For the first time since the school joined the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, the Seton Hill University women’s soccer team advanced to the PSAC playoffs. SHU earned the seventh seed in the tournament and played No. 2 Kutztown University on Tuesday. The quarterfinals were as far as the Griffins would make it this season, as Kutztown defeated SHU by a score of 3-0.
“It’s just been an exciting year from the start, and I said to them the night before the West Chester game that this has the potential to be a special season,” said head coach Andy McNab. “The first thing we said in our team meeting was this season is a failure if we don’t make the playoffs, and that’s kind of the standard of where we see this team now. We all have a goal, we all have a vision, not just this year, but moving forward, that we should be a playoff team every single year.”
The Griffins finished the season with a record of 12-6-1 overall and 10-5-1 in PSAC play, finishing with better records than previous years (5-10-3 in 2014, 7-10-1 in 2015 and 7-8-2 in 2016). In addition, the team went undefeated at home during the regular season, winning all 10 games at Dick’s Sporting Goods Field. The Griffins were the only team in the PSAC that did not have a loss or tie at home during the season.
“Last year, we had to try to find a way to pull it together at home, where this time we were kind of in the opposite boat, trying to pull it together at the away field,” said senior defender and captain Morgan Casario. “By the end of the season, once we realized where we were at, we kind of made that a goal every time we had a home game.”
“I think it’s shown how far we’ve come, where playing at home is important to us,” said redshirt junior forward and captain Megan Warman. “It’s that sense of pride now, where we don’t lose at home, and we’re going to do whatever we can to make sure we win.”
Junior forward Emily LoPresti led the team with 16 goals, 35 points and nine game-winning goals and was named PSAC Women’s Soccer Athlete of the Week twice this season. Junior goalkeeper Jessica Neill finished the regular season with a .807 save percentage, 1.18 goals against average and six shutouts, and was also named PSAC Athlete of the Week.
“There’s been different reasons why we’re doing that well, but it’s definitely a conservative effort from everybody across the board and really stems from the senior leadership,” McNab said. “The four seniors we have; Emma Bearinger, Emma Porteous, Megan Warman, Morgan Casario; they’re all a big part of the squad on and off the field.”
Warman, originally from Anaheim, Calif., tore her ACL twice and had two major surgeries, and was forced to miss every game last season.
“Coming back from injuries into my senior year, I just wanted to make a difference and lead by example,” Warman said. “You can come back from an injury and still contribute to your team, whether you’re on the field or on the sideline, you’re still able to contribute a lot to the team and make a big difference.”
“A big part to me was creating a team atmosphere, and what it was going to take to create a good team where everyone gets along, because that’s what a team’s all about: working together to achieve the same goal,” Warman added. “Everyone has to be all on board, on the same page, so that was really important to me.”
McNab said the team only lost three seniors last year, and gaining eight freshmen this year has helped improve the quality of the team.
“I think we had a great bond this year,” Casario said. “We always have to make sure we’re connected on the field, and that’s the main thing, to make sure we’re all playing for each other and on the same page.”
“A team isn’t just the 11 people that are on the field,” Warman said. “It’s the 28 girls that are on our team that are all making each other better by being there and being present at every practice, every game and all of our outside of school activities.”
McNab said another priority for the players is their team GPA and remaining one of the top teams in the PSAC. On Oct. 12, the women’s soccer team was one of 846 teams across the country to earn the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award for the 2016-2017 season. To qualify, the team’s cumulative GPA must be at least 3.0. The team also won the PSAC Top Team GPA Award for the 2016-2017 season.
“Everyone in our squad’s a quality player and more so a quality person,” McNab said. “They’re great to work with every single day, and they all have the same drive and same goal at the end of the day. They won’t stop until we achieve it at that point.”
As their time as student-athletes comes to an end, Casario and Warman said along with being excited about finally qualifying for the playoffs, they are grateful for the opportunity to play soccer at the collegiate level.
“I love being a student-athlete at Seton Hill just because I’m proud of what Seton Hill is all about,” Warman said. “There’s definitely a sense of pride that goes with being a student-athlete from such a good school, a school that I’ve loved going to. It’s been special to help give back to a school that’s done so much for me.”