The Rollins Women’s Soccer team is now the new Sunshine State Conference co-champion, despite its two initial defeats. For the first time since 2012, the team will head into the conference tournament as second seed.
The Tars kick-started the conference with an overtime away win at Florida Southern. It was a special game for Head Coach Alicia Schuck, who tallied it as her one-hundreth career victory.
This year, the players resumed their training on Aug. 1 and participated in a preparatory phase in Canada and a pre-season slate featuring nationally-ranked teams. From the get-go, it was evident that Rollins was preparing for a season out of the ordinary.
The Lady Tars showed strength in spring scrimmages against the University of Central Florida and other Division I teams. Following their involvement in the 2018 regionals, they moved into the fall season with high ambitions.
Though the team endured a huge blow early in the season with the injury of starting goalkeeper Kelly Rowswell (‘20), Elena Beasley (‘23) stepped up with confidence and grabbed four clean sheets over the course of the conference season.
Rollins’ defense experienced multiple configurations this year, with some players experimenting in different positions.
Nonetheless, players like Molly von Eschenbach (‘21), Gianna Merigliano (‘21), Kayla Crosby (‘21), and Bella Giuliano (‘21) offered consistent stability. Crosby’s set pieces and von Eschenbach’s assists especially contributed reliability to the Tars’ scores.
Schuck transitioned her coaching from last year’s four-four-two formation to this year’s four-three-three. This shift allowed the midfield to benefit from the varying abilities of Bailey Tran (‘23) and Sarah Skala (‘23), as well as veterans Hannah Menard (‘19) and Ally Rost (‘19).
Tran, in fact, has been no stranger to the goal, netting on four occasions. In times of need, Olivia Talmage (‘21) came off the bench to add depth to the Tars’ game. Additionally, in games when tensions ran high, Menard offered a sense of certainty.
The dynamic partnership between Kathryn O’Brien (‘20) and Chynna McGirt (‘20) was the hallmark of the Rollins attack last year. While the duo continued to cause headaches for opposing defenders this season, the offense has been a symphony of inspiring performances by Sarah Buckley (‘18, ‘21 MBA), Chynna McGirt (‘21), and Meghan Mosley (‘22).
Buckley is now tied for 19th in Rollins program history with Leah Hirsch (‘10) and Kate Moran (‘02). Additionally, McGirt came second in the conference for game assists. Buckley’s shooting range, McGirt’s assists, and Mosley’s build-up combined into the engine that revved the Tars’ eight-win streak.
Kathryn O’Brien (‘19), a senior from West Springfield, MA, has been involved in scoring for every game of the season, netting 10 and assisting four in 14 outings. O’Brien rewrote Rollins record books, sitting in the top five all-time scorers and top 10 career pointers.
As second seed, the Tars will go straight into the conference tournament semifinals where they will host either Nova Southeastern or Lynn. The Tars defeated the Fighting Knights at the beginning of the season but fell to the Sharks on the last matchday.
Everyone has their eyes on the conference champions to see how far they can go during post-season. If their performances up to this point are an indicator of anything, it is evident that Rollins has the potential to turn a good year into a great one.
Come and cheer on the Lady Tars at Barker Family Stadium and Cahall-Sandspur Field this Thursday, Nov. 14 at 6 pm.