LOUDONVILLE — For the second time this year, the Siena women’s soccer program started a season.
The Saints want this second season to go as well as their first did — and Thursday’s 2-0 season-opening victory against visiting Binghamton provided a strong start toward that aim.
“We work really well together,” Siena junior Katrina Kurtz said of a Saints team that returns eight of 11 starters. “It’s like we haven’t missed a beat.”
Siena had more than 500 days in between games from the end of its 2019 season to the start of the spring season it played earlier this year, a campaign delayed from the 2020-21 academic year’s fall semester because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The shortened season the Saints played this past March and April saw the Saints surprise the rest of the MAAC on their way to earning the league’s regular-season and tournament championship after being selected to finish eighth in the conference’s preseason poll. That 6-1-2 season closed with a loss to Arizona State in the NCAA tournament, a game played 113 days prior to Siena’s season-opening game against Binghamton.
Before playing Binghamton, Siena won a tune-up exhibition 5-0 against Bryant. Among Siena’s returning players from last season are standouts such as Leslie Adams, Emily McNelis and Brianna Montinard, all of whom earned individual MAAC awards last season. Adams was named the league’s top goalie and Montinard shared the award for top defensive player last season, while McNelis was the MAAC tournament MVP.
“But this team will have to develop their own identity,” Siena head coach Steve Karbowski said.
Later, he added: “This was a good start to that.”
Kurtz opened the scoring for Siena against Binghamton in the 22nd minute, a long shot assisted by Carrie Krohn and McNelis. Kurtz also assisted on sophomore Annie Bagnall’s goal in the 72nd minute.
Defensively, redshirt sophomore Brooke Boermeester earned the shutout with eight saves. Karbowski said Adams and Boermeester will “split time” in goal this season, and Boermeester made several tough saves in the second half to preserve the shutout.
After playing this past spring, Siena’s schedule this season is a traditional one with 18 games and MAAC play starting in mid-September. Signs of playing amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, though, remain. Siena is requiring all spectators, including media members, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend sports events on campus. Per a college policy, all spectators at Thursday’s game — and future home games on campus — had to complete an online screening process prior to arriving that confirmed vaccination status, and spectators needed to bring with them proof of vaccination. An exception exists for fans 12 years old and younger, but those spectators need to wear a face mask.
Meanwhile, earlier this summer, the MAAC announced it would require “student-athletes and athletic personnel (including game officials and table staffs) to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Student-athletes and athletic personnel can apply for a waiver from the vaccination requirement for medical or religious reasons only and a student-athlete’s eligibility for these waivers will be decided by each institution.”
Despite returning numerous key players from a team that was unbeaten last season in the MAAC, the Saints were picked to finish third in this season’s preseason poll. Kurtz described the preseason poll as “really great” for Siena, saying it provided the Saints a healthy level of respect, but also motivation to outdo expectations again.
And, off a strong opening-game effort, Kurtz said the Saints want to show improvement right away Sunday when they take on Holy Cross in their next game.
“There’s still a lot of room for us to get better,” Kurtz said.
The UAlbany women’s soccer team had its game Thursday at Syracuse called off due to inclement weather.
No make-up date has been announced.
UAlbany’s home contest Sunday against Hofstra is now the Great Danes’ season-opening game.
Siena’s game Thursday was played on the school’s turf Hickey Field rather than the school’s grass Siena Field because of weather concerns.
Halftime score: Siena led 1-0. Binghamton scoring: None. Siena scoring: Kurtz 1-1, Bagnall 1-0, Krohn 0-1, McNelis 0-1. Goalies: Binghamton, Poltorak, 3 saves. Siena, Boermeester, 8 saves.