ALBANY — The College of Saint Rose women’s soccer team is aware of the fact that it was 10 years ago that the program won a Division II national championship.
The 2021 preseason top-25 national poll made it seem like Division II wasn’t aware of Saint Rose.
The Golden Knights, who played just one game last season after going to the national final four in 2019, wasted no time reminding everyone, winning their first two games this fall by scores of 3-0 and 4-0, and, lo and behold, there they magically appeared at No. 6. A 3-2 overtime win over Saint Anselm on Sunday moved Saint Rose up to No. 3 (out of 237 Division II teams playing this season).
The trick now is to maintain that burst of early success into November to give them a shot at another national championship, a goal head coach Laurie Darling Gutheil has ingrained in a talent-rich team that expects to go to final fours.
“All of our players are acutely aware of that [2011 title], and they want to get to the final four to try to do it again,” she said on Thursday. “I mean, my Finnish girl [sophomore Sanna Rein], she’s like, ‘Coach, it’s the 10-year anniversary. We want to make that our destiny.’ And they know it’s out there, but they’re all-in.”
The team didn’t take the lack of a preseason ranking as a snub, despite having come within two victories of the 2019 national title in Saint Rose’s last full season.
On the contrary, the Golden Knights weren’t expecting to be ranked to start 2021, based on the fact that only one league from the East Region, the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, played last spring.
“They went off the conferences that played, not from the fall of 2019, which I completely understand,” Gutheil said. “They did the best they could. But when we went down to Philadelphia to play Jefferson, we knew that in order to prove where we belong, we had to have a fantastic result and do the work on the field to earn that. Which the girls did.”
Saint Rose beat Caldwell to open the season on Sept. 3, then took down Jefferson, which was No. 8 in the preseason, 4-0 two days later.
The Golden Knights checked in at No. 6, then beat Northeast-10 rival Saint Anselm on Kaelyn Britt’s goal 45 seconds into the second overtime. Saint Rose’s game against American International was postponed by thunderstorms on Wednesday, so they’ll get back to it on Saturday with a non-conference game at Felician in New Jersey.
The team has already played two more official games than all of last season, which was moved to the spring and amounted to a 2-0 victory over Daemen.
“We didn’t play, but we trained and we had a couple very good scrimmages and a great non-conference against Daemon, which was in the NCAA Tournament in the fall of ’19 at our place,” Gutheil said. “We used last year to be as productive as possible, and we’ve been able to capitalize on that.
“And our core players who went to the final four, they want to get to Colorado Springs. And we had a few first-year players on that team who understand what it takes, the level of commitment, the level of work rate, the mentality, the consistency, doing all the things on and off the field to give you the best opportunity to earn success. And that obviously is imparted to all the incoming players. We had some transfers who wanted to be part of the winning culture, a top-tier program, and we’ve been very fortunate to meld those groups together.”
Returnees from the 2019 final four team include Marika Laurendeau — “one of the best keepers in the country,” Gutheil said — Olivia Boucher, the 2019 Northeast-10 Rookie of the Year, Rein, Ciera Lundy, Scotia-Glenville graduate Tatiana Leggiero and Theresa Durle.
“In terms of our talent and depth, we’re in a very, very good place,” Gutheil said.
That’s true in terms of national ranking, too.
“We explained it,” she said. “We’re very transparent about how NCAA selection occurs and the value of every single game that we play and how it works mathematically in the selection process. So we are very open about every single opportunity we have, to prove our portfolio and earn the right for the NCAA postseason.”