02 Sep The Day – Mitchell falls in women’s soccer opener 1-0
New London — A tired Maddie Nicynski walked off the turf field on Wednesday clearly in a good mood.
One of the few veterans on a young Mitchell College women’s soccer team, Nicynski was beaming as she talked about her team’s play in the season opener.
“I’m very excited about the season,” said Nicynski, a senior defender and team co-captain.
Playing a regular season game for the first time since October 2019, the Mariners fought to the finish before falling 1-0 to Albertus Magnus on a late second-half goal.
Two years ago, they lost to the same program, 10-0.
Evidence that Mitchell’s rebuilding project is on the right track.
“It was just a great day,” Nicynski said. “I’m so happy for this team. The coaching staff is amazing here and the team is going in the right direction. I rely on this team so much. We’re going to get there. We’re going to get better. We’re going to be winning games.”
When now third-year coach Marc Davis took over the program in 2019, the Mariners had a total of just five victories in the previous three seasons. The Mariners won four games in Davis’ first year.
Then last season was cancelled due to COVID-19.
The Mariners worked hard during the prolonged break. Davis improved the team’s talent level and depth with his recruiting efforts.
They’re still an inexperienced team. Fourteen players on the roster had never played in a college game prior to Wednesday.
One newcomer, goalie Gemma Landry, made ana strong first impression. She kept the Mariners close despite Albertus Magnus holding a whopping 40-1 edge in shots.
Landry made several diving and lunging saves, a few on point-blank shots. She also had help from her defense, which stayed fairly organized and relatively calm in the face of constant pressure.
Late In the first half, Landry came racing out of the goal to block Victoria Jainchill’s breakaway shot. Freshman defender Angelina Munoz alertly blocked a rebound attempt, preventing a potential goal.
Landry finished with 18 saves.
“Gemma is fantastic,” Davis said. “She has a voice. She commands her area. She’s a good shot stopper. Her positioning is good and she distributes the ball well. She is going to keep us in a lot of games as well.
“A lot of times the defense restricted the opposition into really difficult opportunities and routine saves. Then the few times where we needed her to be an absolute hero, she was able to do that, too.”
Albertus Magnus finally broke through with 13:20 left in the game, as Emmalee Ianiello converted a crossing pass from Katherine Raposo.
Two years ago, the Mariners would have let that deficit grow. But they dug in on defense and prevented any further damage.
“We told the girls that we just want to be focused on trying to stay in the game longer,” Davis said. “So, rather than think about the game as a 90 minute game, we break it down into six 15-minute periods. If we can tie a period, 0-0, we count that as a win for us.
“Then we have a secondary challenge that if we do give up a goal, rather than let the floodgates open, batten down the hatches and not just give up a second goal in that same 15-minute window.”
Of course, the Mariners have plenty of work to do to be consistently competitive. They generated little offensive pressure but did connect on more passes as the game went along.
Wednesday’s performance is a good start.
“We’re going to keep evolving and getting better…,” Davis said. “Our fitness still needs improvement. But it’s a good way to start from where the program has been in previous years. It makes us excited for where we can be after a 16-game season.”
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