is goalkeeper Jackie Carty, who ranked at or near the top of most categories last season. She made 99 saves and posted 7 shutouts. “She’s athletic and agile and changed everything we did defensively,” Price said.

Senior Felicia LaPera returns to anchor a defense that includes freshman Sabrina Bell. Senior Daria Castrogivanni and sophomore Carli Fonseca bring experience to the group, while senior Amanda Milazzo, who never came off the field last season according to Price, lends defensive support from the midfield. Sophomore Lauren Marinello is an attacking middie who had a couple of goals and three assists last fall.

The Lady Lions play their first four games on the road, capped by the ECC opener at Daemen, before opening at home Sept. 18 against non-conference opponent Georgian Court.

Defense main focus for Lions

Molloy men’s soccer coach Danny Longo believes the Lions (5-12 overall in 2017) have one of the best, if not the best, goalkeeper in the ECC. The problem last season, however, was Raul Bonilla didn’t get much support in the back.

“We’ve rebuilt the entire defense,” Longo said. “After giving up 41 goals, that was our main focus during the offseason and we got it sorted out. I think we’ll be much closer to the defense we put on the field two years ago.”

Bonilla, entering his senior year, was the ECC Goalkeeper of the Year in 2016 with 10 wins, including 7 shutouts, and an .802 save percentage. “Raul is the top keeper in the conference in my opinion,” Longo said of the three-year starter. “He’s a vocal leader with tremendous footwork.”

The defense has been revamped and features three newcomers as well as junior captain Matt Miller, who moved from midfield to center-back. “Matt’s big and tough and willing to do whatever it takes to win,” Longo said. A lot is expected of talented sophomore Nikola Aleksic, who’ll play in the center with Miller. At fullback, freshmen Bryan Argueta and Francesco Cirigliano represent the present and the future.

The midfield has no shortage of depth and the goalkeeper’s brother, junior Carlos Bonilla, is a huge addition, Longo said. “Carlos can do it all,” the coach said. “He can play anywhere and be productive. We’re thrilled to have him.”

Junior Paul Morales (five assists last season) is a ball-possessing middie with playmaking skills, sophomore Oscar Magnusson is a weapon on restarts and corner kicks, and junior newcomer Agustin Vassalo will play a key supporting role for the defense.

With leading goal scorer Dan Massey (16 goals) departed, the Lions are short on proven threats aside from junior Anthony Cestaro on the wing. In his first two seasons, Cestaro has a combined 7 goals and 12 assists. “Anthony is fast and skilled,” Longo said of the 2016 ECC Rookie of the Year. “He’s aggressive and tough to stop,” he added. An impressive work ethic and athleticism has junior Zuberi Symister at top of the depth chart at forward as the season approaches. “He’s earned the opportunity,” Longo said.

The Lions have four non-conference games to prepare for the ECC opener at Bridgeport on Sept. 11. They won’t face a conference opponent at home until LIU Post visits on Sept. 22.