DALLAS -- With 10 starters returning from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, the Misericordia women's soccer team set lofty goals for this season.
Head coach Mark Stauffer and his coaching staff knew what to expect from the veterans who gained valuable experience from an opening round win in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
The biggest unknown facing the Cougars was in goal, where freshman Maureen Ciccosanti won the starting job during preseason.
Having a freshman in goal was the biggest question facing our team as the season began, Stauffer said. We knew that Maureen would be good, but we weren't sure exactly what to expect.
Ciccosanti has exceeded all expectations while leading the Cougars to a 20-2-2 record and the school's first trip to the NCAA Division III Final Four. Misericordia will face Messiah in the national semifinals Friday at 8:30 p.m., with the winner facing either Emory or Wheaton for the national championship Saturday.
Ciccosanti has set school single-season records for wins (20), shutouts (13), goals against average (0.32) and save percentage (.936).
In addition to the school records, she ranks second in the nation in save percentage and third in goals against average. She ranks 13th with nearly 2,000 minutes played in goal.
Ciccosanti has held up in pressure situations, including an overtime win in the Freedom Conference championship match and a sudden-death shootout against Ithaca in the Sweet 16, where she kept Misericordia's season alive with a diving stop on Ithaca's fifth shooter.
Maureen has been even better than we anticipated, Stauffer said. She has tremendous confidence in her abilities and plays with the composure of a senior. She provides added confidence to our defense and has played a pivotal role in our run to the Final Four.