Sept. 22, 2010
By Andrew Santillo
LOUDONVILLE -- When Ashleigh Barone committed to play soccer at Siena College in 2007, she wanted to help the program do something it's never accomplished -- win a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title.
While there's plenty of the schedule remaining, this 2010 season may just be the one Barone was thinking about.
The Saints (6-0-0) are off to the best start in the program's 31-year history and are one of only three Division I teams in the country (Maryland, Portland) to remain unbeaten.
"I'm hoping this will be the year, with our start that we've had so far," said the former Shenendehowa star before practice on Wednesday.
Siena is receiving votes in the national Division I poll and is ranked No. 9 in the Northeast NSCAA poll.
"It's an awesome feeling," Barone said.
Being undefeated at this point in the season was even a little shocking to coach Steve Karbowski, mainly because five of the team's first six games were on the road and the first three were against strong competition.
"We thought we would really challenge ourselves with a good schedule and playing on the road," Karbowski said. "We didn't expect to be undefeated right now."
The Saints rallied to defeat the University of Connecticut in the first game of the season, 3-2, in overtime.
"This is a pretty special start to the season," said Karbowski, remembering his feelings following that game. "We've just gone from there."
Siena then overcame a 2-1 deficit to topple Stony Brook, 4-3, and erased a 2-0 hole to take down another Big East team, beating Providence 4-3.
"I think that just shows where all of our hearts are at and our refuse to lose attitude," said senior captain Jenna Placke.
Since the three big victories to open the season, the Saints have shut out their past three opponents, setting the school record for consecutive wins to open a season.
"It's really exciting," Barone said. "The freshmen have come in and made a big impact. We've had a great start."
Siena is accomplishing all of these things, while being led on offense by a freshman, Brittany Pfaff.
The Charlotte, Vt. native leads the MAAC in goals (6), points (13) and game-winning goals (3).
"Brittany has really made big impact," Placke said. "She's definitely a key player."
The last two MAAC Rookie of the Year award winners are on the Saints' roster, in Barone and Cohoes native Caitlin Cahalan.
Barone has three goals so far this season while Cahalan has just one. The Shaker High grad has been dealing with an injury.
"I think she'll be 100 percent going into this weekend, which is a huge lift for us," said Karbowski, who can record his 100th victory Friday with a win vs. Holy Cross.
The team has eight seniors, including Placke, midfielders Cara Riley and Tabitha Tice and defender Samantha Butzke.
"That's a big thing, having experience," Karbowski said. "They've been through it. We've had pretty successful season and eight seniors on the team, so they know this is the last time through for them."
Placke remembers how things were during her freshman year in 2007 and how things have changed dramatically since.
In the last two plus seasons, the Saints have a 31-7-4 record.
"Starting as a freshman, it was OK," Placke said. "It was taken serious, but it was nothing really like it is now. As the years have gone by, expectations have definitely changed."
Forgetting all of the numbers, this team is focused on that initial goal of winning a MAAC title.
"If anything, we're just working harder because we're getting greedy," Placke said. "We don't want to lose, so we just come out every day and work hard to get the job done."
As the victories continue to come, the Saints are getting more and more confident in their chances for a big season.
"I think there's more confidence going into each game, but there are still some nerves because you want to keep that (undefeated) record going," said Barone.