NJAC’s dark horse begins season with winning record
By Sara Ridgway | Published Sept. 27, 2017
The Kean University women’s soccer team was named as the New Jersey Athletic Conferences (NJAC) “Dark Horse” upon being ranked fourth in the preseason poll for the 2017 season.
The term “Dark Horse” refers to a team in the conference who, based on previous success, has the potential to reign supreme among the competition this season.
Senior midfielder Mallory Noordeloos, a 2016 all-conference player, feels that it is a big compliment to be named the dark horse of the conference and serves as motivation.
“To us, it means that we are not given enough credit for how good we are and that we are completely underestimated,” Noordeloos said. “This season we plan to surprise the conference teams and win games they don’t think we can win.”
The team has nine returning seniors who are leading the cougars with its current record of 7-2, 2-0 in the NJAC. Included in the returning senior squad is senior defensive back Shannon Brown who was also a 2016 all-conference selection.
Head Coach Brian Doherty who has embarked on his 19th season of leading the Cougars, has high expectations for his players, both on and off the field. He looks to the seniors as an extension of the coaching staff, bringing with them an understanding of the team’s core beliefs, values and goals.
“My expectations every season are that the players first are good teammates and people,” Doherty said, “then that we all give our best every time we step on the field and enter a classroom.”
But even with a large senior class, the underclassmen and rookies of the team should not be overlooked. Doherty says that all of the freshmen players have contributed to the team’s early success. As per the Kean University Athletics website, all freshmen players have seen playing time so far this season.
“Our freshmen and underclassmen have come in very strong and are a very large asset to our team this year,” Noordeloos said. “We’ve had two freshmen score in overtime games to beat Lycoming and Stockton and we’ve had a large amount of underclassmen that put in a lot of minutes and work very hard.”
The team opened its season with a 3-0 win over Emmanuel College followed by two losses to the University of Scranton and Fairleigh Dickinson University – Florham. After this, the team rallied off six straight wins, two of which went to overtime, to lead to their current winning record.
Noordeloos describes the team as being very deep, meaning that they not only have a strong starting line, but have strong players coming off the bench throughout games. She added that because of injuries, underclassmen have stepped up to fill in larger roles on the team and in the process proved to be assets to the winning team.
Doherty feels that so far this season, his seniors are leading the team in the right direction.
“I attribute our success to having a large group of returners who know and understand my expectations, our style of play, the in’s and out’s of the conference and who have a lot of experience dealing with pre-season and the non conference games we play at the start of the season,” Doherty said.
Besides the team’s connection on the field, Noordeloos believes the chemistry of the team this season is the best it has been as compared to her past three seasons at Kean.
“I think a lot of it comes from the seniors, there’s nine of us and we all get along very well,” Noordeloos said. “We like to have fun and joke around with each other and coach which I believe is the reason we have such a strong culture and bond this year.”
Overall, the goal for this season is to reign as NJAC Champions, and being named “Dark Horse” of the conference is serving as motivation for the team to reach this goal.
“To get there we know we have to give 110% every day whether it be at practice or in a game, improve daily, be fully committed, maintain team chemistry and most importantly, stay consistent,” Noordeloos said.
The team’s next home game is Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. against conference opponent William Paterson University.