Stretching back to last season, the Seton Hall women’s soccer team has gone nine straight games without playing a match at Owen T. Carroll Field. Last season’s final two matches were both away games against Providence and Marquette, while this summer’s field renovations prevented the Pirates from hosting any non-conference games. Despite these early season obstacles, head coach Ciara Crinion feels the time spent on the road has allowed to bond and cultivate the proper locker room culture she wanted coming into the position.
“For us when we came in, a huge piece was how do we grow the team as people as well as create relationships with one another,” Crinion said. “It took a lot of activities, not just soccer, but off the field team bonding. Not being here this year, we took a trip to upstate New York where we stayed for four days, and we did a kind of training camp up there. It was a great opportunity for the girls to spend time with each other, get to know each other, and take them off campus as well.”
Small hiccups, such as planning recovery time and cool down exercises, came about throughout the team’s stint away from home, but Crinion guaranteed the intensity in training never dropped. During her time as an assistant and associate coach at Hartford, the team became an offensive powerhouse and defensive stalwart in the America East. Despite a rough start to the season, Seton Hall have already shown improvements in the defensive third and more creativity in breaking down teams to get into the final third.
“There’s a great buzz,” Crinion said. “Last week, we told them we were getting back to the field, there was a great roar from the team. They were delighted, and it honestly brought a level excitement to the group. I think having not being on the field and then coming back on has brought more of an appreciation for it than was there before. It definitely gives us another little push to get out there and play in front of their families.”
Awaiting the team on Sunday, though, is a meeting with last year’s Big East runner-up, Butler. The Bulldogs have suffered just two tightly contested away losses this year to No. 15 Wisconsin and Milwaukee earlier this month. Last year’s clash between the two sides saw Butler put three past Seton Hall in Indiana, but the prospect of facing an elite program in their Big East opener will serve as a good barometer for the team’s growth under Crinion. For the Pirates’ new head coach, a good game against Butler would entail a strong team performance in which each player on the field defends and attacks as a collective unit.
“We have a lot of players playing this year who, at the moment, didn’t have a lot of minutes before,” Crinion said.
With eight students graduating at the end of last year, preseason and non-conference matches have focused on acclimatizing the new faces to their roles.
“I think, for us, we aren’t looking to improve one specific unit or line,” Crinion said. “It’s everyone, it’s how we can get better as a unit. We really talk about how we defend as a team, not only our goalkeepers and defenders. It’s the same thing when we talked about attacking. We talk about starting from our ‘keeper and building through our back four to our middle and then our final third.”
This holistic approach with which Crinion is hoping to build the Pirates’ philosophy upon is precisely what Hartford’s title-winning seasons were built upon. It is the type of attitude and game plan she hopes to bring equal or greater glory to the Seton Hall program.
“For us to find success, we need the 11 players on the field to play well together,” Crinion said. “We’re not relying on one individual to change what we do, or one unit to change what we do. We really are going to be looking to push forward as a team.”
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.