By James Payne and Matthew Ferris – 1851 Staff
The 2015 soccer season concluded with a stunning finish to the Great North-east Athletic Conference (GNAC) women’s soccer tournament at Lasell. The Lasers took on the Emmanuel College Saints. The championship match was scoreless for 85 minutes before current sophomore Carly Zdanek put the Lasers in front, until the Saints tied it up two minutes later. The score was 1-1 after regulation and stayed that way through two overtime periods. This led to a penalty kick shootout. The Lasers prevailed over Emmanuel 5-3 to take home their sixth consecutive GNAC title.
This year’s squad looks to reel in their seventh conference championship led by senior captains Megan Cullen (forward), Devon Day (midfielder), Mack Kingman (midfielder), and junior goalkeeper Sarah LaClair.
When asked about the feelings of chasing a conference title as a senior compared to a freshman, “I’d say it’s very different. As freshmen we didn’t quite get the concept of being a team that constantly won or what reaching the NCAA tournament meant but now we have a better understanding of it all and all the work that goes into being a successful team,” said Day.
“We definitely want to win another GNAC title and achieve the 7-peat, but we also want to go further than any other Lasell team in the past has gone in the NCAA tournament (the second round),” said 2015 leading goal scorer Cullen. “It’s also important for us to be a close-knit family both on and off the field.”
Junior starting goalkeeper Sarah LaClair will also play a key role in achieving the 7-peat just as she did last season making a crucial save in the penalty shootout. “I always try to stay positive with everyone on the field and keep the confidence up with players after a mistake is made,” said LaClair. “We have girls with new roles this season and I need to help make sure they’re comfortable.”
Head Coach Vito LaFrancesca took over in fall 2007 and is now in his tenth season as coach of the Lasers, which includes GNAC titles in the last six seasons. “Our team chemistry has guided us throughout our success,” said Coach Vito. “I am always fortunate enough to have a group of hardworking, determined young women who believe in themselves and believe in each other. We try and bring in not the perfect athlete but the best athlete who fits our program and has the opportunity to grow.”
Jim Swift is also in his tenth season as assistant coach for LaFrancesca and Christine Silva has been an assistant with the Lasers since 2013. New to the coaching staff in 2016 is volunteer assistant coach Emily Machado who played for LaFrancesca from 2009-2012 and is entering her third year as Lasell’s Sports Information Director.
“We know the GNAC isn’t handed to us,” said Cullen before the conference season heats up. “We have a target on our backs and every other team is out to get us, but we try to turn that into motivation. We are confident in our abilities and we believe in ourselves, but we aren’t cocky like most teams with a track record like ours can be.”
As of September 20, the Lasers’ quest for the 7-peat is off to a 3-2-1 record (1-0-1 in the GNAC). The season is just beginning and hopes are high to pull off this feat. Be sure to come out and support the Lasers as they attempt to make Lasell sports history.