Suffolk University’s women’s soccer team started the season on a low note after competing in the GNAC finals last year but appears to have found its footing. After losing their first four games of the year, the Lady Rams have won two of their last three contests.
“[The season] is still in its baby stage and didn’t start as we expected. The first two wins mean a lot to us,” said Suffolk head coach Ernst Cleophat.
Both victories were 1-0 wins over in-conference foes Norwich University and Simmons College. In-conference games are always the most important ones and allowed Suffolk to move from 13th place all the way to sixth in one week. The 5-1 loss against Lasell won’t help that ranking, but that isn’t the only part of the game that frustrated Cleophat.
“Unfortunately we played our best against Lasell and they were just a nasty team to play against. It was a nasty game yesterday and because of that I don’t have the same kind of respect for [their] head coach,” said the Suffolk head coach.
Cleophat commented that his team’s Sept. 22 opponent was “very physical” and knocked down Suffolk goal keeper Melissa Brouillette three or four times in the game. The referees also contributed to Suffolk’s loss according to Cleophat, who noted that the officiating crew didn’t call several offside calls, two of which he believes lead to goals against his team.
“We made our own mistakes as well, but my girls hung pretty tough and were ready for the challenge,” he said.
Even with the two victories under their belts and a recent controversial loss, the Lady Rams have struggled to light up the scoreboard offensively without recent graduate Leslie Hayden; but she can still help change that. The GNAC’s all-time regular season goal scorer joined Cleophat this year as his assistant head coach, hoping to help this team continue to be an important name in the conference she dominated for four years.
“I brought [Hayden] because of her knowledge of the game and her leadership as a former captain. Her former teammates were ecstatic about the news,” her new coaching partner said. It’s a role Cleophat is happy to have her in but it’s still an adjustment for Hayden to go from player to coach.
“She’s still learning, in fact she recently said to me ‘I didn’t know how difficult this was,’ about being a head coach. It’s a whole different thing being on the outside looking in but she’s enjoying it,” Cleophat explained.
Right now, Hayden is likely trying to help this team find its firepower, considering the Lady Rams have just six goals scored in their first seven games. While that number is down considerably from last season with the loss of Hayden and other recent grads, Cleophat sees a few players stepping up to fill that goal-scoring void left behind.
“[It’s] always been impressive to me as a head coach on our team, any player can take over a game. All of them are capable of scoring but thus far Gabrielle Ballestrier has been very impressive. I can put her anywhere on the pitch and she’ll get the job done. Taylor Miranda has also been very versatile and a big threat in the air especially.”
With these emerging offensive players and the rest of the team, Suffolk’s head coach is determined to prove the ninth place preseason coaches’ rankings wrong and make the playoffs for a third-straight season.
“There’s no doubt that I do have the confidence in my players that we will make the playoffs. We will prove the GNAC coaches’ preseason poll wrong. We feel as though we are not getting the credit that is do us. We made it to the conference final last year and the preseason poll had us in ninth. To us, that’s an insult,” Cleophat said.
The Lady Rams are hoping their recent wins will become a theme over the next few months. Suffolk’s next chance to add to its win column comes Thursday, Sept. 27 at home against Johnson and Wales University.