Lesley Women’s Soccer Looks To Turn NECC Winning Streak Into NCAA Tournament Success
By Matt Noonan
Since joining the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) in 2008, the Lesley University women’s soccer team has posted a 63-1-1 ledger, capturing a quartet of conference tournament championships, while making three straight NCAA tournament appearances since 2012.
Currently, the Lynx find themselves atop the NECC standings with a perfect 5-0 mark in league play. Their most recent win – an 8-0 victory over Wheelock College – marked the program’s 57th straight match they haven’t lost since October 2008.
“I am not a big follower of this whole (winning) streak to begin with,” said Lesley head coach Paul Vasconcelos. “This is a rarity, so we should appreciate it, but we’re just focused on winning as many games as we can.”
Creating a winning culture was the goal for Vasconcelos, who inherited a 2-15-2 squad heading into the 2007 season. Since his initial match on the sidelines, Lesley has posted nine consecutive double-digit win seasons, along with a pair of 18-win campaigns in 2013 and 2014.
Additionally, Vasconcelos has scheduled strong non-conference foes, including Brandeis University – currently ranked 12th in the country – Babson College, MIT, Tufts University and Wellesley College, which has helped the program continue to get stronger.
“We’re not fazed anymore by playing (tough non-conference foes) because we face top-10 teams in the country every season,” said Vasconcelos. “Playing these teams has helped us know we can compete with the best.”
Strong competition is also been the reason Lesley hasn’t dropped a game since their two-goal setback to Emerson College last month. Lesley is currently riding a seven-game winning streak and will attempt to capture its eighth straight match when they host Mitchell College tomorrow evening at 8:00 p.m.
Lesley is led by freshman Jordan Mitchell, who has registered seven goals and eight assists. She is currently in a two-way tie for fourth place in the conference in points (22) with with Becker College freshman Lindsey Keith.
Senior Hayley Wirth and junior Julie Essick have each contributed five goals, while sophomore Sarah Pochobradsky has tallied a trio of markers.
In net, Lesley has relied on senior Jackie Berard and sophomore Lilly Donovan – the pair has combined for 42 stops and one shutout.
“This team wants to compete and we couldn’t be more pleased with our freshman class, along with our returning players that worked very hard during the offseason because they knew their was a void being left by our graduating players,” said Vasconcelos.
With four matches remaining, along with the conference tournament, Lesley will look to continue the program’s success and hopefully capture their initial NCAA tournament game next month. Lesley fell to eighth-ranked Montclair State last season in the opening round by one goal, but suffered a 5-1 setback a year earlier to Williams College and 2-0 loss to Misericordia in 2012.
“When your first game is against either Williams or Montclair State that can be tough, however, last year we felt that we were prepared and it showed because our girls played phenomenal,” said Vasconcelos. “We felt we played toe-to-toe with them, we gave them some problems and obviously they’re a really, really talented team, but we’re really pleased (by the effort).”
Vasconcelos knows NCAA tournament success will come, however, he and the Lynx remain focused on their next opponent and will let the outcomes determine whether this is the year Lesley will finally clinch their initial national postseason tournament match.
“I would say that our team is not conscious about the conference winning streak, but instead they are very conscious about the fact that they have been one-and-out the last three years,” said Vasconcelos.
“If we’re able to capture (that NCAA victory), it would be a very rewarding and celebratory time for us. If we’re fortunate enough to go back to NCAA’s this year, we’ll do what we did last year, which is compete and hope for the best.”