By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
Rossi Already Contributing at Le Moyne
This time last year, Phoenix native Jackie Rossi was tormenting defenders of high school soccer teams throughout Central New York with her pace and her dribbling ability. At the same time last year, the Le Moyne women’s soccer team was plodding its way to another season of struggling.
With a new recruiting class that includes the Phoenixian, it hasn’t taken long for the Dolphins to turn things around for the 2004 campaign. Already, Le Moyne has more wins and more goals than it had all of last season. Rossi served notice that she could play at the collegiate level early in the season, taking a brace against Stonehill. In the Dolphins’ Northeast-10 Conference opener, Rossi’s two goals helped lift her team past the Chieftains, a team that had cruised to a 2-0 win over Le Moyne in the previous season. She scored the first goal of her collegiate career as well as the season 29 minutes and 13 seconds into the game courtesy of an assist from Sarah Jones. The Chieftains riposted with two goals of their own, but Le Moyne equalized on a goal by Rossi in the 71st minute when she slotted a cross from Yaworski past Stonehill goalie Alex Eckhardt. Second-year coach Matt Townsend believes Rossi capable of prolific scoring even at this advanced level. “I would like it if she could score two more in every game,” the coach said. “I think she has the ability to do that.” Yaworski scored the game winner in the 85th minute, heading into the net a cross from junior Laney Blais. After defeating conference rival Bentley 2-1 in overtime Sunday, Le Moyne is 5-5-1 overall and 3-4-1 in NE-10 play.
Townsend assumed the helm of the women’s program last year and it has seen some dramatic changes. According to Townsend, the previous edition of Dolphin soccer employed the largely outmoded sweeper position and also played long balls for players to run onto. “They were very direct,” he explained. “They played with a sweeper and they looked to get the ball forward as much as possible.” The current coaching staff stresses possession, threading together passes in an effort to take advantage of skill play. Townsend noted that his team’s lack of size and height makes it important to keep the ball out of the air. Rossi’s capabilities dovetail nicely with that philosophy. “We’re just trying to keep it and put it on the ground,” Townsend said. “So we’re trying to get some skillful players. If you notice, we’re not an overly big team in relation to teams who we play so our priority is to find players who have technical ability, who have skill, and obviously Jackie fit into that.” The current style of play makes for a more attractive style of soccer in general. “Basically, when the game starts, we’d like to be entertained,” Townsend said in reference to the coaching staff. “And Jackie has the ability to get people out of their seats and make play exciting. How does she fit into that possession style? With no problem whatsoever.” Playing in a 4-4-2 formation, the Dolphins now utilize a flat-back four. Rossi has been located in a number of positions including midfielder and striker.
Townsend said he is confident in her ability to score from any position. “She’s dangerous whenever she gets around the goal,” he said. “She can strike the ball from range, which not all of our players can do.” The coaching staff liked Rossi for her technical skill, a quality they looked for in all of the prospects in their first recruiting class. “She’s very technically composed,” Townsend said. “We had her actually come out and train with the team after her season was over and it was very evident that she can play at this level. She can strike the ball well, she sees the field well, she can take players on. I think she can have a real impact at this level providing she has the right amount of effort all the time.” Townsend and assistant Jim Riverso didn’t bother with players who could not execute their style or would require too much teaching. “I don’t think we recruited players who weren’t going to fit into that,” the coach said. “We recruited players who were going to be comfortable with it and not players who we were going to have to teach technique. So regardless of their size, we were going to be interested in them. If they were just big and couldn’t play then we really didn’t want to do that.” Rossi, who played both soccer and basketball from eighth grade through her senior year while attending John C. Birdlebough High School in Phoenix, said she enjoys playing at the collegiate level. “I enjoy it a lot,” she said. “I really like the level of competition. It’s a lot different than high school and I like that.” The differences between the scholastic game and the one played at the collegiate level have been many, however. “I think the pace (is the biggest difference),” she said. “I think the transition and everything is a lot faster and it’s a lot more physical. The girls are huge and I think everything is bigger and better.” Le Moyne has already claimed a number of solid victories. Before beating Stonehill, the Dolphins defeated West Virginia Wesleyan 2-0. Since the victory at Stonehill, they have defeated Caldwell (3-0), American International (1-0), and, most recently, Bentley (2-1, OT).
While the victories are all well and good in terms of gaining a measure of respect for Le Moyne women’s soccer, Townsend said his team’s primary goal is qualifying for a berth in the NE-10 tournament. He thinks this team is capable of claiming that berth. “Our dream goal is to make the NE-10 playoffs, which is really only something that’s been done once before in the history of the program,” he said. “It would be a huge step for us. I think we’ve gained a lot of respectability and credibility this year so far with our results. But we finished 14th last year and so we want to finish much higher, be in the conference playoff race, and go much deeper into the year and than we did last year. And I think we have the capability to do that.”
The Dolphins’ next game is Saturday when they will host Southern New Hampshire at noon. Their next tilt is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 9 when they will host Assumption. That game is also scheduled for noon.