DALLAS – The Misericordia University women's soccer team will be competing in its first NCAA Division III Final Four tournament in San Antonio, Texas, this weekend. This comes just one season after losing in the second round of the tournament.
With this being the furthest the program has reached in its history, head coach Mark Stauffer said it's a great opportunity for the team as well as the school.
We're excited, said Stauffer. We're looking at it as an opportunity to extend our season a little bit and be able to finally put Misericordia soccer consistently in the top 10 in the country.
We've been hovering in that top 10-, top-20 range for a while now, so the fact that we're now here and in the Final Four I think that just brings success to the validity that we have and proving that we deserve to be here.
Stauffer is wrapping up his 13th season with the program, and he is also the first head coach in team history to lead the team this deep into the NCAA tournament. Stauffer said it has less to do with him but more with the effort of his team.
I have a great group of kids, Stauffer said. They put the effort in year round, it's not just what we do from August to November, it's what they do in the offseason in their preparation and they've honestly done everything we've asked them to do. It's a tribute to the entire program and the hard work these girls put in.
The members of the women's soccer team were focused and dedicated to make this season a success. Sophomore Erin Roberts said that the team as a whole did not take many days off.
We pretty much put in the work in the gym and especially in the summertime, just to get our sprints in and get our fitness in. Roberts said. That's what really counted.
Among the talented group of players for the women's soccer team is two local students from the Wyoming Valley Conference – junior Ashley DiPippa from Berwick and junior Alyssa Mocion from Holy Redeemer.
Mocion repeated the emotions of her head coach, saying the team is excited and ready to compete.
We're all really excited, said Mocion. This is what we've been working for since last year's NCAAs. We have a lot of confidence going into it and I feel that right now we're really peaking and this is the best we've ever been.
The Lady Cougars finished the regular season at 20-2-2, with the loses coming to Messiah and Ithaca College.
The Cougars got revenge on Ithaca in the Sweet 16 round with a 6-5 victory, and now they have their focus set on beating Messiah, the team that Misericordia will play in the first round of the Final Four on Friday. DiPippa says they have a good chance at a victory.
I think we have a pretty good chance to have revenge, said DiPippa. It was the beginning of our season, and now with the end of our season we're coming off strong, so I think we have a pretty good chance.
At the season's conclusion, the soccer team will be losing only four seniors, one of whom is Nicolette Hensel.
Hensel has been a four-year starter for the Lady Cougars and has been playing soccer since she was 3 years old. She said this is the perfect way to end her playing days.
There is no better way to go out, said Hensel. This is it! Everything that you could want in your collegiate years, so this is amazing.
Win or lose, the Misericordia will have certainly made a statement for the rest of the nation, something that Hensel said really shows what hard work can accomplish.
It's amazing! Hensel said. It shows that anyone can do! If it's the women's soccer team or the women's basketball team, we can do it. It's cool for Misericordia because I know it's a small school, but that doesn't mean anything.