It is hard to sugarcoat an 0-12-5 season, but Seton Hall women’s soccer’s Rick Stainton is doing his best to find positives. The soon to be fifth-year head coach knows his team has the talent and capability to win, despite the fact that results were not flattering in the fall of 2017.
The transition to the 2018 season has been underway for some time now, from ceremonial announcements of new captains: Taylor Cutcliff, Eva Gonzalez and Siobhan McGovern, and trading of kit numbers, to the introduction of new assistant coach, Kait Collin, as well as the impending arrival of nine freshman.
One third of those freshman: Emma Ramsay, Lauren DiPietro and Claudia D’Angelo, are from Ontario, Canada, with DiPietro and D’Angelo both from Stony Creek. Their introduction will make for a total of six Canadians on the 2018 Seton Hall roster, a circumstance that is no coincidence, but a testament to the players that Stainton has recruited from Ontario, beginning with Andrea Palermo in 2014.
“Recruiting is all about building networks and relationships, and, when I was at Fairleigh Dickinson, we had a good core of Canadian players, who [had] proven to be quite successful at the level,” Stainton said.
“For them, obviously it’s the attraction of playing in the Big East, helping this program evolve, develop, and, be the impact they know that they can be,” Stainton went on to say. “All these athletes have represented their country to some degree, either on a national championship team, or in a program that’s called the REX Program, or, even playing on the provincial team. So, they’re all high-character, very solid players, with great backgrounds.”
Three seasons ago, goalkeeper Anna MacLean, from Thunder Bay, Ontario, brought a blend of grit and athleticism that she used to establish herself as the last line of defense for Seton Hall. In what will be her fourth and final collegiate season this fall, MacLean will be called upon often to come up with a game-altering save or two.
Meanwhile, playmaking midfielder Dani Camilleri and agile defender Emily Caza both will enter their sophomore season in August. Camilleri has represented Canada at the U-15 level, while Caza, despite being born in Canada, represented the Jamaican youth national team at several levels, and was named U-20 captain for the Reggae Girlz in July of 2017.
For the first time, though, Stainton will welcome three players from the Great White North in one season. And following a season that fell well short of expectations, the incoming trio from Ontario, in addition to the returning trio, may play a significant part in solving several of the teams’ current ailments.
Ramsey, listed as a midfielder, may in fact prove to be the panacea for a Pirates attack that struggled mightily in 2017, as the Mississauga native is seen as a potential target forward by Stainton. If Ramsay proves to be the player Stainton envisions, her impact could be immense, considering the Pirates finished with a conference low in shots, goals and assists last season.
Behind Ramsay could be D’Angelo, a player with the intelligent mind of a central midfielder, who is thought of as the player who can provide the pass before the assist, which is often an unheralded trait. Meanwhile, DiPietro, a dynamic wing player, will come to South Orange as an outside defender, but may leave an outside attacker, with her burst of speed sure to provide nightmares for opposing coaches around the conference.
With nine players joining the fold altogether, Stainton and the program have embarked on a fundraising effort, with the hopes of raising money, in part for a team-building trip to Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Stainton knows that the camaraderie of his team – something that he and his players attest has improved over recent years – needs to be at its best come the fall. A solid team chemistry will be the first step towards proving last season was an anomaly of extraordinary proportions, and the Pirates head coach knows that, regardless of positives he may find, there are no moral victories.
“The one thing that I always say to everybody, and we have had a lot of colleagues approach us saying, you know, our record definitely doesn’t represent us, but as I’ve mentioned to the team, in reality it does,” Stainton said. “Even though we might have been close, even though we’ve done some really good things on the field, the results are what they are.”
James Justice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.