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Women's soccer primed for historic season

The 2015 season for the Princeton women’s soccer team ended in disappointment after a loss against University at Southern California in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Despite the defeat, the Tigers concluded their season with an admirable 14-4-1 final record.

“It was beyond impressive,” head coach Sean Driscoll raved. “They gave every bit of effort that they had in every single game we played in. We started off the season 2-0, went 2-3, and then from there made a tremendous turn at Villanova in our sixth game of the season and never looked back from there. We went two and a half months without losing a game.” Following three consecutive losses early in the season, the team used this mounting frustration as motivation, adding just one draw against Penn and one season-ending defeat against USC to their record.

“It’s a testament to the hard work, the determination, the will to win, and just the relentless nature of this team and I couldn’t have been more excited or appreciative. Everything they brought to the table on a regular basis was just a really enjoyable experience,” Driscoll stated.

The 2015 fall season marked Driscoll’s first at Princeton. After less than eleven months on the job, Driscoll has already earned the Ivy League Coach of the Year award for leading his team to a 13-game undefeated streak, an undefeated Ivy League season, and the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Assisting Driscoll for the current fall season are coaches Kelly Boudreau, Mike Poller, and Alison Nabatoff.

Following the conclusion of a memorable season, the team faced an inevitable roadblock. “Emily Sura was a captain, and an all conference, all Ivy League, and an unbelievable leader of the team, for sure. Very passionate, wore her heart on her sleeve and was a leader in many, many ways.”

Driscoll commented on the program’s loss of the senior class, “It’s never easy to replace senior leadership. You don’t replace someone like that; you just find other players to do different jobs, and we’ve had some players step up and do really wonderful jobs.”

Stepping up to the plate are seniors Tyler Lussi, Jesse McDonough, and Nicole Loncar, and junior Vanessa Gregoire. “Our captains are all incredible. Extremely talented, extremely gifted individuals, unbelievable human beings,” Driscoll said about the four captains.

Returning as Top Drawer’s No. 17 player, NSCAA second team All-America member, and two-time reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, Lussi enters her senior year just four goals short of the program record for goals scored held by Esmeralda Negron ’05, and 14 points behind the record held by the same player.

Lussi has since trumped Negron’s records following the team’s 4-0 win against Howard on September 4 and the following 3-0 win against Temple. “She just continues to knock down records left and right,” Driscoll praised.

“With Jesse a returning captain and Vanessa, Nicole, and me as the new captains, we have expanded our role beyond the traditional soccer playing leadership on and off the field,” Lussi stated about fulfilling her new responsibilities as a senior. “Sean and Kelly together with Mike and Allison have provided us the opportunity to lead the culture change within Princeton women’s soccer to expect to win the Ivy League and successfully compete at the highest levels of the NCAA Tournament every year. The goal and practice of striving to be the best Division 1 women’s soccer team in the NCAA is a subset of the foundation and results that [the University’s Ford Family Director of Athletics] Mollie Marcoux and her team are striving to enable all Princeton Student Athletes and Coaches to achieve, and women’s soccer is ‘ALL IN.’”

Lussi further reflected on this “all in” attitude, describing the team’s devotion to betterment on and off the soccer pitch. “The team had a great preseason on and off the field,” she stated. “We became closer than any women’s soccer team during my three years at Princeton. Most top Division 1 women’s soccer teams are highly skilled, well trained, and conditioned and practice smart nutrition. The great teams play for a higher purpose than just winning championships – we are playing to help Mollie, Sean, Kelly, Mike, Allison, and the entire Princeton athletic staff set the expectation that all Princeton athletic teams are not only from the best educational institution, but the best athletic institution.”

This aspiration is quickly becoming a reality with the arrival of a talented freshman class that includes Tomi Kennedy, Abby Givens, Ilana Perkins, Sophia Gulati, Natalie Grossi, and Kelli Calhoun, and the return of the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Mimi Asom.

“We have an exciting and deep team,” Driscoll stated about the quality of the 2016 women’s soccer program. “The freshmen are a really talented group. We have a very bright future with them and I think a good team is always based upon good leadership in the senior class and a gifted freshman class to raise the level of the rest of the team. We have both of those things. We have a lot of depth and I think it’s a recipe for success, so I’m very excited about the group, we’ve played six games so far, a third of the way through our season, and we showed a lot of heart, a lot of resilience, and continue to be a team who wants to do whatever it takes to win and fight for one another.”

The Tigers have already earned a program-best 7-1 starting record with wins over Fordham, Villanova, Delaware, Howard, Temple, Monmouth, and Duquesne.