By nearly every standard, the 2011 season was a pretty good year for the Skidmore College women's soccer team.
Overall, the Thoroughbreds posted a 13-7 record. That mark included a 6-2 Liberty League ledger, good enough for a runner-up finish.
"We had a pretty good season and broke a little program history," said second-year coach Lacey Largeteau. "We went to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time ever and ended up losing to the eventual national champion, so we can't feel too bad about that."
As might be expected, any successful season generally has a pivotal moment. In Skidmore's case, it was a 1-0 early season win over No. 11 Union College.
"I think our Union win was a pretty good turning point for us," Largeteau said. "From then on, we started to believe we could do some good things. I think we had talent and were deep enough so we could play a lot of players to be fresh on the field and do some things tactically that were new to us."
Despite graduating eight players, Largeteau saw younger players emerge that could play key roles on the 2012 squad. Those players include junior forward Christine Bellotti (Medfield, MA.), sophomore defenders Lauren Alexander (Oakland, CA.) and Caty Sheridan (Westford, MA.) and sophomore midfielder/defender Morgan Governale (Setauket, NY).
So based on last year's result, Largeteau doesn't have to look far for something to motivate this year's team.
"I think that creates a level of expectation for the returning squad," she said. "They want to get back to that level of excellence, they want to get back to the tournament and they want to play in the championship game.
"They want to repeat that success and we're seeing that in training right now. They're willing to work hard."
If this year's Thoroughbred squad has a strength, Largeteau thinks it's going to be at the midfield line. Largeteau believes the roster includes five or six midfielders that are going to rotate in and out of that space and more or less thinks the Skidmore offense and defense will start from that area.
"Because they're the brains," she said. "They're the kids with the most talented perception of the game - sort of the heart and brain of the team controlling the pace of the game and certainly setting up the plays from behind."
Offensively, senior Kelsey Yam (Longmeadow, MA.) is back after leading Skidmore a year ago with six goals and three assists. Senior Sarah LaBella (Glenville, NY) is also back at a forward spot.
Anchoring the Thoroughbred defense is junior goal keeper Gabrielle Lawrence (Yorktown, NY).
"The best thing about Gabby is she brings a nice tactical awareness of the game to the field, which is going to help our defense a lot," Largeteau said. "It's good for the backs that they can trust the goal keeper and don't have to be perfect all the time."
As for any season goals, Largeteau isn't thinking that far ahead.
"We're a day by day squad that has goals is the best way to put it," she said. "We definitely have a vision of where we want to go as a team, but to get there, we're focused on the immediate.
"We're focused on training session to training session, practice to practice and game to game. That's what we did last year and I think it panned out."
Practice will turn into the real thing Friday and Saturday when the Thoroughbreds open the season at the College of New Jersey Invitational. Skidmore opens play against Johns Hopkins.
Skidmore has its home opener Sept. 8 with a 1 p.m. match against Farmingdale State College.
Don Willman is a seasoned sports writer, with more than 15 years of experience as an editor and reporter. He is the Sports Editor for Saratoga Wire
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