A culture change has already begun to take place for the Seton Hall women’s soccer program. Pat Lyons hired a head coach that was familiar to the university that has been called a “class act” by many around the athletic department after what he has done in his previous stints.
“Along with my staff, we want to change the culture of how Seton Hall women’s soccer does things,” Rick Stainton, the new head coach, said when he took over. In order to rev up the transition for the program, it all starts with getting the winning vibes going.
The Lady Pirates will face many familiar foes as the roster takes a new shape. Five of the top six scorers from a season ago will not be back as one of the deepest senior classes is gone from the program. After leading Fairleigh Dickinson to an eight-win season in his first and only season at the helm for the Knights, Stainton looks for the momentum to rub off in South Orange.
The Pirates will open up at Marist on August 22. A season ago, the Red Foxes fell to the Pirates in South Orange, 2-1, in overtime. After falling in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Quarterfinals to Rider last season, Marist will aim for rising senior goalkeeper Andrea Wicks to deliver. Three days after their road opener, SHU returns home for its Owen T. Carroll opener against MAAC foe Rider. The Broncs will be looking to respond as leading scorer Jennifer Meier (nine goals in 2013), who was a second-team All MAAC player, graduated.
Following the first two games, the intensity of the season will rise as the Pirates will visit rival Rutgers on August 29. The Scarlet Knights reached the NCAA Tournament in 2013 before getting knocked out by West Virginia in a shootout in the first round. The player to watch is rising senior Stef Scholz, who led the Scarlet Knights with 10 goals and 21 points last fall, scoring four goals against Princeton on September 15. Rutgers finished last season with a record of 13-4-5.
After losing to Monmouth 3-2 last season, The Hall will be aiming for revenge when they host the Hawks on September 1. Heading into her sophomore year, Alexis McTamney is the force that powered Monmouth to the MAAC crown before the Hawks fell to Penn State in the NCAA Tournament. McTamney led the team with 11 goals, starting 20 of 21 games. The Hawks outscored opponents 39-9 on the season, and will try to keep that same explosiveness going against a Pirates attack that averaged 1.06 goals per game in 2013, which was last in the Big East.
The Pirates then begin a road trip at Stony Brook a season after tying the Seawolves by a score of 2-2 in their opener last season. Stony Brook went to the America East Championship, but fell to UMBC by a count of 2-1. The Seawolves did dominate at home with a record of 8-1-1, as the Pirates will head into a tough atmosphere on September 4.
The Hall follows with a trip to Princeton to take on a team that also has much of its offense returning. 24 of the Tigers’ 27 goals from 2013 come from returning players, with rising sophomore Tyler Lussi leading the way for Princeton with 10 goals in 2013.
Following the non-conference slate road finale against Army, the Pirates will take on Columbia. The Lions, who went 1-4-2 in conference play last season, look to hit the refresh button under new coach Tracey Bartholomew just as the Pirates are trying to do with Stainton. The blue and white will encounter a successful LIU Brooklyn program on September 19 to close out the non-conference season. The Blackbirds have advanced to four straight Northeast Conference championship games.
New Providence women’s soccer head coach Sam Lopes will oppose Stainton in the Pirates’ Big East opener on September 25 in Rhode Island. Rising junior forward Catherine Zimmerman charges Providence’s offense after scoring seven goals along with two assists in 2013. The Friars and Pirates are in similar spots, both going 3-6 in 2013 and both debuting new coaches this year. The blue and white will stay on the road to visit Butler three days later. The Bulldogs fell to SHU in South Orange last season, 3-1.
The Big East home opener will arrive on October 2, as The Hall takes on an NCAA Tournament qualifier from 2013 in DePaul. The Blue Demons are in the back-half of the conference in offense after averaging 1.19 goals per game (6th). Rising junior forward Elise Wyatt scored seven goals along with four assists in 2013, and will try to get their attack going against Seton Hall rising junior goalkeeper Gina Maiorana and company.
The Hall will then eye revenge against a Creighton team that put up one of its two Big East wins over SHU last season, winning 1-0 over the Pirates in South Orange. After a home contest against Xavier, which finished last in the conference in 2013, on October 12, the Pirates will face the winner of the Big East, Marquette. The Golden Eagles will host SHU on October 16 at 8 p.m. in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles will return six starters from the 2013 team that finished 18-4. Marquette will be seeking its third straight regular season and conference tournament title in the Big East, but their four leading scorers from last year have all left the program.
On October 19, the Pirates will visit Villanova for a 1 p.m. start time. The Wildcats have 19 letterwinners coming back and are led by Third Team All-Big East honoree Katie Martin (6 goals, 10 assists in 2013).
The Pirates will conclude the home portion of their slate facing St. John’s and Georgetown. The Red Storm went 4-3-2 in the Big East last season. Rachel Daly, who is a rising junior, will seek out another huge campaign after scoring more than 20 goals in 2013.
Georgetown, which finished 7-1-1 last season, will once again be expected to compete near the top of the Big East. The Hoyas beat La Salle 2-0 before losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2013. Georgetown scored 58 goals, which was good in scoring offense for a top-three mark in the nation. Daphne Corboz, who scored seven goals as a junior and will return already as a decorated player, leads the Hoyas.
Defense is not the main concern for Stainton, but it’s about finding goals. Sarah Cortes will try to take the next step in her career as the returning leading scorer after putting up six points in her freshman campaign. It starts with the defense’s ability to get possession of the ball and drive it down the field. The Pirates had trouble hanging on to possession and focusing in on dictating the pace in 2013.
“Our defense has to be the anchor,” Stainton said in an interview earlier this year. “I like what we’ve seen and I think this team has potential. There’s no limits for our program.”
The Lady Pirates will visit Central Connecticut in exhibition action on August 14 at 7 p.m. before hosting Wagner in a preseason contest as well three days later.
John Fanta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on twitter @John_Fanta. For complete coverage of Seton Hall athletics, follow @setoniansports.