When looking at the stat sheet for the Seton Hall women’s soccer team, Izzy Engel’s name may not immediately jump out at you.
The sophomore midfielder from Crescent, Pa., has yet to register a goal or assist so far this season, but her impact on the team’s newfound success cannot be understated.
The Pirates, currently 2-3-1, have relied on Engel heavily to control play from the center of the pitch. Through the team’s first six games, Engel has played a part in almost every crucial play, whether it be a foot in the passing lane or a quick pass upfield to play an attacker in for a chance on goal.
For Engel, being that kind of two-way player is exactly what she strives for. Although the job often comes with little gratitude, it is a role that Engel eagerly embraces.
“I love being in the mess and trying to get out of it,” Engel said. “It really defines me as a player, actually. I love winning those 50/50 balls, getting up and setting up opportunities for my teammates.”
Engel, through her diligent play and tenacity, has also earned a starting role under coach Rick Stainton. After an injury-riddled 2017 campaign, she has started the team’s first six games this season.
“Coming in as a sophomore, I have more confidence with myself and with my teammates,” Engel said. “Motivation keeps me going. I have definitely a higher confidence than I did last year. Starting is a big responsibility and an honor and I really take pride in it.”
On top of getting in the middle of plays in the midfield, Engel has used the additional minutes, now up to 404 on the season, to try and create offense of her own.
Engel has taken nine shots on the year, tied for second on the team with Marissa Aniolowski and one behind Dani Brinckman. Engel’s five shots on goal are also second on the team.
Despite the volume in which Engel is putting the ball on net, she has not scored yet. Breaking that barrier, along with rushing up the field more, is one thing that she strives to improve upon heading into the difficult stretch of the team’s schedule.
“In the last couple of games, I’ve been pushing up through the defense,” Engel said. “I’m trying to get that goal on the sheet so being that third man-up there is something I’ve pushed for.”
Stainton views this type of play from Engel as vital for the team’s success. Without Engel in the midfield, the Pirates would not be the same.
“Izzy’s been a catalyst for us. The one word that always comes to mind is ‘warrior’,” Stainton said. “She’s someone that plays on both sides of the ball very well. She’ll be the player that gets up in the air, the one that gets in the tough tackle. She never quits.”
For Stainton, Engel is just as important off the field as on it. With a year of experience under her belt, Stainton sees Engel as that much more of a threat in year two.
“She knows what it takes to compete at this level, especially with the Big East approaching rather quickly,” Stainton said. “She was quite influential for us in some big games there. Mentally she is just sharper and more focused on becoming the impact player she knows she can be.”
For a team that did not win a single game last season, there is plenty to be proud of with two early victories. With that being said, there is still plenty of work to do if the Pirates want to put it together and win games in conference play.
With three games before Big East play, the team will look to continue riding this season’s positives to success. Veterans will have to step up once conference play begins, but contributions from underclassmen such as Engel will be invaluable moving forward.
“Our culture has developed three-fold now, it’s one of those things that’s a catalyst to our team and our program and it’s helping in our success,” Stainton said. “Right now, there’s a different confidence and there’s a comradery that they continue to grow off of. They support each other, they want nothing but success for each other, and that’s what makes this fun.”
Kevin Kopf can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @KMKTNF.